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Book Vs Movie: His Girl Friday

The 1928 Play (The Front Page) Vs the 1940 Howard Hawks Film

Writers Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur changed Broadway (and later Hollywood) forever when they created The Front Page,  a comedy about irascible, mean reporters in Chicago who are waiting for the hanging of Earl Williams–a communist who killed an African American policeman which makes him a pariah in Cook County. 

The reporters who hang around the jail to write about his fate couldn’t care less about justice–they just want a story. Our lead, Hildy Johnson, is ready to leave the newspaper business for good and marry a New York City gal. He claims to be eager for more money and respectability–but his cohorts in reporting know better.

As does his boss, Walter Burns, he schemes to keep him on duty and in Chicago. (Even “kidnapping” Hildy’s mother in law!)

Earl Williams escapes jail and manages to find Hildy alone in the press room. Realizing that Williams is innocent of the charges, Hildy hides him in the company desk and comedy ensues. 

The “rat-a-tat” style dialog was a revelation at the time which may explain why it had been adapted several times for film, TV, radio, and on Broadway several times. 

The 1940 adaptation from Howard Hawks is titled His Girl Friday switches genders for Hildy with Rosalind Russell playing the part against Cary Grant as Walter Burns. The script was credited to Charles Lederer but Ben Hecht most certainly had a hand in the dialog. (He would later be credited as one of the most successful screenwriters in history with Scarface, Spellbound, and Wuthering Heights in his official credits.)

The Margos talk about the original play and the most successful movie adaptation and decide which we like better. 

In this ep the Margos discuss:

  • How The Front Page changed Broadway
  • Ben Hecht and Herman Mankowitz in Hollywood
  • The biggest changes between the original text and the 1940 script
  • The many problematic themes of the original material
  • The cast: Cary Grant (Walter Burns,) Rosalind Russell (Hildy Johnson,) Ralph Bellamy (Bruce Baldwin,) and John Qualen (Earl Williams)

Clips used:

  • His Girl Friday  trailer 
  • Walter Burns, Hildy Johnson, and Bruce Baldwin have lunch
  • Hildy returns to quit
  • Walter convinces Hildy to stay

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Margo D. @BrooklynFitChik [email protected]

Margo P. @ShesNachoMama 

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