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His Girl Friday(1940)

One of the funniest films ever made came about almost by accident. While giving a dinner party, director Howard Hawks wanted to show how good the dialogue from Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur’s play The Front Page was. He read the part of editor Walter Burns and a female guest volunteered to play his male ace reporter, Hildy Johnson. Hawks thought it worked even better with a woman in the role so, with Hecht’s blessing, he reshaped the story so that the reporter and editor re-teaming for one last big story, an anarchist’s execution, were divorcees. In this new adaptation and remake of the The Front Page (1931), Cary Grant was cast as the news editor, attempting to win back Rosalind Russell from her fiancé Ralph Bellamy. The script played like gangbusters, with Hawks pushing his cast to spit out the lines at a rate of 240 words per minute, more than double the norm. Russell only got the role after several notable female stars turned it down. Feeling that Hawks had trusted all the best lines to Grant, she hired an ad man to write some one-liners she snuck in as improvisations. Capitalizing on her work in The Women (1939), Russell used the role to establish herself as one of the screen’s top comediennes, with Hildy catapulting her as a fast-talking, aggressive career woman. (d. Howard Hawks, 92m)

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