The rise of the whiplash-fast screwball comedy may have begun gathering steam with the 1934 release of 'It Happened One Night,' but it reached a feverish apex in 1940 with the madcap 'His Girl Friday' -- your movie of the day. The rise of the whiplash-fast screwball comedy may have begun gathering steam with the 1934 release of 'It Happened One Night,' but it reached a feverish apex in 1940 with the madcap 'His Girl Friday' -- your movie of the day.

Expertly directed by Howard Hawks, who worked off a dot-dash-dot-style screenplay by Charles Lederer, Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur (based on the smash Broadway play 'The Front Page' by Hecht and MacArthur), the film has enough energy to sustain its own orbit.

Selected by the National Film Registry in 1993 for preservation and slotted at number 19 in the American Film Institute's 100 Years...100 Laughs list, 'His Girl Friday' revolves around a seemingly cold, heartless editor, Walter Burns, who's at wit's end when his ace reporter, Hildy Johnson, announces she'll marry a colorless insurance fellow, giving the business of journalism -- yellow or otherwise -- the big heave-ho.

Burns, played by the incomparable Cary Grant like wet branches slathered over a forest fire, is perfectly flanked by Rosalind Russell's Hildy, who is all legs, mouth, eyebrows and a gastritis-inducing attitude.

Bruce Baldwin is the name of the character who made such a gift to the insurance world -- played by the superlative Ralph Bellamy in a costume of wide eyes and ears. Really, Bruce should have known better than to tussle with either of those two.

How Walter schemes to thwart Hildy's nuptials -- a rollicking caper involving the execution of a murderer, bogus charges against Bruce, the kidnapping of Bruce's mother and a crooked politician or two turning up just in time for headlines and deadlines -- is all the stuff of romantic comedy. Romance, of course, being the key ingredient in screwball-comedy soup.

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