His Girl Friday
“His Girl Friday” (1940) stars Rosalind Russell as star reporter Hildy Johnson and Carey Grant as her ex-husband and newspaper editor Walter Burns. When Walter learns Hildy intends to quit her brilliant career to marry a quiet insurance salesman, Bruce Baldwin (Ralph Bellamy), he throws her into a news story she can’t resist. Soon, her chase for the truth is leading her farther from Bruce. Meanwhile, Walter arranges to have her fiancé repeatedly arrested and kidnaps her anticipated mother-in-law for good measure. Which suitor wins Hildy’s heart? The promise of sweet domesticity offered by Bruce, or the thrill of the next big story?
The film’s title is a play on the expression “Man Friday”—from the fictional character Robinson Crusoe recruits as a servant. Friday performs odd jobs and serves Crusoe faithfully in Daniel DeFoe’s novel. In the context of this film, it implies Hildy is Walter’s servant, an essential helper of lesser status. In the play on which the film was based, the star reporter is a man. In casting a woman in the lead, this version invites commentary on power and gender roles in mid-Twentieth Century film, and on the rigid binary of Family versus Career represented by Hildy’s past and prospective husbands.
Dr. April KedrowiczDr. April Kedrowicz analyzes gender bias and communication in another classic UEN SciFi Friday film.
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