His Girl Friday ***
I think it’s probably fair to say I’m not the most inquisitive person in the room. Certainly in my classes I don’t ask questions very often, if ever. I am of the firm belief that ’tis better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt. However, when it comes to pop culture and entertainment I have a voracious appetite for, well let’s just call it “knowledge.”
This appetite has led me to watching a lot of old movies, because I simply must know where a particular quote came from or what previous film the film I am watching is referencing. Some examples: I watched Shane when I was about 14 because every few days the theme song to the cartoon Animaniacs would reference it. (We’re Ani-mainy, totally insane-y, Come Back, Shane-y, Animaniacs!) I watched Sunset Boulevard to find out why she was ready for her close up. I somewhat recently watched Midnight Cowboy to find out who that Ratso Rizzo character was. And I think it may have been forced upon me by my high school English class, but eventually I would have watched Apocalypse Now anyway, because honestly, who doesn’t reference that movie?
Watching old movies with a modern sensibility isn’t always easy. The pacing is slow, the editing is jumpy and sometimes the audio is so bad they’re hard to hear. And, though critics everywhere will probably shudder as I say this, I think a great deal of them don’t hold up all that well. Midnight Cowboy lost me somewhere amidst its drug-induced ’60s haze. And I’ve never quite understood the fuss over Casablanca or *gasp* Citizen Kane. But I keep watching because 1) I MUST know the origins of the references, and 2) some of them are real gems. On the Waterfront… Now THAT was a great movie.
Though I am a great fan of the Marx Brothers, in general I think comedies have a hard time holding up, because all the types of jokes in those movies have been so overly referenced in modern culture that they feel tired and predictable. Yet that didn’t stop me from watching His Girl Friday.
I had to watch it. They use two clips from it in a Pomplamoose video for a song called Expiration Date. They don’t just use them, they make music out of them. So you understand, I had to see the original.
The clips the music video uses are in the first ten minutes of the movie, and I could have stopped watching there. But I was compelled to continue watching. I was already interested in what was going on. This movie was made in 1940. That’s kind of amazing in and of itself. There are only about three sets and three characters, but there’s a lot of fast paced verbal comedy and that’s the kind of comedy I like best. Scenes went on for at least twenty minutes, no breaks, barely any cutting. It really was more like a play. But for all its old-fashionedness, the lead character is a woman journalist and that must have been rare in 1940. Not only was she a journalist, but she was the best journalist at the paper. Oh and there was this actor in it, maybe you’ve heard of him, Cary Grant? He was a real Don Draper type, at least in the looks department.
I didn’t love this movie but believe me it was 90 minutes better spent than many, many of the 90 minutes I have spent on other movies. It made me wonder though how long these references will last. As these movies get older and absorbed into the mainstream, will people forget where they came from? Will they stop being referenced all together? Does anyone younger than me know why [insert random comedy actor] loves the smell of [insert random scent] in the morning?
Now can you resist the temptation to watch that movie? Or sing this song? I couldn’t.