Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

His Girl Friday (1940)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

His Girl Friday (1940)

In this classic Howard Hawks screwball comedy of Hollywood's Golden Age - from Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur's stage play 'The Front Page', about the relationship between a devil-may-care newspaper editor and his smart ace-reporter (and ex-wife), reunited by an explosive, late-breaking news-story several months after their divorce:

  • the frantic, overlapping whirlwind nature of the fast-talking dialogue in the opening scene (and throughout the entire film) between big-city Morning Post newspaper editor Walter Burns (Cary Grant) and his ace ex-reporter/ex-wife Hildegard "Hildy" Johnson (Rosalind Russell); she told him: "I'm fond of you, you know...I often wish you weren't such a stinker!"; he seriously proposed working together again: "What's the use of fighting, Hildy? I'll tell you what you do. You come back to work on the paper, and if we find we can't get along in a friendly fashion, we'll get married again...Certainly, I haven't any hard feelings"; she tried to convince him that things were over between them: "The paper's gonna have to get along without me. So will you. It didn't work out, Walter"
  • Hildy's announcement that she was engaged and soon getting married: "I'm getting married, Walter, and I'm also getting as far away from this newspaper business as I can get...I'm through"; to convince her otherwise, Walter asserted: "You're a newspaperman...You're a journalist, Hildy!" - she disagreed and described what she was trying to get away from: "Peeking through keyholes, chasing after fire engines, waking people up in the middle of the night to ask them if Hitler's gonna start another war, stealing pictures off old ladies? I know all about reporters, Walter... What's the use? Walter, you wouldn't know what it means to want to be respectable and live a halfway normal life. The point is, I'm, I'm through"
  • the scene of Walter's first meeting with Hildy's staid, dull, but devoted insurance salesman fiancee Bruce Baldwin (Ralph Bellamy), but at first mistaking an older Mr. Davis in the office as Bruce
  • the many classic one-liners, such as Hildy's description of Walter's charm to her fiancee Bruce: "Well, he comes by it naturally. His grandfather was a snake"
  • the hilarious restaurant-luncheon scene with Walter and Hildy's fiancee Bruce, with Walter's unending conniving to find a way to dislodge Hildy, sabotage her imminent marriage and stop the couple's impending move to Albany to live in Bruce's mother's house, after leaving on the night train to Albany: Walter (sarcastically): "Oh, you're gonna live with your mother?...Oh, that will be nice! Yes, yes, a home with mother - in Albany too!"
  • the scene in the newspaper's press room, when there were reports that convicted murderer and death-row prisoner Earl Williams (John Qualen), nicknamed "mock-turtle" by Burns, had escaped from the county jail with a gun; on the phone, Hildy reported the exclusive 'scoop' news-story of the escape to Burns (costing her $450 for which she demanded reimbursement): "All right, now here's your story. The jailbreak of your dreams. It seems that expert Dr. Egelhoffer, the profound thinker from New York, was giving Williams a final sanity test in the Sheriff's office - you know, sticking a lot of pins in him so that he could get his reflexes. Well, he decided to re-enact the crime exactly as it had taken place, in order to study Williams' powers of co-ordination...Of course, he had to have a gun to re-enact the crime with. And who do you suppose supplied it? Peter B. Hartwell, 'B' for brains...Well, the Sheriff gave his gun to the Professor and the Professor gave it to Earl, and Earl shot the Professor right in the classified ads...No 'ads.' Ain't it perfect? If the Sheriff had unrolled a red carpet and loaned Williams an umbrella, it couldn't have been more ideal...Egelhoffer wasn't badly hurt. They took him to the County Hospital..."
  • to complicate matters, after the call, escaped convict Williams entered the press room, and confronted Hildy at gunpoint
  • the sequence when she found herself on two phone calls, bragging to both Bruce and Walter on the phone: (to Walter on her right): "Walter, get this. I've got Earl Williams. Here, yeah, right in the press room. Honest, on the level. Hurry, I need you. Right." (to Bruce on her left): "Bruce, the best thing in the world has happened. I've captured Earl Williams. You know, the murderer"
  • frantic about the situation, she hid Earl Williams in the room's roll-top desk; during the tumultuous scene, as newsmen, the police and Burns all gathered in the press room, Walter attempted to convince Hildy to stay rather than meet her fiancee Bruce and leave for Albany: "How many times you got a murderer locked up in a desk? Once-in-a-lifetime. Hildy, you got the whole city by the seat of the pants...This isn't just a story you're covering. It's a revolution. This is the greatest yarn in journalism since Livingston discovered Stanley...This isn't just a newspaper story, Hildy. It's a career. And you standin' there bellyache-ing about whether you're catchin' an eight o'clock train or a nine o'clock train"; at the same time, Bruce badgered and pleaded with Hildy to leave with him while she was frantically typing the story she called "the biggest thing in my life"
  • the signaling system ("Three taps is me. Don't forget") between Burns and Williams backfired, when Burns was denouncing the accusation of Bruce's indignant mother Mrs. Baldwin (Alma Kruger), that "They had some kind of a murderer in here, and they were hiding him" - Walter righteously pounded three times on the top of the roll-top desk to accentuate his denial of her accusation: "Madam. You're a Cock-Eyed Liar, and you know it"; there were three answering knocks from the inside of the desk; with guns drawn, the authorities counted to three, then opened the desk - Williams emerged and pleaded: "Go ahead, shoot me"; as Williams was taken away, many of the insensitive reporters began to phone in the sensationalized news of Williams' capture as the camera tracked past them: "Williams was unconscious when they opened the desk...Williams put up a desperate struggle, but the police overpowered him...He offered no resistance...He might shoot out with the cops but his gun wasn't workin...He broke through a whole cordon of police...The Morning Post just turned Williams over to the Sheriff"
Fugitive Williams Revealed Hiding in Roll-Top Desk
  • in the film's conclusion, Earl Williams was reprieved, and Bruce was thought to be on his way home on the train with his mother to Albany; Walter and Hildy had successfully teamed together and reunited as reporters; she would write the story of Earl Williams' reprieve, and the two would get married - but they would have to spend their planned honeymoon in Albany to cover a newsworthy story about a strike -- not in Niagara Falls as Hildy wished - (Walter: "We're going to Albany. I wonder if Bruce can put us up?")
  • the film's improvised closing line was a suggestion delivered by Walter to Hildy about her suitcase (held in her arms) as they exited the Press Room and spoke to each other under the door frame's arch; as always, he strode in front of her, and observed that she should properly carry her own suitcase: "Say, why don't you carry that in your hand?"

Walter Burns (Cary Grant) with Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russell)

Mistaking an Older Mr. Davis as Bruce

Restaurant Luncheon Scene with Hildy's Fiancee Bruce

Hildy on the Phone Calling Walter About a Rumored Prison Break: "What's the Story?"

Fugitive Earl Williams in the Press Room with Hildy

Hildy's Two Phone Conversations at Once

Confusion in the Press Room

Ending: Leaving the Press Room for their Re-marriage and Honeymoon


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