His Girl Firday is one of those quintessential, 1940 American romantic comedies. Its sharp and fast paced, and the cracking chemistry between Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell keeps the movie entertaining. You often find old movies to be slow, well made but nonetheless slow in their pace. That’s not the case with this flick. It keeps the viewer on the edge and a very tight script and great characterisation of the main leads makes the movie what it is.
The movie starts with, Walter Burns (Cary Grant), an editor of a major Chicago newspaper, who is paid a visit by his ex wife and and ace reporter Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russell) to inform him that she is quitting to marry an insurance salesman Bruce Baldwin (Ralph Bellamy) because she is sick of having no life at all. Walter, on the other hand does his best to make her stay on for a last story. This includes sending her fiancé to jail at every given instance. And Hildy is no fool herself. She is always two steps ahead of him and doesn’t trust him once while agreeing to do one last story for money. Things get out of hand with Bruce in the jail throughout the day, a jail break, crooked mayor and Bruce’s mother.
Cary Grant is as charming as a snake and Rosalind Russell is even better. Put them in a room together and you have fireworks. While Walter is smart and cunning, Hildy is sharp and tries to manage both her love life and her story for one day, and it’s a treat to watch her shout endlessly at the telephone, abusing Walter while Bruce calls her from another one. She is a breath of fresh air, something that you don’t see often in female protagonists on screen. She actually has more screen time than Grant in the movie and makes worthwhile of all the time. The screenplay by Charles Lederer, which is adapted from the Ben Hecht, is funny and doesn’t slag anywhere. The dialogues are sharp and very entertaining, not only those between the leads but throughout the movie. Howard Hawks, does well of the resources with him to provide us with a good movie. But I would have liked to see a little more time given to Walter and Hilda in the end together when they decide to remarry. It gets over in under a minute. Anyway, watch this movie. It’s fun to watch and is everything a good romantic comedy is all about.