His Girl Friday, directed by Howard Hanks, is an inspirational and revolutionary film which was ahead of its time. The film broke the gender stereotype that women in the 1940’s were expected to live a domesticated life, and therefore did not need to work. From the second that the viewers are introduced to the protagonist Hildy Johnson, played by Rosalind Russell, it is very evident that she is a no-nonsense professional. She is described to be one of the best news reporters at the paper. By being the leading reporter, Hildy was already defying gender stereotypes. She made herself a name in a male dominated field.
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Hildy’s passion and stubbornness is what made her a unique character, she is an independent woman who is not afraid to go after what she wants. In the beginning of the movie she was engaged to an average man named Bruce, who wanted to give her the docile life that she thought she wanted, however her ego driven ex-husband and news editor Walter was trying to pull her back into the newspaper world which would only further her profession, which is what Hildy secretly desired. Her character starts to develop throughout the film and she realizes that her career is much too important for her to give up. Her realization is one of the pivotal points in the movie, because here she was choosing to abandon her one option to lead a submissive life.
A significant aspect of His Girl Friday includes the complexity of the audio within the film. Being one of the more early sound films, audio and sound throughout the film was exceptionally done. At first glance, I actually believed that the dialogue was recorded with the film. However, it soon became apparent that some of the dialogue was not in sync with the actor’s gestures and facial language. In actuality, films would be produced and then actors would record their dialogue which would be overlayed onto the scenes.
Newspaper films became the earliest products of the early sound years, and films such as His Girl Friday were immensely popular because it displayed a more unique style of film. In the History of Narrative Film, David Cook delves deeper, “[newspaper film] was immensely popular during the 1930s and important for helping to refine the technique of the dialogue film …produced several comic masterpieces (such as Howard Hawks’s His Girl Friday —a remake of The Front Page with the gender roles switched)...” (Cook, 181).
Innovations in sound and audio also gave birth to screwball comedies, which included “wisecracking dialogue, furious pacing, and a certain element of visual burlesque carried over from the silent slapstick days.” (ibid, 181) In His Girl Friday, Hawks demonstrated the more serious theme of gender roles by imbedded it within the humor and “fast-paced overlapping dialogue” (Cook, 205).
Comedy is also utilized within the film to defuse the film’s violent plot points and shift the story to focus more on the romance and characterization development of Hildy. The first time details of the execution of Earl Williams is brought up is when Walter casually brings it up at lunch in hopes to get Hildy to remain in the newspaper business. Ultimately, movies such as His Girl Friday will always leave a lasting impact because it was the first of its kind, and it shows how far we have advanced in the realm of film and audio.