As a young reporter, this film was often mentioned to me. It’s often mentioned amid films like 9 to 5 and Working Girl as films that every woman should sing about being a working woman. It’ll supposedly teach us how we can have it all. Whatever.
So now that I’ve officially left journalism, I watched this movie. And it blew my mind, just like every Baby Boomer mentor I’ve ever had said it would.
The gist: The movie begins with Rosalind Russell as Hildy Johnson, a hardboiled newspaper reporter who walks around like a freaking boss. The men love her, the women love her, and she has earned her way. There’s just one hitch: After four years, she’s leaving journalism. She wants a quieter life, with regular hours and work staying at work. She’s landed a fiance who wants to help her get it, too. Life is going to be swell.
Enter her biggest obstacle to a quieter life: Walter Burns, her ex-husband and soon-to-be-ex boss. He wants Hildy back something fierce. Both as his wife and as his star reporter, because apparently they’re synonymous in identity. His plan on how to woo her back is unconventional, to say the least. A man is about to be hanged for a crime he didn’t commit, and Walter’s going to give Hildy the front page article on the event. Maybe, if he’s lucky, she’ll remember what she loved about the job and him.
What I “learned”: Holy sh*t, this movie’s incredible.
First of all, it accurately describes the conflicts that come with having a demanding job without ragging on the job itself. I can’t think of a single movie that does it to the same extent. Hildy is perfectly justified in wanting to leave journalism, and her desire to report on potentially the biggest story of her career is also perfectly justified. She hates the depths she occasionally has to stoop to in order to be a good reporter. But she also loves being an authority in her field, which happens to be an exciting one! Both choices are legitimate. Hildy isn’t passive, nor is she a man-eating b*tch. She’s a thoroughly modern woman, with a thoroughly modern conflict.
Secondly, this is probably the best portrayal of a divorced couple I’ve seen since Thank You For Smoking. Both partners respect each other, even if they wouldn’t trust each other with their wallets. And while Walter obviously still pines for Hildy, he wants to win her over through her brain. That’s respect. That’s great writing. That needs to happen more often.
See this movie if you like: Movies about crime that aren’t really about crime. The hanging of the poor guy on the run frames the story, but this is no 39 Steps. This movie also fits into the sweet spot of being about love without really being about love. We may have actually discovered the perfect date movie, people.
Avoid this movie if: You have no reason not to see this movie. It’s 92 minutes long, and feature crime and romance. Plus some great dialogue! You can’t miss.
New Films Watched: 84
Films Re-Watched: 4
Total Number of Films: 88
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