Slow Down, You Move Too Fast…
Over the weekend, I found myself enjoying one of life’s singular pleasures.
One of my oldest friends from high school came to visit me in Boston, and I realized that she had never seen His Girl Friday. A problem I quickly rectified.
Howard Hawks’ 1940 screwball comedy has long been one of my biggest influences, and as years went on it has evolved from a favorite film into something of an obsession. It technically occupies the #5 slot on my list of favorite films, but it might be the movie I talk about the most. And watching somebody watch it for the first time is always a treat.
In terms of story, it isn’t that different from comparable films like Bringing Up Baby and Top Hat. It follows a newspaper man trying to stop his ace reporter, who also happens to be his ex-wife, from quitting and remarrying. Needless to say, romance quickly ensues. But what makes the movie so great is how insanely fast it moves. I don’t think I’ve seen a film where the characters talk half as fast as they do in His Girl Friday. It makes The West Wing look like Chekhov by comparison.
Those who know me will understand why that would appeal to me. Throughout my life I’ve been told that I talk insanely fast (an accusation I continue to deny, but the consensus is so large that I’ve been forced to accept it). As I get older, I’ve realized that I’m something of a speed addict in every aspect of my life. I walk fast, talk fast, write fast. When I’m in charge of a meeting or rehearsal, it never lasts more than half an hour. It’s kind of my thing.
For years I’ve tried to slow myself down (particularly with regards to talking), and there is definitely still room for improvement. But watching movies like His Girl Friday have helped me turn a weakness into a strength. The movie succeeds because, not in spite, of its rapid speed. They fit so much dialogue into the script that after 90 minutes, it feels like you’ve watched three movies. Watching my friend’s eyes dart across the screen as the plot sprinted forward at breakneck speed, I could tell that she was enthralled. There is no doubt in my mind that the creative team on the film probably spoke as fast as I do (a rare feat, trust me), but that’s what made the film stand the test of time. They did something different from other movies of the era, but by leaning into that difference, rather than away from it, they made an iconic classic.
We all have things that set us apart from the rest of the world, and we often make the mistake of viewing them as flaws. But simply reframing a flaw as a virtue can reveal a new side of you. It can make your work bolder, braver, and more reflective of who you truly are. Which is to say, it can make your work better. Not a bad lesson to learn from an 80-year-old movie.