His Girl Friday (1940)

2010 #2
Howard Hawks | 88 mins | TV | U

His Girl Friday is an acknowledged classic — 19th on the AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Laughs, 58th on Empire’s 500 Greatest, 106th on They Shoot Pictures’ 1,000 Greatest, 245th on IMDb’s Top 250, preserved by the US’s National Film Registry, and countless other such accolades — so you probably don’t need me to tell you why it’s so good. But it really, really is.

The dialogue flies at phenomenal speed, dragging an ever-changing plot along with it, the funny lines at times literally on top of each other as they tumble to get out. No modern comedy would dare move so fast. It’s clever and witty, the characters apparently in on the joke too, and despite some black plot points it’s always hilarious and, somehow, never disrespectful.

If you ever meet anyone who claims all old black & white films are slow, simple and boring, show them this. And if you ever meet anyone who hasn’t seen this, show them it; and if you haven’t seen it, watch it; because it’s brilliant, and, despite being on so many lists, one wonders if some rate it too lowly.

5 out of 5

His Girl Friday placed 7th on my list of The Ten Best Films I Saw For the First Time in 2010, which can be read in full here.

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