Cary Grant did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Walter Burns in His Girl Friday.
The major change in this version of the story is that the top writer Hildy has been made into a woman played Rosalind Russell, and that she had been formerly married to the editor played by Grant. Naturally she's attempting to get away from town with her fiancee Bruce played by Ralph Bellamy, because who else would that role be played by? I've covered Grant before in the scheming husband with The Awful Truth where he tried to win back Irene Dunne by tripping up Ralph Bellamy in more ways than one. In that film though Grant portrayed these attempts with a certain meekness about them, and that everything he did was a bit haphazard. Grant with Walter Burns takes a different approach as he makes Walter Burns a much more dominating force in the film as the editor from his earliest scene, as he first hears about Hildy's attempt to leave him and the paper behind permanently, something he obviously intends to put a stop to anyway he can.
Cary Grant is terrific in allowing for a bit of his change from the luckless romantic with an attempt at a scheme brewing. Grant here portrays Walter as a man who absolutely knows his plan from the start, and is technically playing the game every second he's on screen. Grant realizes this within his performance with the sort of ease he always has in a romantic comedy sort of role, but here he does adjust it quite nicely to fit the part of Walter. Grant makes Walter far more active in his methods and Grant does have this certain command about him in any scene, as there is always an underlying confidence as though Walter is already quite sure everything is going to go his way before he even starts his plan. Grant's reactions are great here particularly when Hildy first starts to tell Walter about Bruce. Grant is so hilariously cruel actually in his exceedingly sarcastic manner as he hears every detail about her supposed new life that she's quite happy to start. What's so remarkable is that Grant never loses his innate charm even when he technically is doing some rather reprehensible things to service his plan.
The idea of adding the editor and the writer being romantically involved
on paper actually is often the cliche of what someone does in order to
ruin an original idea. It's what makes His Girl Friday stand out as a
remake, besting the Front Page as a film, and finding new ground in the
story through this variation. The variation though is made all the
better by having Grant and Rosalind Russell as the divorced team.
Russell and Grant are wonderful together. Firstly by just how well both
have a grasp on the material, in fact I'd actually say Russell perhaps
even bests Grant in this regard. Within that though the two have
spectacular chemistry together, but what's so special about it is that
they really don't exactly have any romantic scenes in this romantic
comedy. The closest it comes is a couple of seconds near the end of the
film. The two though to create the idea that the two should be together
through their non-romantic interactions throughout the film, as Grant
and Russell just make it as though Hildy and Walter seem on the
wavelength, particularly in the memorable conclusion of the film.
Grant manages to effortlessly work within the somewhat swift pace of the film and particularly its dialogue which often juggles many things at once. Grant never loses step once as he so well realizes Walter's controlling ways of the whole situation. Whether that is putting on all the supposed charm and a sort of repentant attitude when trying win Hildy again in the early scenes of the film before they sort of join forces but then at a moments notice when dealing with one of his men whose help facilitating everything for him Grant switches perfectly to the fairly cutthroat editor whose eyes show he knows exactly what he's doing. Some of my favorite moments though may be the ones that he shares with Bellamy, as Grant makes Walter on even more of an act than usual as what he says and the way he moves feels so genuine even while he simply comes up with one way after another to imprison the poor guy in order to keep him away from Hildy. Grant is incredibly entertaining here as he makes the most of the dialogue absolutely nailing every one liner he has well making the the dialogue flow beautifully. This is splendid work from Grant and one of his best performances within the genre he was so well known for.