Words in Edgewise: Dialogue in His Girl Friday

The Hollywood screwball canon is rife with witty zingers and provocative repartee, but when it comes to sheer speed, nothing in the genre holds a candle to Howard Hawks’s newsroom rom-com His Girl Friday. In what remains the most beloved screen incarnation of Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur’s much-adapted Broadway hit The Front Page, Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell put a seductive spin on the cutthroat ethos of American journalism, trading barbs that establish their hard-boiled characters as both romantic soul mates and professional equals. Their motormouth velocity is rendered all the more delirious by the use of overlapping speech, which allows the film to cover an unusually hefty, 191-page script in a fleet ninety-two-minute running time.

In the following clip, excerpted from a special feature on our just-released edition that includes archival interviews with Hawks, the director chats with Peter Bogdanovich and Richard Schickel about the film’s polyphonic approach to dialogue and the heightened intensity it creates.

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