The month of August has been an enlightening time for film fans. Turner Classic Movies has been airing a wide array of films that feature some of Hollywood’s biggest legends. We consider ourselves lovers of TCM and films of the past, but there was one project that had alluded us for years — His Girl Friday.
The comedy was based on a play and adapted for the big screen in 1940 and starred Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell. Grant has always been a mainstay in pop culture, even years after his death but Russell seems to be a jewel that escaped our gaze. When TCM aired His Girl Friday, this was our chance to finally see what all the hoopla was about and we have to admit, it exceeded our expectations!
His Girl Friday is a fast paced comedy set against the backdrop of a newspaper. It’s filled with deadlines, the hustle and bustle of the city and plenty of fast paced dialogue. Cary Grant plays the editor of a paper, while Rosalind Russell appears as his ex-wife and star reporter. He’s still in love with her, yet she’s moved on to a kinder, sweeter less manipulative suitor named Bruce, who’s played by Ralph Bellamy.
These days, women are given a romanticized and restricted version of what life used to be like prior to the feminist movement. Mothers and wives were painted as regular June Cleavers, whose sole purpose was to cater to their families. Imagine our surprise, when we saw Russell’s Hildy come across the screen in a blaze of independent glory in His Girl Friday!
As we said before, the film was released in 1940 and was based on a play that previously featured her character as a man. Russell was a real spitfire who wore power suits and had both Grant and Bellamy eating out of the palm of her hand. She was in control, yet still attractive but not in a pandering way. This wasn’t your Marilyn Monroe type of performance.
We’d like to give a posthumous thanks to director Howard Hawks, screenwriter Charles Lederer and of course Ms. Russell for putting out an image of a strong female lead, who could not only hang with but dominate the boys!