Showing posts with label Ralph Bellamy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ralph Bellamy. Show all posts

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Classic screwball comedy “His Girl Friday” coming to “The Venue 1550” November 8

The comedy classic His Girl Friday (1940 ) will be screened at “The Venue 1550” at the Daystar Center, 1550 S. State St., November 8, 2012 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $7 per person and can be purchased at the door or online. This event will be hosted by Stephen Reginald, Classic Movie Man.

His Girl Friday, directed by Howard Hawks and starring Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell is an adaptation of the Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur classic Broadway smash, The Front Page. Grant plays Walter Burns, a Chicago newspaper managing editor and Russell is Hildy Johnson an ex-reporter for the same paper and Burns’s ex-wife. On the eve of her marriage to a new man, Burns tries to convince Hildy to come back to the paper and him. Considered one of the greatest classic screwball comedies of all time, His Girl Friday is filled with non-stop one liners and the fastest dialogue ever recorded on film.

Carole Lombard was first choice
to play Hildy Johnson
Howard Hawks originally planned to do a straight remake of The Front Page. During a read-through of the script during auditions, Hawks had his secretary read Hildy Johnson’s lines. Hawks, always a champion of strong women, liked the sound of Johnson’s lines coming out of the mouth of a female. The script was changed to make Hildy the ex-wife of Walter Burns and many think His Girl Friday is better than the film on which it is based.

Casting Call
Hawks had Cary Grant in mind for Walter Burns from the start, but the casting of Hildy Johnson proved problematic. Hawks originally wanted Carole Lombard, who he directed in Twentieth Century (1934). Lombard, one of the biggest stars in Hollywood, was too expensive. Supposedly the role of Hildy was offered to Katherine Hepburn, Claudette Colbert, Margaret Sullivan, Ginger Rogers, and Irene Dunne. All turned the role down. Joan Crawford, coming off her success in The Women, (1939) was even considered. Hawks finally settled on Rosalind Russell. Hawks encouraged ad-libbing on the set, so Russell hired a writer to punch up her dialogue because she thought Grant had all the good lines.

Ralph Bellamy, Cary Grant, and Rosalind Russell
His Girl Friday was #19 on American Film Institute’s 100 Years…100 Laughs and has been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.

Join the Film Club
Come watch this classic in the comfort of “The Venue 1550.” Overflow Coffee Bar will be open so you can grab a drink or snack to be enjoyed during the movie.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Not So Awful Truth About “The Awful Truth”

In 1937, Irene Dunne was at the height of her career. The year before, Dunne received a Best Actress Academy Award nomination for Theodora Goes Wild, a comedy role she was reluctant to take. Not only was that picture a critical success for Dunne, but a huge box office hit for Columbia Pictures. So it wasn’t a surprise that the next picture she would make for the studio would be another comedy.

From Stage To Screen
The Awful Truth was based on a play by Arthur Richman and brought to the screen with the aid of screenwriter Vina Delmar and Theodora Goes Wild screenwriter, Sidney Buchman, who went uncredited. Teamed with Dunne for the first time was Cary Grant. Grant was quickly becoming a top leading man in Hollywood, but his pairing with Dunne was inspired and their on-screen chemistry delighted movie-going audiences. B.R. Crisler writing in his New York Times review said, “Miss Dunne and Mr. Grant, as the couple...have fun with their roles, and the pleasure seems to be shared, on the whole, by the [Radio City] Music Hall audience.”

What Is The Awful Truth?
The plot revolves around the marital woes of Lucy (Dunne) and Jerry (Grant) Warriner. Each becomes suspicious of the others’ marital fidelity, which eventually leads them to divorce court. After the divorce, Lucy and Jerry are consumed with foiling each others’ new romantic interests. Is the awful truth the fact that Lucy and Jerry are still in love?

Get Me Out Of This Picture
Irene Dunne and Cary Grant
Like Dunne in the previous year’s Theodora Goes Wild, Grant wasn’t too happy working on this film. Director Leo McCarey’s working style didn’t sit well with Grant and he tried to get out of the movie, even going so far as requesting he swap roles with supporting player Ralph Bellamy! McCarey liked to get spontaneous performances out of his cast, which meant a lot of on-set improvising, which Grant found unsettling. Eventually things worked out for all concerned. Ironically, this is the movie that catapulted Grant to superstar status and is responsible for the Grant movie persona beloved by generations of moviegoers.

Comedy Triumph
For Dunne, The Awful Truth was a delightful experience. She loved working with both McCarey (who became a personal friend) and Grant. Professionally, it was another triumph. Once again, the critics raved about her and the film. And once again she was nominated for Best Actress by the Motion Picture Academy. If there was any doubt about Dunne’s comedy chops, they were all dispelled when the film was first released on October 21, 1937. Dunne and Grant would go on to star in two other popular films: the comedy My Favorite Wife (1940) and the melodrama Penny Serenade (1941).

Award Winner
The Awful Truth was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor. McCarey won the only Oscar for his direction and insured his place in motion picture history.

Lasting Legacy
In 2000, the American Film Institute listed The Awful Truth at #68 on its list of 100 Years…100 Laughs. In 2002, the AFI listed it at #77 on the 100 Years…100 Passions list.

This post corresponds with the class Elegant and Madcap: The Incredible Versatility of Irene Dunne—Class starts November 16, 2011. Meets on Wednesdays from 7p.m. - 10 p.m. for six weeks. Classes are held at Facets Film School on Fullerton Ave. in Chicago, IL.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Howard Hawks and "His Girl Friday"

Howard Hawks is one of the greatest American movie directors of all time. Adept at all film genres, Hawks excelled at fast-paced screwball comedies like Twentieth Century, Bringing up Baby, and His Girl Friday.

His Girl Friday was a reworking of the Ben Hecht Charles MacArthur classic The Front Page. By making Hildy Johnson a woman and the ex-wife of editor Walter Burns, Hawks thought the dialogue was funnier and added a dimension that The Front Page lacked. This was a pretty risky decision at the time, since The Front Page was considered a classic not to be messed with.

Hawks's risk paid off and the casting of Cary Grant as Walter Burns and Rosalind Russell as Hildy Johnson was inspired. In Grant's capable hands, Walter Burns is a more complex character than he was in the original. In The Front Page, Burns is a total cad. He wants to lure Hildy back to the newspaper business for completely selfish motives. In His Girl Friday, Walter wants Hildy back at the paper because she's a great reporter, but also because he's still in love with her. Russell's Hildy is the perfect Hawksian heroine: self-assured, smart, and independent. It's hard to believe that Russell was the eighth choice to play Hildy Johnson. Jean Arthur, Katherine Hepburn, Claudette Colbert, Irene Dunne, Margaret Sullivan, and Ginger Rogers all turned the role down. Hawks wanted Carole Lombard, who he directed to stardom in Twentieth Century, but she was too expensive, working as an independent actress. Joan Crawford was even considered for the role.

Russell was so put off by being eighth on the list (ninth if you count Crawford) that the first time she met Hawks, she showed up with wet hair. She soon discovered that Hawks wanted her to succeed in the role and after a few rough patches early in the shooting, she quickly gained confidence, going toe-to-toe with the more experienced Grant (His Girl Friday was his third film with Hawks).

As the story goes, Hildy quits the paper to marry dependable, but dull, insurance salesman Bruce Baldwin (Ralph Bellamy). Tired of being a "newspaperman," Hildy says she wants a normal life of domesticity, but Walter suspects she's fooling herself, so he plots to lure her back to the paper and into his arms.

Hawks was never one for depicting domestic married life on the screen, preferring to portray the chase and the buildup to marriage, and no one  showcased the chase better than Hawks. Since Hawks admired smart, funny women, his heroines are never given short shrift on film. From camera angles to screen time, Grant and Russell are treated equally. One of the reasons Hawks's films still seem so fresh and contemporary is due to his strong female characterizations.

Howard Hawks directed some of the greatest films of all time and His Girl Friday is one of his best.

His Girl Friday opened at Radio City Music Hall on January 11, 1940.
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