23. “His Girl Friday”, Howard Hawks (1940)

Part of The 100 Greatest Movies I’ve Ever Seen list.

His Girl Friday.jpg

His Girl Friday

dir. Howard Hawks scr. Charles Lederer based on the play The Front Page by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur cin. Joseph Walker with Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Ralph Bellamy, and Gene Lockhart

In 100 words: Has there ever been a romantic comedy this tightly constructed and this agile with the comedy and the romance and this serious about its craft and its characters’ development? The peak of its genre, Friday succeeds mostly on the strength of its precise narrative structure, the impeccable design and direction, and the heavy amount of jokes that its characters throw at the speed of light. The physicality of its actors is particularly noteworthy: Grant and Russell both stand alongside the Keatons and Chaplins for their commitment to the sight gags. It even takes journalism seriously! But-gusting hilarity and adorable romance.

Other Movies (well TV) for Context: No rom-com has ever touched this one and it’s hard to do so. It feels like a live-action cartoon, therefore I can only think of two TV shows that instantly remind me of this movie: 30 Rock has the same speed of joke delivery that this one has, but with a kookier sense of humor. Gilmore Girls basically had its cast watch this in order to build their stamina for the fast talk and pop culture they have to throw out there.


63. “The Lady Eve”, Preston Sturges (1941)

Part of The 100 Greatest Movies I’ve Ever Seen list.

The Lady Eve

The Lady Eve

dir. Preston Sturges scr. Preston Sturges cin. Victor Milner with Barbara Stanwyck, Henry Fonda, Charles Coburn, Eugene Pallette, and William Demarest

In 100 words: Among all the movies I have seen, nothing is as sexy as watching Barbara Stanwyck caressing Henry Fonda’s hair with her face smooshed against his. Sturges’ screwball comedy is an exemplar of the genre—a sparkling script full of brilliant and hilarious one-liners, a convoluted plot that never loses the threads of the story, impeccable edits, smart framing, and two movie stars giving the best performances of their careers. The movie is refreshingly frisky, sensual, smart, and ironic—the dapper Fonda constantly falling down is one example—that makes each scene magical. Romance has never felt this sweet, this hot.

Other Movies for Context: Oh my gosh, it’s just too good to be true. The Lady Eve is the only film I’ve seen from Preston Sturges, and I aim to correct that soon. If this is Barbra Stanwyck’s best performance, her work in Double Indemnity in 1945 laid out the framework for the dangerous icy blondes of noir, and is as dangerously sexy as her character here.