Just finished talking HIS GIRL FRIDAY (1940) with a fine group of folks. At this point, I don't even consider it a comedy anymore - but, and this might be shaving it too fine - a scabrous social satire about the psychopathology of media and the sociopathology of government.
It's funny in the way IDIOCRACY is funny and would work exceedingly well sandwiched between ACE IN THE HOLE (1951) and MEDIUM COOL (1969). It is exceedingly, devastatingly clear-eyed about corruption and the symbiotic relationship between Press and Politics. Goebbels got this.
We do the film a grave disservice when we dismiss its ugliness as a hallmark of a less-enlightened time. People in 1940 knew this stuff was wrong. Consider how Walter Burns has no character arc - how the only good person in the film is seen as slow-witted, dim - and critically,
consider the unexamined fate of Mollie Malloy who, because one man showed her kindness in the midst of a world full of financial desperation, Russian interference and race wars, tries to save him by killing herself as a distraction. It proves only a momentary one. Chilling.
HIS GIRL FRIDAY, for all its prescience, predicts nothing. Rather, it lays bare the essential ugliness in our natures: our need for quick gratification, glorious distraction concurrent with diminished attention span. Animals in clothes pretending to be about important business.
If forced to, I would push it from the Screwball genre into the noir. Poor Bruce the sop to femme Hildy - the prototypical "tough-talking dame". The world is broken down and crumbling - already in ruins. The only currency of value is slickly-delivered cynicism. Stunning.
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