Sight and Sound - 03/01/1975
Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau again team with Wilder in the third film version of the Hecht-MacArthur classic comedy. The familiar story finds hard-nosed editor Walter Burns (Matthau) trying every trick in the book to keep his ace reporter Hildy Johnson from leaving the newspaper business to get married. When Earl Williams (Austin Pendleton) an anarchist facing execution, breaks out of prison, Walter has found the perfect hook to keep Johnson in Chicago for a little longer. The escaped convict suddenly pops up in the press room and Hildy hides him in a rolltop desk until he's able to get a location for an exclusive interview. Despite the pleas of Molly Malloy (Carol Burnett), a prostitute in love with Williams, the newsmen refuse to let him go. As Hildy begins looking into the activities of the Sheriff (Vince Gardenia) and the Mayor (Harold Gould), it seems like they've decided to execute the wrong man. Matthau, Lemmon and Martin Gabel as a lunatic psychiatrist give wonderful performances.
In perhaps the most honest of the remakes, director Billy Wilder satisfies the 1970s craze for nostalgia in this third filming of the Hecht-MacArthur play about wild and woolly Chicago newspapermen in the 1920s. Sparks fly as Walter Matthau plays a ruthless managing editor who learns that his ace reporter (Jack Lemmon) plans to leave the paper to get married. It's the day before an innocent man is about to be executed, and the editor hopes his top man won't be able to resist the story.
The third screen version of the Ben Hecht/Charles MacArthur play, it was first filmed in 1931, directed by Lewis Milestone and produced by Howard Hughes, starring Pat O'Brien, Adolphe Menjou, and Mae Clarke. It was then remade in 1940, entitled HIS GIRL FRIDAY, directed by Howard Hawks, who changed Hildy's gender and sped up the pace of the dialogue (written by Charles Lederer and starring Rosalind Russell, Cary Grant, and Ralph Bellamy). It was not remade again until 1987, as SWITCHING CHANNELS, directed by Ted Kotcheff, once more updated and reset in a network newsroom, starring Burt Reynolds and Kathleen Turner.