Film Highlight: His Girl Friday


Parkway Theater, Monday at 7:30 p.m.

Like Mozart and Marivaux, the makers of this 1940 comedy transmit the essential pleasures of being alive: the invention of language so fantastical and gorgeous that it stuns the speaker, the improvisatory nature of the con game, and the military strategies that make someone fall in love with you. The director, Howard Hawks, has the newspaper-editor hero (Cary Grant) and his ex-wife and ace reporter (Rosalind Russell) talking so fast that the words sizzle past their comic meanings; the actors turn into two jazz artists blowing at each other. Hawks's thoroughly amazing movie takes all the salient qualities of the American character—self-puffery, anti-pretentious razzing, slyness, callousness, mawkishness, genius, and lust—and accelerates them to the point of abstraction. While His Girl Friday is one of the talkiest of American comedies, it's also one of the most blazingly cinematic movies ever made—a speedball rush of kinetic euphoria that reminds you that Hawks is still the most entertaining of great American directors. As the newspaperman without a sentimental bone in his body, Grant creates a character as deeply and complexly lovable as Falstaff; it's a performance so wrought with multivalent charms that it defies description and has never been equaled.