Billed on Netflix as a romantic comedy where two men fight over a woman, this is actually a scathing satire of the newspaper industry. It is to printed news what Network is to TV.
The romantic element, in which a newspaper editor Walter (Cary Grant) tries to convince his ex-wife Hildy (Rosalind Russell) to get back together with him by bringing her back into the heated newsroom where they met, is secondary to the real story: an escaped convict due to be hanged the following day. But the two are ingeniously interwoven so both their relationship and the unfolding story develop simultaneously. It’s also breathtaking fast-witted, to the point the script must have been twice as long as a typical film of this length.
The way the editor manipulates both the news and his former lover to his own ends is an expertly portrayed critique of the newspaper industry. The very act of manipulation seems to appeal to Hildy – she is in love with the newsroom and the fact Walter applies the same manipulative techniques to their relationship only makes him better in her eyes.
It’s also interesting in the sense that a female character is presented as the best journalist in the business, above the standard of those around her. The dialogue is of a speed and sharpness that you rarely see in films now. Long scenes with no cuts, which must have been endlessly rehearsed, show verbal sparring between characters which moves so quickly you need to focus to keep up. This perfectly creates the atmosphere of a newsroom, and creates an fizzing energy for the film.
A scathing satire and a timeless love story in one, it’s no surprise this is considered among the best films ever made.