Viewing Party! Let’s All Watch ‘His Girl Friday’ Together

Hello, fellow film lovers!

We’re bunkered down at home and missing the movies. We miss the dramas and comedies, and we miss sharing a theater, the love and the friendly debates. If you miss that too, Your Weekend Watch is here for you. The idea is that we pick a movie, we all watch it over the weekend, you weigh in on the film (like it, hate it) and then we do.

The last time we got together (virtually), it was to watch the Tom Cruise vehicle “Top Gun.” For our next Weekend Watch, we have returned to the Hollywood vault and selected “His Girl Friday” (1940), about men and women, romance and work, and the glories and outrages of a subject that is especially dear to both of us: journalism. No hissing.

You may have seen it already, but that’s OK. So have we, a lot (more than either of us remembers). There’s something comforting about watching an old Hollywood film. Part of this is just familiarity — nice to see you, Cary Grant — and part of it is, well, the genius of the system. But while many consider “His Girl Friday” a classic, it hasn’t always been loved. In his review for The New York Times, the critic Frank S. Nugent carped, “The lines are all cute if you can hear them, but you can’t hear many because every one is making too much noise — the audience or the players themselves.” Ouch.

At once simple and twisty, “His Girl Friday” is essentially a romantic duel between a newspaper editor, Walter Burns (Grant) and his ex-wife, the ace reporter Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russell). Hildy’s about to get married, but a breaking story — and Walter — keep getting in her way. It’s based on “The Front Page,” a crackling play that the film puts into delirious overdrive. And now Hildy is a woman, a glorious change.

Does it matter? That’s one of the things that we’ll be chewing over while we’re watching “His Girl Friday” again. Is Hildy a role model? Or is it Russell who makes the character feel liberated? Hildy isn’t just a great “newspaperman,” as she’s called. She and Walter are equals who can both dish it out and take it, no matter how stinging and funny the barb. Oh, and one more question: is Cary Grant the greatest film actor in history? We have thoughts.

“His Girl Friday” is on several platforms (here’s a guide), but be warned that there are disgracefully battered copies out there. The best-looking ones we found are on the Criterion Channel and a free version on YouTube. So, take a look and, after you have watched, tell us what you think in the comments section below. Be sure to weigh in by 6 p.m. Eastern time on Monday. We’ll return with our reactions to your comments on Wednesday. Have fun, talk soon, be safe.

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