The movies and journalism have had a long relationship in America, not least because, in Hollywood’s heyday, so many screenwriters began their careers in newsrooms. The prolific Ben Hecht, now known as “the Shakespeare of Hollywood,” started off as a reporter at the Chicago Journal. His collaborator Charles MacArthur first worked over at the Chicago Tribune. They, along with son of the film industry Charles Lederer, co-wrote His Girl Friday, the classic 1940 screwball comedy of steely story-chasing and elaborate romantic intrigue at The Morning Post. Since the film fell into the public domain in 1968 — and this being Friday, after all — why not get a shot of Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, and Howard Hawks free online today?
His Girl Friday stands out for many reasons, especially by refusing, unlike many Hollywood pictures written by former newspapermen, to instinctively glorify journalism, a mistake more recent films about the news still make. As the New Yorker’s Anthony Lane wrote about Shattered Glass, Billy Ray’s dramatization of the fall of infamous New Republic fabricator Stephen Glass, “Glass may be a rotten apple in the barrel, but the contention of Ray’s film is that the barrel itself, the noble calling of the reporter, is as sturdy and as polished as ever. Give me a break. On second thought, give me His Girl Friday. Five minutes of Howard Hawks’s speedy and cynical view of hacks in sharp suits, as they themselves bend the world to fit the shape of their own cynicism, is a more bracing sight than ninety-four minutes of Stephen Glass and his tragic slide from grace.”
His Girl Friday appears in our collection of 535 Free Movies Online.
Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on literature, film, cities, Asia, and aesthetics. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.