His Girl Friday (Rajon Vision) (1939)

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Released 5-Jan-2005

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy None
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1939
Running Time 91:42
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Howard Hawks
Studio
Distributor

Rajon Vision
Starring Cary Grant
Rosalind Russell
Ralph Bellamy
Gene Lockhart
Helen Mack
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI ? Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (128Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.29:1
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    His Girl Friday is one of the funniest films I've ever seen, and if you have never seen Cary Grant doing screwball comedy then this film is an amazing delight. Re-teaming with Howard Hawks, one of cinema's true masters, Grant is paired with Rosalind Russell in this cynical farce about marriage, relationships, news reporting, criminal justice, and the death penalty. When former ace reporter Hildy Johnson (played by Russell) returns to the Morning Post it is for one last goodbye to her ex-husband, Walter Burns (played by Grant), the cunning and conniving editor of the Morning Post. She has in tow her new fiancé the strong and dependable, and boring, Bruce Baldwin (Ralph Bellamy), who according to Walter "looks like that fella in the movies, you know, Ralph Bellamy." Once the most dynamic and resourceful reporter on Walter's staff, Hildy is now determined to lead a normal life, settle down with Bruce, the reliable insurance salesman, and start a proper family.

    If this plot premise sounds familiar it is because it was the basis for Twister. Bill Paxton arrives with fiancée Jami Gertz in tow with the good intention of getting his ex, Helen Hunt, to sign divorce papers. It is not long however before he is lured back into the twister hunting life and the beautiful Gertz is soon an afterthought. As dopey as Twister is, it should never be accused of having a lame story, and it should not prejudice you against His Girl Friday where the bitter zing of cynicism makes the reconciling relationship of Grant and Russell so much funnier than the corniness of Paxton and Hunt.

    Grant may be a handsome and dashing leading man, but he is also an extremely funny and physical comedian who excels in the screwball comedies of Howard Hawks; such as Bringing Up Baby (1938), I Was a Male War Bride (1949), and Monkey Business (1952). Only Grant could make such a corrupt and contemptible character such as Walter Burns so amusing and compelling. No matter how outrageous his schemes and how boorish his conduct it is impossible not to root for him. Russell's performance packs enough energy to match Grant's, and yet still plays for sympathy - half of you wishes for her to realise her place at Walter's side at the Morning Post and the other half hopes that poor hapless Bruce can finally whisk her away to a safe and boring life upstate.

    Hildy's plans start to come unstuck when Walter cleverly sets about luring her back to the Morning Post by involving her in the paper's crusade to free convicted murderer Earl Williams (John Qualen) from death row. Williams is a pathetic and desperate character, the victim of a cruel world that favours the strong and the corrupt, and is now awaiting his doom for the murder of a policeman during a momentary madness after losing his job. Walter knows that Hildy has the perfect feminine touch, despite calling her a newspaper man, to paint Williams in a sympathetic light and help to get him a reprieve from the noose. The plot sounds dark and gloomy but Charles Lederer's screenplay, based on Ben Hecht's and Charles MacArthur's play The Front Page, is brought to sparkling life by the rapid and non-stop repartee of Grant and Russell. Both are ably supported by a cast that includes Gene Lockhart as the contemptible and slow-witted sheriff, Clarence Kolb as the opportunistic mayor, Abner Biberman as Louis, Walter's criminal sidekick, and room full of wise-cracking reporters stationed in the press room at the court house.

    Howard Hawks not only made films across all genres, he helped pioneer and define them: Scarface (1932) - Gangster; The Big Sleep (1946) - Film Noir; Red River (1948) - Western; and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) - Musical. In Bringing Up Baby, considered one of the exemplars of the Screwball Comedy genre, Grant plays the hapless fool to Kathryn Hepburn's fireball of romantic and dizzy energy. His Girl Friday is the equal to any of these classics and far superior to would-be imitators flaunting bloated special effects budgets.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    His Girl Friday is presented in a 1.30:1 ratio (measured), which is close to it's original ratio of 1.37:1.

    This disc suffers greatly from being over compressed onto a single layer. There is no sharpness, just a general blurriness to edges and a softness to surfaces. Shadow detail is not too bad considering the age of the source, and low level noise is only moderately distracting. Posterization is a very ugly problem which shows up the actors faces, leaving subtle facial expressions lost in the blur.

    Aliasing is only a minor problem in the last 30 minutes; a writing desk with a pull down lid becomes important to the plot in the third act, and unfortunately has a horizontal rib pattern which provides the aliasing effect. Telecine wobble is also a minor issue.

    Surprisingly, this is a very clean print, and there are not a lot of film artefacts as would be expected in a film of this vintage. There are scratches, and minor blemishes, including print reel change marks, but there is nothing overly offensive.

    There are no subtitles at all.

    This is a single layer disc so there is no layer change.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There is only one audio track, the default English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (128 kb/s). It is mostly clear, however the dialogue, with actors shouting over the top of each other, or with competing conversations going on in the background and the foreground, often gets a little lost. This is the intention of Howard Hawks, however it still could have been much better, and would have been greatly assisted with subtitles. The soundtrack definitely starts to deteriorate in the last 20 minutes.

    I didn't notice any problems with the audio sync.

    The music, by M.W. Stoloff,  is restricted to the opening and closing credits, where it is jaunty and cheery, and the final scene which ironically resorts to romantic violins.

    As a mono soundtrack, there is no surround or subwoofer activity.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There are no extras at all on this disc. There is only the start up menu; no chapters, no audio, or subtitle options. There are only two chapter stops during the film, the second at the halfway point of 45:18.

Menu

     The menu is an ugly image of a film reel, and three small, and low resolution, stills from a scene in the film. Highlight the centre image to play the film.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    His Girl Friday has been released as a "Colombia Classics" disc in Regions 1, 2, and 4. The transfer used for these discs comes from a laserdisc released some years previously, and was a restoration by "Sony Pictures Entertainment in conjunction with the UCLA Film and Television Archives from the original 35mm nitrate negative stored at the Library of Congress", according to the booklet that also accompanies these releases. All reviews praise this transfer as well as the original mono audio. There is a commentary by film critic and author Todd McCarthy, brief featurettes on Grant, Russell, Hawks, and "The Front Page," talent files, a number of trailers, plus English and Spanish audio, and English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, and Thai subtitles.

    The Region 4 version of the "Colombia Classics" is still available for a low price and should be your first choice before a public domain copy such as this one from Rajonvision.

Summary

    His Girl Friday is an hysterical masterpiece, by one of cinema's greatest masters, Howard Hawks, and starring Cary Grant at the top of his game along side Rosalind Russell. Unfortunately, this is a cheap public domain version, and not up to the standard set by the various "Colombia Classics" discs available here, as well as in Regions 1 and 2.

    The video quality is very disappointing.

    The audio quality is also quiet poor.

    There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Michael Cohen (read my bio)
Thursday, November 17, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPhilips 860, using RGB output
DisplaySony 76cm FD Trinitron WEGA KV-HX32 M31. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver.
AmplificationSherwood
SpeakersSherwood

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Why review public domain release? - Anonymous
I agree - Anonymous
...But I disagree - Neil REPLY POSTED
Why not just grab it off www.archive.org - Anonymous