When character genders change

Rosalind Russell as Hildy Johnson with Cary Grant as editor Walter Burns in His Girl Friday

Every so often, the idea is raised about having James Bond be played by a woman. It came up again just last week, raised by none other than British Prime Minister Theresa May.

Her comment was prompted, in part, by how Jodie Whittaker is the new Doctor Who.

“I think it’s a great move forward for girl power that there is going to be a female Doctor Who,” May told reporters on board her RAF plane Voyager, according to The Guardian. “And one day there should be a female James Bond.”

Other British newspapers ran similar accounts. And when it’s coming from the PM, it’s naturally going to be reported widely. Just as certain, many James Bond fans complained, in effect saying, “Here we go again….”

The thing is, male characters do get transformed into female ones on occasion.

His Girl Friday (1940) was the second film adaptation of the play The Front Page by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur. In the Howard Hawks-directed movie, newspaper reporter Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russell) became a woman and the ex-wife of editor Walter Burns (Cary Grant).

There was a similar setup in 1988’s Switching Channels, also based on the Hecht-MacArthur play, but transporting the story to television and changing the character names.

Meanwhile, Whittaker has come aboard as Doctor Who. The BBC even posted the end of a Doctor Who Christmas special on YouTube:

 

For now, changing 007’s gender isn’t on the table, with actor Daniel Craig announcing in August he’s coming back for a fifth Bond film. But chances are the idea will get raised again at some point.

James MacArthur, Danno 1.0, passes away at 72

James MacArthur, the last surviving original principal cast member of Hawaii Five-O, died today at age 72. He played the youthful sidekick, Dan Williams, to the Steve McGarrett of Jack Lord, the screen’s original Felix Leiter. MacArthur was 30 when the show began, though his Dan Williams probably is supposed to be in his mid-20s, based on references in early episodes.

The catchphrase of the original show, “Book ’em, Danno,” has been replicated by the new Hawaii Five-0 (whose official spelling is a numeral 0 in place of the capital “O” of the original). In the new version, Dan Williams 2.0 (Scott Caan) doesn’t find the phrase nearly as endearing. But such is the power of the catchphrase there was no way for the producer of the new version to ignore it. MacArthur, son of Helen Hayes and writer Charles MacArthur, got the gig after creator Leonard Freeman decided to recast the role after the pilot was filmed.

MacArthur, in the years after the show ended, was careful about what he said. At a 1996 fan convention in Los Angeles, he made self-depricating remarks but often declined to go into details even as one-time co-star Zulu, the original Kono (now turned into a woman in the new series, courtesy of actress Grace Park) served up behind-the-scene anecdotes to fans that detailed tensions between some cast members.

In early Five-O episodes, Danno sometimes clashed with McGarrett, something that has been a staple of the new series. In this extended 1968 promo, check out the exchange that starts at the 3:54 mark. It’s from an episode called “Samurai,” which was actually the first episode made after the pilot.

(To watch the entire “Samurai” episode, you can CLICK HERE.)

Mostly, though, the banter between the characters was more light hearted, such as in this first-season episode:

Finally, in 1997, when CBS tried reviving the show, a pilot was produced but never broadcast. MacArthur reprised the Dan Williams character, who was now governor of Hawaii: