Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Saturday 5 September 2009

Nineteen to the dozen

Thanks to my PVR, I've got a backlog of the kind of old films they show on daytime TV. Recently, I caught up with His Girl Friday (which I don't recall ever having seen all the way through). It makes for an interesting comparison with today's Hollywood offerings: it's static and wordy, revealing its stage-play origins, but by today's standards almost unbelievably articulate.

A plot about an ace reporter trying in vain to settle down into dull domesticity, and enticed by her ex (as a cunning ploy to win her back) into rescuing a man from a politically-driven execution, becomes ever more voluble as the farce gets ever more convoluted. I'm guessing that too many producers nowadays judge that they have to appeal to the lowest common denominator to recoup their costs: the clearest modern comparator to this sort of production would be a TV sitcom, like Spin City.

There are a few moments of purely physical comedy - Rosalind Russell hitches up her skirts to chase a vital witness and (I assume) her stunt double rugby-tackles him to the ground. But as the complications of the farce get ever more frequent and various, there's as much enjoyment in the increasingly breakneck speed of the dialogue as in its content: and you know what? I could make out every word.

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