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February 10th, 2019

This was my first film of 2019, seen with [personal profile] lady_lugosi1313 at the Hyde Park Picturehouse, though it's taken me over a month to write about it. It's basically about a female news reporter called Hildy Johnson who is about to get married, leave the fast-paced, hard-nosed, high-stakes world of journalism behind her and settle down to a life of ordinary domesticity with an insurance salesman. Except that her fatal mistake is to pop into the offices of The Morning Post to say goodbye to her previous husband, the paper's editor, before she goes. He, a smooth operator who was never knowingly out-competed, knows full well she can't really resist the thrills of her former job, so puts one last scoop her way and, despite her protests, keeps on drawing her deeper and deeper into the story - which itself obliges by developing in very dramatic ways. Much farce and many remonstrations follow, until she has long missed the last train out of town, realised she can't leave it all behind after all and agreed to remarry her first husband.

Obviously that's a plot which wouldn't work in a world where everyone assumed and agreed that women could have both satisfying careers and domestic bliss without having to choose between them. But it's not like we've got to that point yet even in the 2010s, and it must have been pretty radical for 1940 to show a woman choosing career (albeit personified in the form of a man) over domesticity. And although her Morning Post editor former husband certainly tramples on her agency initially, undermining her plans for marriage by manipulating her into taking one last story, that's a strategy which would only have worked if she had genuinely been passionate about her career. We see that passion - not to mention professionalism and talent - very clearly throughout the film, and are left in no doubt from her confident manner to snappy striped suit and hat that Hildy is a woman to be reckoned with.

I noticed while we were watching it that I struggled to follow some of the dialogue because people were talking over each other very rapidly, and browsing through the Wikipedia page afterwards I learnt that this was apparently quite deliberate. Many of the lines were written to allow for interruption without missing plot details, while recordings were also speeded up to create the feeling of realistic, rapid-fire conversation. To be honest, even with the dialogue designed to allow for overlaps I'm still not sure I followed every detail of the murder story Hildy is trying to cover, or the various shenanigans which her former husband stages. But it doesn't really matter - the main story of her character trajectory is perfectly clear and very enjoyable.


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