His Girl Friday (1940)

Viewed January 1st

Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell star in this classic Hollywood newspaper comedy. 

To his endless credit, Howard Hawks lets the famously fast-paced overlapping dialogue of His Girl Friday lead the direction of his actors and camera. The dialogue is not only fast, it's smart, smart about politics and the media and flirtation between strong-willed people. And the feminism of the film is so easygoing and natural that it strikes one not as didactic but as an obvious fact of life. But what struck me in this viewing (in a gorgeous 35mm print) is Cary Grant. He is so funny and so attractive, but both of those descriptions don't do him justice. He and maybe only a handful of other actors--"movie stars", truly--were real human beings in the world but they somehow come into being as something else beyond their everyday selves when they are photographed. This sounds crazy, but their presence in front of the film camera is some form of alchemy in which the glint of their eyes is not merely documented but signals the becoming of...some other purely artistic being. I take this idea from my memory of reading Stanley Cavell's The World ViewedReflections on the Ontology of Film