Ever notice that every blockbuster movie has the same fundamental pieces? A hero, a journey, some conflicts to muck it all up, a reward, and the hero returning home and everybody applauding his or her swag? Yeah, scholar Joseph Campbell noticed first—in 1949. He wrote The Hero with a Thousand Faces, in which he outlined the 17 stages of a mythological hero's journey.
About half a century later, Christopher Vogler condensed those stages down to 12 in an attempt to show Hollywood how every story ever written should—and, uh, does—follow Campbell's pattern. We're working with those 12 stages, so take a look. (P.S. Want more? We have an entire Online Course devoted to the hero's journey.)
At the beginning of the film, Hildy is going to marry and have a decent, normal, boring life with Bruce, in Albany. (Or so she thinks.)
Call to Adventure
Walter asks Hildy to save Earl Williams. He appeals to her noble instincts. Plus, there's some smoldering chemistry between them—Hildy did miss Walter's dimple.
Refusal of the Call
Hildy wants to be a happy homemaker, so she tells Walter to shove it. (She still thinks he's cute, though.) So Walter offers her money. That works—every aspiring domestic goddess needs some walking around money.
Meeting the Mentor
The newspaper guys are our mentors, since they fill Hildy in on the case. But they certainly look more "sleazy fedora-wearing slicksters" than "Gandalf" or "Dumbledore."
Crossing the Threshold
Hildy gets involved with Earl's escape and she gets hooked on breaking the story. She's in it to win it at this point, and she remembers just how much she loves journalism. It's a rush.
Tests, Allies, Enemies/Approach to the Inmost Cave/Ordeal/
His Girl Friday ain't a heroic journey; it's a fast-paced comedic romp. So the typical Hero's Journey breaks down a bit.
After all, the plotline of His Girl Friday pings back and forth and around manically; Hildy keeps trying to get to Albany and getting stuck—or does she keep trying to write her story, while being distracted?
Either way, the hero's journey turns into a series of distractions and vacillations and witty quips… which is what this movie's known for, after all.
Reward (Seizing The Sword)/The Road Back/Resurrection/Return With the Elixir
Walter and Hildy save Earl Williams and decide to get remarried. Bruce gets shipped back to Albany. It doesn't exactly fit a heroic end neatly… unless you wanted to say that Walter conquers and captures Hildy.
But that seems awfully barbaric for someone who wears such nice suits, don't you think?