Fast and furiously funny, His Girl Friday blends two formulas popular in Hollywood movies of the late 1930s: biting political satire and romantic screwball comedy. In the film, Walter Burns, the managing editor of a city newspaper, ruthlessly scoops the competition by hiding a death row fugitive with his top reporter and writer, Hildy Johnson—who also happens to be his ex–wife. Although Walter and Hildy clash professionally and romantically, it is a given that he and the paper cannot get along without her. Adding to the fun are Johnson's fiancé, whose courting is sweetly inept, and a messenger from the state governor, whose rejection of a bribe from the city's mayor is the film's wickedest moment of truth. In His Girl Friday nothing is allowed to interfere with the dizzying pace set by the actors, who compete to interrupt each other. The talk crackles with wit; the overlapping dialogue of seasoned journalists and mayoral henchmen is smart, real, and mean. It is Hawksian comedy at its best—a battle of the sexes with the roles reversed to allow for plenty of humiliation and triumph on both sides.
Publication excerpt from In Still Moving: The Film and Media Collections of the Museum of Modern Art by Steven Higgins, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2006, p. 181.