By John DeFore
In most cases, movies based on theatrical productions are supposed to be a little ashamed of their origins. Like an aging bachelor applying Grecian formula to graying hair, filmmakers invent ways to move the action into new locations - moving chunks of dialogue from drawing-rooms to busy sidewalks, cutting away to show us action the play kept off-stage, and inserting exterior establishing shots at every opportunity. For heaven's sake, producers think, don't let the audience know this is only a play.
Then there are wonders like His Girl Friday, which use a handful of single-room sets, do every bit of their storytelling through dialogue, and dare you to complain. Based on the classic play The Front Page, the film relies entirely on the wit of its script and the charm of its stars. Six decades after its production, this archetypal screwball comedy delivers more laughs on the 10th viewing than any contemporary romantic comedy you can name does on its first. That's partly because so many zingers are buried in the hustle and bustle. "My cat just had kittens again," a woman announces to Rosalind Russell. Without batting an eye or breaking stride, Russell replies: "It's her own fault." Nobody seems to care if you hear that line, because there's another laugh right around the corner.
By John DeFore
His Girl Friday shows as part of Texas Public Radio's "Cinema Tuesdays" series at 7:30pm, June 1 at the Bijou at Crossroads Theatre. Ticket price is $10 members/$12 non-members. Info and reservations: 614-8977 or tpr.org.