His Girl Friday (Criterion Collection) Is the Pick of the Week

I can’t even remember the first time I saw His Girl Friday. It was high school, probably, or maybe on a trip home from college. I watched it with with my mother I’m pretty sure. Whenever, wherever it was, I immediately loved it. I’ve seen it a good dozen times since then and love it even more now. It gives me great pleasure to show the film off to those who haven’t seen it and watch them discover one of the great comedies of all time.

The film stars Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell as two hard-nosed reporters who were once married. He still loves her, but she’s grown tired of the newspaper business and plans to settle down with a boring old insurance man. Grant spends the film trying to get her back by interesting her in the story of a man about to be hanged for a crime he likely didn’t commit. It’s a grand story full of satire, wit, and romance but it’s the two leads performing a crackerjack script that make it a classic.

The dialogue is like a perfectly timed fireworks show. It’s a combative dance that will keep you laughing from start to finish. Their lines come so quick that they often overlap, making the movie worth coming back to over and over again to catch what you missed the last time.

Because His Girl Friday has been in the public domain for decades, there have been numerous releases of the film on DVD; none of which have been much good. Nobody wants to spend the time and money on doing a proper restoration when they can be undercut by some fly-by-night company releasing the film as cheap as can be.

Thanks to Criterion that is about to be remedied. They are doing there usual fantastic job of cleaning up the original negative (as best they can. It was made in 1940, after all). They’ve loaded it with gobs of extras too. Included in the set is a new print of The Front Page, which is the 1931 film adaptation of the same play His Girl Friday comes from. It’s a fine film in its own right, but much more of a drama than the mad-cap Friday became. There is also a 11-minute audio interview between Peter Bodganovich and His Girl Friday‘s director Howard Hawks. Plus a radio theater adaptation of the film starring Claudette Colbert and Fred Murray, and featurettes on the making of the film. The Front Page gets its own documentary on its restoration, plus two radio theater adaptations, a documentary on the film’s writer Ben Hecht, plus essays on both films.

All in all, that’s a great-looking set for one of my favorite films.

Also out this week that looks interesting:

The Birth of a Nation: Nate Turner’s drama about a slave revolt in 1831 Virginia garnered a lot of buzz when it came to Sundance, but subsequent allegations of rape and sexual abuse hurled at Turner have all but put it out of the awards race.

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency: Season One: Douglas Adams is a national treasure. Not an American national treasure as he was born in England but a national treasure none the less. BBC America has made a television series from Adams’ 1987 novel. Samuel Barnett stars as the titular detective whose eccentric ways lead Elijah Wood’s character, Todd Brotzman, to become his reluctant side-kick. I’ve not read the books, but the trailers look delightful.

The 400 Blows (Criterion Collection): Francois Truffaut’s semi-autobiographical drama is rightfully considered a classic of the French New Wave. Criterion is giving it a nice HD upgrade. I already own their DVD release of the film (in a set of Truffaut’s series of films about the main character) so I’ll likely wait to upgrade, but if you don’t have it already, it is an absolute must-have.

Mr. Robot: The Complete Second Season: This series about a computer programmer whose been recruited by a mysterious anarchist has gotten rave reviews. I’m but a few episodes into the first season, but I already love it.

The Accountant: Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, J.K. Simmons, Jon Bernthal, and Jeffrey Tambor star in this drama about a math savant who uncooks the books for some very bad guys and runs into trouble by the Treasury department.

Deepwater Horizon: Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, and John Malkovich star in this dramatization of the 2010 oil rig disaster.

Homeland: The Complete Fifth Season: I turned out of this espionage thriller after the second season , but I guess it keeps chugging along without me.

Mat Brewster

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