His Girl Friday is No What Happens in Vegas


When the philosopher Stanley Cavell coined the term “comedy of remarriage” to name those classic screwball films in which a bickering couple must divorce before they can discover that they’re actually made for each other, he didn’t have in mind Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher. What Happens in Vegas (newly on DVD!) isn’t just one of the worst films of 2008, it’s an insult to its venerable tradition. Praise be then to His Girl Friday (1940), which screens tomorrow at BAMCinematek, as part of its awesome Howard Hawks series. Cary Grant is his usual unflappable self as a newspaper editor whose ex-wife and former ace reporter (Rosalind Russell) is in town with her new fiance, Ralph Bellamy (whom you kids probably know as Randolph Duke in Trading Places). From their very first scene together, when Russell asks Grant for a smoke and he casually tosses a cigarette at her (they then repeat the pattern with the matches) we can see what they see in each other—and in contrast to the idiotic characters played by Diaz and Kutcher, they’re not just beer goggling. —Benjamin Strong

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