June 1, 2015

How to be a reporter

His Girl Friday (Howard Hawks, 1940). There was a social media uproar when I recently posted a list of the 10 “best” journalism films that did not include His Girl Friday. In my defence: the list was drawn up with journalism students in mind, so I thought it should lean towards the dramatisation of important historical moments and big stories as potential learning experiences (the major exception was the berserk but prescient satire of Network) rather than fun comedies and dramas that happen to be about the world of newspaper reporting. But while I still would not have it in my top 10, I can see why His Girl Friday has so many fans. This smart rewrite of Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur’s The Front Page as a romantic comedy has the fastest dialogue in the west, its implausible-but-who-cares? comic action is spread across several hours as two real-world deadlines approach – a remarriage and an execution – and in Cary Grant’s editor Walter Burns and Rosalind Russell’s reporter Hildy Johnson, there is a timeless vision of how journalists still like to see themselves and their profession: flawed, disreputable, fascinating, never bored or boring, untrustworthy but ultimately on the side of good. Probably useful for students, all that.