January 1940: His Girl Friday

His Girl Friday. Howard Hawks. 1940.

And we’re off!

I’ve seen this movie plenty of times before, and that’s not what I want to do in this blog series, really, but I had bought a new copy of this (as part of a screwball box set), so what the hey.

And, as you all know, it’s a wonderful film. The snappy repartee between Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell really er snaps, and it’s got an interesting milieu (a newspaper office) and built-in tension (they have to save an innocent (well, he’d only killed a “colored” policeman, which is the next best thing) man from being executed).

It’s a romantic screwball comedy, but perhaps some of Grant’s strategies towards getting Russell back veer into creepy coercion at oints, but what the hey. It’s a clockwork plot. Everything slots together neatly.

“He sounds like a man I ought to marry,” Grant says at one point, and I’m sure the entire set chortled. And describes what Bruce Baldwin looks like as “that guy from the movies… Ralph Bellamy”. Which is the actor playing him.

It’s all so meta!

It’s a strangely shot film, with most of it happening in a couple of rooms with people running in and out of them. It’s not very visual.

Which is a staple of screwball comedy, but was this based on a play, by any chance? Hm… It was!

It’s a thrill.

Popular movies in January 1940 according to IMDB:

Poster Votes Rating Movie
sc-tt0033045.jpg 20952 8.1 The Shop Around the Corner
sc-tt0032551.jpg 66551 8.1 The Grapes of Wrath
sc-tt0032599.jpg 42649 8.0 His Girl Friday
sc-tt0032981.jpg 3165 7.7 Remember the Night
sc-tt0032125.jpg 239 7.4 Where’s That Fire?
sc-tt0032181.jpg 1365 7.4 Abe Lincoln in Illinois
sc-tt0032339.jpg 2632 7.4 A Chump at Oxford
sc-tt0031976.jpg 683 7.2 The Stars Look Down
sc-tt0031394.jpg 360 7.1 The Green Hornet
sc-tt0032467.jpg 1415 6.8 The Fighting 69th

This blog post is part of the Decade series.

Decade

When watching movies, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut and always return to your favourite genre. (Which, for me, is science fiction. I’ll basically watch anything that’s science fiction, no matter how bad it is, and it gets really, really bad.)

I’ve tried to mix it up by giving myself various stupid challenges, like watching a film from each country on the planet, or watching all the films of a director or an actor in a ridiculously in-depth way.

So I was wondering what to do next, and the idea occurred to me a few years back to do a deep dive into some specific era. And a decade is a nice slice of time. But which one?

I first thought about the 70s, because there’s a lot of interesting stuff from that decade I just haven’t seen, but there’s also so much… 70s… stuff… that it seemed a bit off-putting.

Then the 30s. I was all gung ho for watching smart alecks talking rapidly in the general direction of the other person, you see!, but while doing a 1968-1922 thing, I was a bit unimpressed by the very early 30s films. Things really took off, like, in 1933 or something. (NB! Probably wrong opinion.)

And I’ve seen so many 50s and 60s films, which leaves us…

The 40s.

Even though that means watching a whole bunch of war films. And besides:

Douglas Sirk, in an interview included on the Criterion edition of There’s Always Tomorrow, is quoted as having said that the 40s were a golden age for American films.

(It also, fascinatingly enough, has a note on the correct aspect ratio using the remarkable sentence: “The above images are a distortion and corruption of the original artwork, which travesty the integrity of both the human form and cinematographic space.” Not only is travesty a verb, but it’s a transitive verb! Wonderful! I learn so much.)

ANYWAY!

My methodology for choosing films this time is based on the old IMDB data dumps, which included release date data.  (IMDB has removed this information from their current exports.  Boo!)

I sorted the films per month, and then sorted the films on rating and number of votes per month.  Then I chose the highest-rated film per month (that I hadn’t seen before), unless a lower-rated film sounded more interesting.  (And this is also subject to availability; quite a few popular 40s films just aren’t available at this point in time.)

But nothing obscure; these are mostly all 120 commercial successes and not art house films.

Onwards!