Friday, May 29, 2009

His Girl Friday (1940): Dated and Oppressive

Howard Hawks' His Girl Friday is a dated stagy unfunny comedy that glibly milks cheap humor from cruel ridicule. Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell in their roles never go beyond caricature. The elements of moral turpitude and tragedy in the script are everywhere sacrificed to the tawdry ambition and low humor that propels the story. Particularly repugnant is the latent misogyny and contempt for people who don't have an angle. The rejected suitor, the guy on death row, and the decent ordinary Molly are all expendable once their "production for use" value is used up. Even corrupt officialdom is let off the hook in the twisted ending where a girl jumps out a window, is then promptly forgotten, and a heinous attempt to obstruct due process is traded for the freedom of the two amoral protagonists.