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His Girl Friday: Criterion Collection (1940) - Blu-ray Review

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His Girl Friday

THE POST SAVES EARL WILLIAMS!  Hear all about it in His Girl Friday, now available on blu-ray thanks to the Criterion Collection.

Directed by Howard Hawks and starring Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell with standout performances from Ralph Bellamy and Gene Lockhart, His Girl Friday is a PERFECT screwball comedy classic.  Every single minute of this movie is emblematic of what a REEL CLASSIC film aims for as the chaos of a newsroom becomes ground zero for the bomb about to be dropped by a snazzily dressed Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russell, Fast and Loose, The Women) as she enters the Editor-in-Chief’s office of Walter Burns (Cary Grant, Arsenic and Old Lace, Big Brown Eyes).  What’s laid bare by her explosive announcement - I QUIT! - is great comedy, nice touches of romance, smartly set-up scenes, and a far-reaching murder with societal implications. 

"bursts forward with endlessly zippy banter, playful energy, and sure-footed sets in the right direction"


Well-acted and point-for-point in its execution, His Girl Friday remains poignant in its handling of a man’s innocence AND as shining example of what blisteringly funny comedies can achieve on multiple fronts.  Few dare to cross the divide and none with the sterling ease of Hawks’ black-and-white comedy as a newspaper editor, behaving very much like a con artist or a gangster, finds out he is losing his ace reporter AND his ex-wife, whom he still loves, to another man and another town.  

And Grant isn’t going to just let it happen either.  Johnson means too much to him to just let - as he says in the movie - this “Ralph Bellamy-looking” man waltz in and take her away from him.  From the start, that’s his main goal: get his ex-wife back by any means necessary and, already, you can literally SEE the wheels turning in his brain as he purposefully complicates her and Bruce Baldwin (Ralph Bellamy, The Awful Truth) plans to catch a train to Albany to start a life there . . . with his mother. His Girl Friday

But then, Burns realizes that he can probably convince Hildy to stay long enough to interview and write the story that will save the wrongly convicted Earl Williams from being executed.  He just has to sway her with an endless amount of distractions, supply her and her beau with counterfeit money, and swindle his way into her heart.

It won’t be easy, but Burns is up to the task.  With an innocent man at its center (and later hidden in a rolltop desk), His Girl Friday bursts forward with endlessly zippy banter, playful energy, and sure-footed sets in the right direction.  Everyone is on fire here.  Even the character actors being their A-game to the proceedings, creating characters with interesting takes in press rooms, jail cells, and so on.  

His Girl Friday is a busy film and it never once ceases to amaze on just how easy-breezy it handles the set-up of its scenes, the multiple (and often overlapping) conversations, and the chemistry which practically boils from its actors, who give this movie their best.

It’s a race against the clock as The Morning Post takes on a crooked mayor, an idiot sheriff, and a failed marriage - all in the attempt to save an innocent man from the gallows.  His Girl Friday is a classic.  Find out why with this release from Criterion Collection, which also includes a brand-new 4K restoration of the 1931 film The Front Page, director Lewis Milestone’s famous pre-Code adaptation of the same material.

Will they or won’t they and when?  Find out why in His Girl Friday.

5/5 stars

His Girl Friday

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Home Video Distributor: Criterion
Available on Blu-ray
- January 10, 2017
Screen Formats: 1.37:1
Subtitles
: English
Audio:
DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1; French: DTS-HD HR 7.1; Spanish: DTS 5.1
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

One of the fastest, funniest, and most quotable films ever made, His Girl Friday stars Rosalind Russell as reporter Hildy Johnson, a standout among cinema’s powerful women. Hildy is matched in force only by her conniving but charismatic editor and ex-husband, Walter Burns (played by the peerless Cary Grant), who dangles the chance for her to scoop her fellow news writers with the story of an impending execution in order to keep her from hopping the train that’s supposed to take her to Albany and a new life as a housewife. When adapting Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur’s smash hit play The Front Page, director Howard Hawks had the inspired idea of turning star reporter Hildy Johnson into a woman, and the result is an immortal mix of hard-boiled newsroom setting with ebullient remarriage comedy. Also presented here is a brand-new restoration of the 1931 film The Front Page, Lewis Milestone’s famous pre-Code adaptation of the same material.

Video:

Criterion Collection, with a 1.37:1 aspect ratio, presents His Girl Friday with a glorious 4K transfer that sweeps away sour memories of watching the old DVD copies of the film.  Thank goodness!  This crisp transfer absolutely crackles with depth, definition, and details as we get looks at nightclubs, press rooms, and even a jail and it all looks amazingly handled.  Even the night scene in the cabin is pocketed with details.  The black-and-white photography here sizzles and the blacks and grays are handled expertly by the transfer. 

Audio:

You’ll be heard laughing over the uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray which accompanies this film.

Supplements:

Commentary:

Special Features:

Fans also get The Front Page, which is a must-see on its own right, as well as some pretty cool supplementals concerning the movie.  An insert featuring essays on His Girl Friday and The Front Page by film critics Farran Smith Nehme and Michael Sragow is a highlight as it is folded and printed like a newspaper.  Very cool.

New 4K digital restoration of The Front Page, made from a recently discovered print of director Lewis Milestone’s preferred version, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack

New interview with film scholar David Bordwell about His Girl Friday

Archival interviews with His Girl Friday director Howard Hawks

Featurettes from 1999 and 2006 about Hawks, actor Rosalind Russell, and the making of His Girl Friday

Radio adaptation of His Girl Friday from 1940

New piece about the restoration of The Front Page

New piece about playwright and screenwriter Ben Hecht

Radio adaptations of the play The Front Page from 1937 and 1946

His Girl Friday trailers

Blu-ray Rating:

  Movie 5/5 stars
  Video  5/5 stars
  Audio 5/5 stars
  Extras 5/5 stars

Overall Blu-ray Experience

5/5 stars

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His Girl Friday

MPAA Rating: Unrated.
Runtime:
92 mins
Director
: Howard Hawks
Writer:
Charles Lederer
Cast:
Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Ralph Bellamy
Genre
: Comedy | Drama
Tagline:
The Year's Wildest, Wittiest Whirlwind of a Love Battle... Outrageously Racy... Sparkling... Gay!
Memorable Movie Quote: "Take Hitler and stick him on the funny page."
Theatrical Distributor:
Columbia Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date:
January 18, 1940
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
January 10, 2017.
Synopsis: One of the fastest, funniest, and most quotable films ever made, His Girl Friday stars Rosalind Russell as reporter Hildy Johnson, a standout among cinema’s powerful women. Hildy is matched in force only by her conniving but charismatic editor and ex-husband, Walter Burns (played by the peerless Cary Grant), who dangles the chance for her to scoop her fellow news writers with the story of an impending execution in order to keep her from hopping the train that’s supposed to take her to Albany and a new life as a housewife.

His Girl Friday

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