His Girl Friday (Bounty Films) (1939) (NTSC)
Theatrical Trailer-Todd McCarthy (Film Critic)
More…-Complete film: The Front Page (1931) (100:44)
|Year Of Production||1939|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||Howard Hawks|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||480i (NTSC)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.37:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Ace reporter on the Morning Post, Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russell), arrives at the paper to see her boss, and ex-husband, editor Walter Burns (Cary Grant). Hildy has come to tell Walter that she is quitting the newspaper business and will, that evening, catch a train to Albany with her fiancée Bruce Baldwin (Ralph Bellamy), a mild mannered and decent insurance salesman, to get married and settle down. Walter does not want to lose Hildy, either as a reporter or ex, and entices her to write one last story about the imminent execution of the dim-witted Earl Williams (John Qualen) who shot and killed a police officer. This gives Walter time to try to make sure that Hildy and Bruce do not get on that train to Albany, including having Bruce arrested on a number of trumped up charges. When Earl escapes on the eve of his execution, matters degenerate into farce, especially as there is an election coming up the next week for the incompetent Sheriff (Gene Lockhart) and the less than honest Major (Clarence Kolb). Walter pulls out all his charm and dirty tricks to get the story for the front page, expose the politicians and win back his girl.
His Girl Friday is based on the 1929 stage play The Front Page by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur. The material had been filmed before by Oscar winning director Lewis Milestone in 1931 under the title The Front Page (this film is included as an extra on this DVD), and subsequently there have been both TV movies and a 1974 feature that starred Jack Lemon and Walter Matthau. The origins of the story for His Girl Friday in a stage play are obvious as much of the action takes place in one setting, the press room at the gaol. However, the major innovation made by director Howard Hawks was to change the gender of the ace reporter from male to female, giving an added element of sexual tension to the play. Another innovation Hawks brought to His Girl Friday is to overlap the dialogue; in some sequences in the press room two or three characters are talking on the phone at the same time, bring a sense of chaos to the proceedings.
Howard Hawks’s filmography in a number of genres has a longevity and appeal that has stood the test of time, films such as Scarface (1932), The Big Sleep (1946) or Red River (1948). However it is his comedies with Cary Grant that are some of his most delightful and enduring films, including Bringing Up Baby (1938), I Was a Male War Bride (1949) and of course His Girl Friday. Indeed, in His Girl Friday Grant is superb; he is a heel but is witty and charming and manages to make the conniving, manipulative, underhanded and potentially obnoxious Walter someone who manages to get some sympathy, if not our approval! A feisty Rosalind Russell, later nominated for four Oscars including for Mourning Becomes Electra (1947) and Auntie Mama (1958), gives as good as she gets while Gene Lockhart as the Sheriff and Abner Biberman as Walter’s dirty tricks organiser are also good value.
His Girl Friday is a delightful but cynical look at the ethics (or rather non-ethics) of newspaper reporters, who will do almost anything to produce a story without letting facts get in the way, and politics, including elected officials who will do anything, even have a man executed despite a reprieve, if it will help them get re-elected. There is also a healthy dose of the battle of the sexes, sparkling dialogue, and top notch performances, making His Girl Friday a hard edged but very entertaining treat.
His Girl Friday is presented in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio which my computer reads as 16x9 enhanced.
This is a very good, clean print of this 75+ year old film. Detail is firm, blacks solid, greyscale fine and there are no obvious marks or artefacts.
My copy of the film however had an issue at 48:38 in Chapter 5: the film paused, then skipped back to the start of the film. I tried the disc on my two players, two different Sony BD models, and also on my computer with the same result. This was not at the layer change; that was at 14:43 during a scene change. The distributors Bounty are checking the issue; it is possible to view the rest of the film by fast forwarding past that section. This review will be update when more information is provided.
No subtitles are provided.
Audio is English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono at 192 Kbps, the original audio.
The snappy dialogue comes over loud and clear, although the way Hawks shot the film with overlapping dialogue it is not always fully understandable, which was intended. Effects, such as the shots and when the trapdoor on the scaffold is tested, are fine. The score, by an uncredited Sidney Cutner and Felix Mills, is only used during the title sequences.
I noticed occasional lip synchronisation issues, but nothing serious. Pops and hisses were absent.
|Surround Channel Use|
Straight after winning his second Oscar for All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), Lewis Milestone directed this version of The Front Page, for which he was also nominated for an Oscar; indeed the film was nominated for three Oscars, for best film, best director and best leading actor, but won none. The Front Page stars Adolphe Menjou, Pat O’Brian and Mary Brian and is presented in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio, with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.
I was amazed at how good this, hardly high profile, 85 year old film looks. It occasionally is a bit soft but on the whole detail is good and blacks and greyscale excellent. There were no marks or scratches and, other than a section of macro blocking at 13:48, no artefacts. This extra is interesting in its own right, but also as a comparison to how Hawks adapted the story for his own purposes in His Girl Friday.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
His Girl Friday was allowed to pass into the public domain in 1968 resulting in a number of inferior, artefact riddled copies of the film becoming available, such as a previous Australian release which was reviewed on this site here. The best of the releases was perhaps the Region All “Colombia Classics” which had a decent video and extras including an audio commentary and some minor featurettes. For that version see here. This current Region All NTSC release of His Girl Friday from Bounty Films looks good but has none of the extras that were available on the Colombia Classics release. However, it does have as a bonus a complete film, Lewis Milestone’s The Front Page, which is certainly of interest to film fans.
Howard Hawks, Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, snappy dialogue and a frenetic pace, His Girl Friday is as entertaining, and biting in its humour, as when it was made over 75 years ago. What’s not to like?
The film looks very good, except for the glitch that is being checked by Bounty, the audio is fine. If you own the Colombia release there is no need to indulge, unless The Front Page is of interest. Otherwise, this DVD is an excellent place to revisit this classic Howard Hawks / Cary Grant comedy.
|DVD||Sony BDP-S580, using HDMI output|
|Display||LG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||NAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.|
|Speakers||Studio Acoustics 5.1|