Walter Burns (Cary Grant) is a hard-boiled editor for The Morning Post who learns his ex-wife and former star reporter, Hildegard "Hildy" Johnson (Rosalind Russell), is about to marry bland insurance man Bruce Baldwin (Ralph Bellamy) and settle down to a quiet life as a wife and mother in Albany, New York. Walter determines to sabotage these plans, enticing the reluctant Hildy to cover one last story, the upcoming execution of convicted murderer Earl Williams (John Qualen).

Walter does everything he can to keep Hildy from leaving, including setting Bruce up so he gets arrested over and over again on trumped-up charges. He even kidnaps Hildy's stern mother-in-law-to-be (Alma Kruger). When Williams escapes from the bumbling sheriff (Gene Lockhart) and practically falls into Hildy's lap, the lure of a big scoop proves too much for her. She is so consumed with writing the story that she hardly notices as Bruce realizes his cause is hopeless and returns to Albany.

The crooked mayor (Clarence Kolb) and sheriff need the publicity from the execution to keep their jobs in an upcoming election, so when a messenger (Billy Gilbert) brings them a reprieve from the governor, they try to bribe the man to go away and return later, when it will be too late. Walter and Hildy find out just in time to save Walter from being arrested for kidnapping.

Afterwards, Walter offers to remarry Hildy, promising to take her on the honeymoon they never had in Niagara Falls, but then Walter learns that there is a newsworthy strike in Albany, which, as it just so happens, is on the way to Niagara Falls by train.

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“His Girl Friday” is Howard Hawks' speedy and hysterically funny, modern-style screwball comedy, and one of the best examples of its kind in film history. The film marked the beginning of a number of screwball comedies in the 1940s that emphasized the conflict for women in deciding between love/marriage and professional careers.

“His Girl Friday” was originally supposed to be a straightforward remake of “The Front Page”, a 1931 movie directed by Lewis Milestone, with both the editor and reporter being men. But during auditions, Howard Hawks's secretary read reporter Hildy Johnson's lines. Hawks liked the way the dialogue sounded coming from a woman, resulting in the script being rewritten to make Hildy female and the ex-wife of editor Walter Burns. Most of the original dialogue and all of the characters' names were left the same. The gender swap brought an entirely new angle to the film, making it more than a satirical view and social commentary on the operation of a newsroom under the management of the hard-boiled, smart-alec managing editor and providing an additional feminine-romance angle.

Hawks had a very difficult time casting this film. While the choice of Cary Grant was almost instantaneous, the casting of Hildy was a far more extended process. At first, Hawks wanted Carole Lombard, whom he had directed in the screwball comedy “Twentieth Century”, but the cost of hiring Lombard in her new status as a freelancer proved to be far too expensive, and Columbia could not afford her.

Katharine Hepburn, Claudette Colbert, Margaret Sullavan, Ginger Rogers and Irene Dunne were offered the role, but turned it down; Dunne because she felt the part was too small and needed to be expanded. Jean Arthur was offered the part, and was suspended by the studio when she refused to take it. Joan Crawford was reportedly also considered.

Hawks then turned to Rosalind Russell, who was annoyed that she was not his first choice, even arriving at her audition with wet hair. During filming, Russell noticed that Hawks was treating her poorly, so she confronted him: "You don't want me, do you? Well, you're stuck with me, so you might as well make the most of it." In her autobiography, Life Is A Banquet, Russell wrote that she thought her role did not have as many good lines as Grant's, so she hired her own writer to "punch up" her dialogue. With Hawks encouraging ad-libbing on the set, Russell was able to slip her writer's work into the movie. Only Grant was wise to this tactic and greeted her each morning saying, "What have you got today?"

Cary Grant's character describes Bellamy's character by saying "He looks like that fellow in the movies, you know...Ralph Bellamy!" According to Bellamy, the remark was ad-libed by Grant. Columbia studio head Harry Cohn thought it was too “cheeky” and ordered it removed, but Hawks insisted that it stay. Grant makes several other "inside" remarks in the film. When his character is arrested for a kidnapping, he describes the horrendous fate suffered by the last person who crossed him: Archie Leach (Grant's real name). When Earl Williams attempts to get out of the roll top desk he's been hiding in, Grant says, "Get back in there, you Mock Turtle." The line is in the original version of “The Front Page” and Grant also played "The Mock Turtle" in the 1933 film version of “Alice in Wonderland”.

“His Girl Friday” (originally titled The Bigger They Are), is best remembered for its overlapping dialogue and simultaneous conversations, rapid-fire delivery, breakneck speed, word gags, sexual innuendo, plot twists, "in" jokes, mugging, jousting, sarcastic insults, frantic pace and farcical script. With its plot about a ruthless editor, a marriage renewed by divorce and the threat of re-marriage, a politically corrupt city, and a questionable judicial system, the romantic comedy is both a love story and a sophisticated battle of the sexes (and duel of wits).

This screwball masterpiece lacked even a single Academy Award nomination. Cary Grant's un-nominated performance is a tour de force of comedy - combining cartoonish faces, silent-film pantomime, slapstick, witty word play, and irony into one remarkable characterization. Likewise, Rosalind Russell's role is her greatest comedic portrayal, following her similar role in “The Women”.

Director Billy Wilder attempted a remake with a third film version: “The Front Page” (1974) with Jack Lemmon (as Hildy Johnson) and Walter Matthau (as Walter Burns). It was again remade (with the same gender twist, but the newspaper was updated to a TV news environment) as “Switching Channels” (1988) by director Ted Kotcheff, with Burt Reynolds and Kathleen Turner in the lead roles, and Christopher Reeve as the third individual in the love triangle, a New York millionaire.

While each version is competent in it’s own right, nothing compares to the Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell version. Their comedic pairing is priceless, with the exception, notably, of Lemmon and Matthau.