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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

If it bleeds it leads.

His Girl Friday (1940) on IMDb

Plot Overview

racing deadline“The Morning Post” editor Walter Burns (Cary Grant) has an unexpected visitor: “Your ex-wife is here.” New York metropolitan area reporter Hildegard “Hildy” Johnson (Rosalind Russell) has dropped in, not to start back to work, but to display her new fiancé Bruce Baldwin (Ralph Bellamy), hoping to dissuade her ex from writing and tele­graphing her any more. Walter offers to have her do a piece on the imminent execution of convicted killer Earl Williams (John Qualen) figuring once she's back in the saddle (“You're a journalist, Hildy”) she'll come back to him. Hildy rejects his machination (“Scram, Svengali!”) while Walter engineers delays and enticements to change her course.


In 1940 executions were not delayed as much as they are today. If it happens quick, other would-be criminals might be deterred. (Eccl. 8:11) “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, there­fore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.” Here Earl's execution was strategically delayed twice so it would happen on the eve of an election making Sheriff Peter B. “Pinky” Hartwell (Gene Lockhart) look tough on crime. It was a colored police­man Earl had shot, at a rally when the cop had lunged at him. The sheriff needs the colored vote. To him colored lives matter, or at least their votes do. The news­paper leans Democratic and is against capital punishment. They had persuaded the governor to issue Earl a pardon that has yet to arrive. Earl is to hang at 7 a.m., the governor has gone fishing, and no one can find him. The reporters for their part want Earl hanged at 5 a.m. to make the morning edition.

(Eccl. 8:12-13) “Though a sinner do evil an hundred times, and his days be prolonged, yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him: But it shall not be well with the wicked, neither shall he prolong his days, which are as a shadow; because he feareth not before God.” It's business as usual with the politicians and reporters. A courier Joe Pettibone (Billy Gilbert) arrives with the governor's pardon, but the sheriff and the crooked mayor (Clarence Kolb) obstruct justice by trying to make him “lose” the pardon. Pettibone's wife tries to talk her husband out of accepting a bribe. He's better off to listen to her.

(Eccl. 8:14) “There is a vanity which is done upon the earth; that there be just men, unto whom it happeneth according to the work of the wicked; again, there be wicked men, to whom it happeneth according to the work of the righteous: I said that this also is vanity.” Hildy's inter­view with Earl shows the shooting to have been accidental. While she is trying to set him free, Walter frames her fiancé to delay their departure for their wedding. He has an accomplice Louie Peluso (Abner Biberman) plant a watch on him and say he stole it. He sends a babe Evangeline (Marion Martin) to accost him (“What does he look like?”) while he's waiting in a car. And he arranges to have him paid in counter­feit bills. Evangeline's testimony results in Hildy's fiancé Bruce being arrested for “mashing.” A masher is some­one who forcibly imposes amorous attention on some­one. Here's an example from a Tanenbaum novel: “‘HEY, DETKA, COME HERE, BABY,’ Alexei Bebnev shouted drunkenly as he grabbed at the waitress, who slapped his hand away from her hip and deftly moved past the table where he sat” (53). We're presuming—contrary to the doctrine that the complaining woman must always be believed—the inter­action off screen was a setup of that choir boy Bruce, not an anomalous incident completely out of character.

(Eccl. 8:15) “Then I commended mirth, because a man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry: for that shall abide with him of his labour the days of his life, which God giveth him under the sun.” Walter, Hildy, and Bruce share a quiet lunch, a calm in the storm. The reporters lounge in the Press Room of the Criminal Courts Building as they wait for stories to break.

(Eccl. 8:16) “When I applied mine heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done upon the earth: (for also there is that neither day nor night seeth sleep with his eyes:)” This story starts with Walter shaving in the morning, then having lunch with his ex and her beau, and on through the night as the cops chase down an escaped criminal. The Press doesn't rest.

(Eccl. 8:17) “Then I beheld all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun: because though a man labour to seek it out, yet he shall not find it; yea farther; though a wise man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it.” For all the journalism seen, we still are unsure what the relation was between sympathetic Mollie Malloy (Helen Mack) and Earl whom she befriended. There's also a strange portrait of a colored man, sitting on a desk in the Press Room, whom we know nothing about.

Production Values

This comedy, “” (1940) was directed by Howard Hawks. Its screen­play was written by Charles Lederer based on Ben Hecht & Charles MacArthur's stage play, “The Front Page.” It stars Gary Grant, Ralph Bellamy and Rosalind Russell. This great cast gives commanding performances: Gary Grant playing a conniving editor, Rosalind Russell a sleeper journalist, and Ralph Bellamy a total schmuck. This film holds the world record on how fast the characters speak. It passed its certificate, but the censors were too enthralled with the fast-paced dialogue to notice a few minor transgressions.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

This one is great fodder for the funny bone. It's a mile a minute crazy machine. Breath­taking is hardly an over­statement. It's not a traditional romance but is touching nonetheless. And a tribute to the print medium that has seen better days. I highly recommend it.

Movie Ratings

Action Factor: Weak action scenes. Suitability for children: Passed certificate. Special effects: Well done special effects. Video Occasion: Fit For a Friday Evening. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Overall movie rating: Five stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture is taken from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software, print.

Tanenbaum, Robert K. Tragic. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2013. Print.