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By Brad Laidman | November 28, 2001

“He looks like that fella in the movies, Ralph Bellamy.”
It’s a drag to be Ralph Bellamy. Sure you get to be in movies, you’re sort of a movie star, but you’re only there to lose the girl to Cary Grant. You’re a great guy, you’re probably very successful, you may indeed be the nicest guy in the word, but in the end you were a little drab and boring, and, well, not Cary Grant. Every once in a while these days a movie comes out where the loser gets the girl. That movie usually gets lots of critical acclaim, but probably only because like the film’s writer, star or director all the critics happen to be that same version of Ralph Bellamy. Meanwhile, everyone else is off trying to figure out whether they can relate to Brad Pitt as the Dalai Lama. Sad to say in real life as in the old days Ralph Bellamy never gets the girl. I know that that English guy in The Truth About Cats and Dogs picked Janeane Garofalo over Uma Thurman, but when the movie shoot is over that English guy always goes home with Uma Thurman or somebody else in a whole other league than Janeane Garofalo even when she does do her hair.. That’s why they called these things “screwball comedies” and not “a slice of life in fantasy land”. If you’re looking for fantasy you should probably be renting Frank Capra or Walt Disney and not Howard Hawks.
If you think you’ve seen this before, it’s probably because you like me were a big fan of the TV show Moonlighting whenever they were somehow actually able to complete and screen an entire episode. Mark Harmon got the Ralph Bellamy role there. Not only was he better looking than Bruce Willis’ David Addison, they even made him a famous astronaut, but was there ever really any doubt who was going to be getting down to “Be My Baby” in Cybill Shepherd’s mansion at the end of the season finale?. And yes it’s true Glenn Gordon Caron didn’t invent the concept of pretty people talking almost simultaneously at breakneck speed. In these movies, there’s nothing hotter than sparring verbally with the one you really love.
His Girl Friday probably shouldn’t be approached lightly. You don’t want to try and watch this when you’re half asleep. His Girl Friday is probably best seen in the middle of crystal meth adventure. If you’re not paying attention you’ll probably miss all the jokes and not understand this movie. That’s why Cary Grant and Ralph Bellamy are in this movie. It’s how everyone else can figure out what’s going to happen.
In the days of the screwball romance it apparently wasn’t enough to win your ex-girlfriend back. The olden heroes usually liked to do it when there was some rapidly approaching time limit involved. Usually it was Ralph Bellamy about to take his wedding vows, as it is here, but just to keep you on the edge of your seats they threaten to hang a goof ball named Earl Williams too. Until The Player came out and mocked this plot, a death penalty reprieve case was pretty exciting to the masses. As for the film’s true view of the press, check this out. All the other reporters are trying to get the guy hung two hours early so they can get it into their evening editions and go home! As for the politicians, the mayor here pays off the reprieve messenger so he can kill off old Earl and get re-elected.
The thing I like about Cary Grant in these movies was how utterly sure and pleased with himself he was. His screen characters always knew the working of the world. I hear it wasn’t like that in real life for him, but on film it’s usually the case that he knows he’s Cary Grant and there could hardly be anything more fun than that. Just for fun here he gets Bellamy tossed in jail three times and has his annoying old bat of a mother kidnapped.
Rosalind Russell plays Hildy Johnson, a star newspaper reporter, who wants to leave behind both her career as a “newspaper man” and her ex-husband Newspaper Publisher Walter Burns (Cary Grant) for insurance salesman Bruce Baldwin (Ralph Bellamy before being a Baldwin was cool). She divorced Cary because he cared more about the newspaper business than her. Cary to his credit is an admitted scoundrel and openly despises losing his love and his best reporter. Whether he misses his love more than his best reporter is never really answered.
Grant when faced with the impending loss of both stalls for time. He knows that Russell, despite claims that she wants to move home and raise babies, is all about being a “newspaper man” and he uses it against her by hiring her for one last story, while he essentially does everything he can to make Ralph Bellamy look like the boob he really is. It’s not really a fair fight though. Early in the movie Grant takes the about to be married couple out to lunch. The worldly Grant and Russell both smoke cigarettes, Bellamy doesn’t. Bellamy says all the right things, but you can tell that Rusell lives to argue with Grant. Their back and forth verbal sparring is as close as they could come to showing them having sex on screen, and by the end of the movie Russell knows who the mack daddy is. Whether Russell truly cherishes Grant more than the newspaper business is never really answered either.
Personally, I’ve always been a big fan of those ’40s chicks like Russell, Katherine Hepburn, and Jean Arthur. They are strong, bright professionals and all the more sexy to me because of it. They’re essentially Sharon Stone on her very best day, and I mean that in terms of as a movie star and not as an actress. Jennifer Jason Leigh did her best imitation in the Hudsucker Proxy and failed nobly, while chances are Kim Basinger would most likely never be able to memorize half of His Girl Friday’s script much less its rapid fire timing.
They redid this movie in the late ’80s with Burt Reynolds, Christopher Reeve, and Kathleen Turner as Switching Channels. Some people even gave it good reviews. I’ve never seen it and frankly, I’ll be watching it the same day that I purposely gouge out my eyeballs with a dinner fork.

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