#50 His Girl Friday

Watched: October 28 2016

Director: Howard Hawks

Starring: Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Ralph Bellamy

Year: 1940

Runtime: 1h 32min

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Pop the champagne, people! We have reached #50! *sounds of corks popping and (two) people cheering* And what a way to celebrate – with our favourite comedy on the list so far, Howard Hawks’ His Girl Friday.

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Featuring two familiar guys and a girl who can give them a run for their money any day!

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Newspaper editor Walter Burns (Grant) learns that his ex-wife Hildy Johnson (Russell) is getting remarried and he’ll have none of it! Not necessarily out of jealousy (although that plays a part in it), but because bad-ass newswoman Hildy is planning on marrying boring insurance salesman Bruce Baldwin (Bellamy) and retiring from being awesome. So he does the only reasonable thing he can think of: he ropes Hildy into doing one last story for him while continuously getting Baldwin arrested for various offences.

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“Seriously, where on earth did you get that hat, and can you get me one too?”

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Despite Hildy’s insistence that she is done with the news business and is looking forward to a quiet existence with Bruce and his mother, she is clearly in her element tackling other newsmen, law officials and a convicted murderer.

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Including her at one point physically tackling a guy, but we can’t find any pictures of that, so here’s one of her just being generally awesome instead.

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The dialogue is incredibly fast and funny with lots of overlapping lines (which probably has a technical film term with which we are unacquainted). Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell have wonderful chemistry and despite new boyfriend Bruce not being a bad guy at all (in fact, he’s rather sweet) we are rooting for them from their first scene together.

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Poor Bruce is so clearly out of his league with these two

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When you take the dialogue, the chemistry of the two stars, the funny and occasionally farcical plot and add one of the best female characters we’ve seen so far, you get movie brilliance. Despite being over 75 years old, His Girl Friday never seems dated and it will continue to stand the test of time.

What we learned: we’ll take a kick-ass career over safety and starting a family any day. Also, characters played by Ralph Bellamy tend to look like Ralph Bellamy.

Next time: Pinocchio (1940)

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#44 Bringing Up Baby

Watched: September 17 2016

Director: Howard Hawks

Starring: Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant

Year: 1938

Runtime: 1h 42min

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Screwball comedies are always fun, and Bringing Up Baby is no exception. This was another rewatch which we enjoyed as much as the first time around (despite our dislike of having wild animals as pets).

Paleontologist David Huxley (Grant) is trying to assemble a Brontosaurus skeleton and also secure a 1 million dollar donation to his museum. Meanwhile, his path keeps crossing that of heiress Susan Vance (Hepburn) who, after several chance encounters, falls madly in love with him and comes up with increasingly complicated excuses to keep him near.

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You can see why she likes him. It takes a man secure in his masculinity to pull off this look.

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Susan, believing David is a zoologist, talks (read: cons and guilts) him into helping her transport her leopard, Baby, to Connecticut, and the scenes with them singing “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” to soothe the (relatively small) cat are among the funniest in the film.

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“Are you sure this is going to work? Because right now she looks at me like I’m lunch…”

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There are mix ups, wardrobe malfunctions, romance, snappy dialogue and everything else you’d want in a farcical screwball comedy. Grant and Hepburn are adorable – their performances and chemistry really make the film, and Hepburn is amazingly good at balancing being annoying with being wonderfully charming. In the end, Susan saves David from a entering into a disastrous marriage, and he finally has all the bones he needs to finish his Brontosaurus. All in all, a happy ending, and we had a blast with this one.

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“Well, fellas, I’m not gonna brag, but despite the connotations of this pose, I will fight the temptation to make a dick joke. You’re welcome.”

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What we learned: when a man is wrestling a leopard in a pond he is in no position to run anywhere. Also, there’s an abundance of leopards in Connecticut in spring.

Next time: The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

#42 The Awful Truth

Watched: September 18 2016

Director: Leo McCarey

Starring: Irene Dunne, Cary Grant, Ralph Bellamy, Cecil Cunningham

Year: 1937

Runtime: 1h 31min

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After jealous misunderstandings and unexplained absences, Lucy and Jerry Warriner (Dunne and Grant, respectively) decide to get a divorce.

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“Meet Lucy and Jerry Warriner. Toast of the upper crust, headliners on the society pages… And oh yes, they’re getting divorced!”

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While waiting for their divorce to be finalized, Lucy moves in with her glorious aunt Patsy (Cunningham) and strikes up a romance with oil-rich idiot Daniel Leeson (Bellamy) who lives next door with his mother. Meanwhile, after a short affair with a showgirl, Jerry strikes up a relationship with socialite Barbara Vance, much to Lucy’s dismay.

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“You know as well as I do she won’t make you nearly as happily unhappy as me.”

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Through their shared custody of their dog, the soon-to-be divorcees are forced to meet each other on a regular basis, and they take every opportunity to try to sabotage each other’s affairs, with hilarious consequences. In addition, Aunt Patsy is always at hand with wonderfully snarky remarks.

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Aunt Patsy embodies snarkiness and delightful dance moves – all the things we aspire to possess!

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This was a new one for us, and a new favourite at that. Irene Dunne and Cary Grant were both great (they remind us strangely of Frank and Sadie Doyle, though without the supernatural complications), but our new role model is easily Cecil Cunningham’s Aunt Patsy. That girl was life! The Awful Truth is funny, charming, and has plenty of gorgeous outfits, and we loved it completely.

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What we learned: actually, what we didn’t learn was what the hell Jerry was really doing when he was supposedly in Florida??? Also, Aunt Patsy taught us the definition and consequences of rebound guys.

Next time: Angels with Dirty Faces (1938)

#40 Top Hat

Watched: September 28 2016

Director: Mark Sandrich

Starring: Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Edward Everett Horton, Helen Broderick, Eric Blore

Year: 1935

Runtime: 1h 41min

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Jerry Travers (Astaire), an American dancer and Broadway star, is bringing his talent to Britain. Producer Horace Hardwick (Horton) and his wife Madge (Broderick) have a plan that their newly imported star should be married (and Madge has an idea as to who his wife should be), but Travers politely disagrees. So of course he falls in love. With the downstairs neighbour Dale Tremont (Rogers) who he annoys by tap dancing on her roof before he drowns her in flowers and sort of kidnaps her. This being an old-timey romantic musical screwball comedy though, he does these things in a very charming and endearing way

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“In dealing with a girl or horse, one just lets nature take its course” – actual quotation

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Their romance is complicated further when Dale (who incidentally is the Jerry’s intended wife) mistakes Jerry for Horace and believes him to be married to her friend Madge. She goes off to Venice with designer Alberto Beddini to meet up with the “betrayed” wife, followed by the admirably dedicated valet Bates (Blore – our favourite).

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“May we take your hat, your coat, and stalk your crush for you, sir?”

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After the very successful opening night performance, Travers and Hardwick charter a plane to Venice themselves, and Tremont decides to play a trick on her “dishonourable” suitor, which backfires horribly and leaves her even more confused. However, this being a comedy, it all works out in the end (thanks to Bates).

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“Thank God Beddini and I never got around to actually…dancing.”

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The plot is farcical and frustrating but it has its moments, some of them laugh-out-loud. Top Hat has an excellent cast of characters – mainly Madge Hardwick and Bates, both of whom we now adore and want to spend our lives with. The real reasons to watch the film though, are the spectacular dance numbers and the amazing costumes. If you like that sort of thing. And let’s face it – who doesn’t.

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Ah – bliss!

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What we learned: For the girls – the kiss. For the men – the sword! Also, SILENCE! Must be observed in the club rooms.

Next time: Modern Times (1936)

#37 Twentieth Century

Watched: September 9 2016

Director: Howard Hawks

Starring: John Barrymore, Carole Lombard

Year: 1934

Runtime: 1h 31min

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Lingerie model Mildred Plotka (Lombard) has been discovered by theatre producer/director Oscar Jaffe (Barrymore) who wants to make her a star, despite the protests of his coproducers and assistants. He renames her Lily Garland, manages to “mine her performance for gold” and their play is a huge success, making her an overnight sensation.

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“I’m so glad you saw the talent in me and in no way hired me for my looks or the allure of me being a lingerie model!”

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Fast forward three plays and while their working relationship is still productive and successful, his manipulative behaviour has all but driven her away. When he hires a private detective to watch her every move, she finally has enough and runs away to Hollywood where she becomes a film star.

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Still a better love story than Twilight, as the old internet adage goes.

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After her departure, Jaffe struggles to produce another success, fails miserably, and is eventually wanted by the law for dodging debtors. While evading the police, he boards the Twentieth Century Limited, a train where Garland is also a passenger. When Jaffe learns of her presence, he starts plotting how to get her back under his thumb.

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It goes about as well as you’d expect

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Despite both main characters being narcissistic, manipulative bastards, they’re strangely charming and they really do deserve each other. Barrymore’s Jaffe is hilarious and fun in his flamboyancy and in the way he always thinks in terms of staging, and Lombard’s Garland is wonderfully divaesque. With great gags (“Baptist!”) and entertaining supporting characters in the increasingly drunk cohorts, this is a great watch with a bottle of wine and in a fabulous dress on a Saturday night. Or in any other setting, really. We’re not the bosses of you.

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May they live unhappily ever after!

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What we learned: the old south does not yodel. Also, we never thought we’d sink so low as to be actors.

Next time: A Night at the Opera (1935)