His Girl Friday.”
From 1940, “His Girl Friday” stars the man who was truly the best at screwball comedy, Cary Grant, the ever delightful Rosalind Russell, and Ralph Bellamy. Adapted from the play “The Front Page” by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, it is the story of newspaper editor Walter Burns (Grant) and his attempt to stop his star reporter – and ex-wife – Hildy Johnson (Russell) from getting married and quitting the newspaper business. In the original play, the leads are actually two men, but after director Howard Hawks heard his secretary reading Hildy’s lines during auditions, he liked how a woman sounded so much better. He asked the playwrights’ if they would mind turning Hildy into a woman, and with their blessing, they continued with the rewrite.
During filming though, Hawks encouraged adlibbing by the actors. Grant had become a pro at it after working on films like “The Awful Truth” and “Bringing Up Baby,” another Hawks film. One of Grant’s most famous adlibs in “His Girl Friday” is when he talks about the last man to cross him, naming him Archie Leach. Grant’s real name was Archibald Leach. Another great adlib by Grant that almost didn’t make it into the final cut of the film is when he is trying to describe Bellamy’s character, Hildy’s fiancé Bruce. Grant ends up saying “He looks like that fellow in the movies, you know…Ralph Bellamy!” Columbia studio head Harry Cohn didn’t like that line at all when he saw the dailies, saying it was too cheeky and Hawks had to take it out. But luckily Hawks convinced him otherwise, and it survived.
Even though the original play is still under copyright, “His Girl Friday” is in the public domain now, so you can see it for free on practically ever sight out there, including Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube. (And for all my friends out there who might want to make their own version of the film, go for it!) So kick-start your week with some great witty repartee this humdrum Monday. Have a great week, and I’ll be back on Friday!
(Post-tidbit: Both Grant and Russell reprised their roles for an abridged radio version of “His Girl Friday” on “The Screen Guild Theater” on March 30, 1941, exactly 69 years ago tomorrow. But thanks to YouTube, you can hear it below. (Click here for Part 2 and Part 3.))