The Front Page (1931)
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This first of four film versions of the Ben Hecht/Charlrd MacArthur Broadway hit stars Adolphe Menjou as explosive Chicago newspaper-editor Walter Burns and Pat O'Brien as his star reporter Hildy Johnson. Hildy is on the verge of getting married and retiring from Burns' dirty little tabloid, but he agrees to cover one last story: the politically motivated execution of convicted cop killer Earl Williams (George E. Stone). Thanks to the stupidity of the police, Williams manages to escape, and Johnson hides the wounded fugitive in a rolltop desk in the prison pressroom. Burns enters the scene, senses a swell story (and also a means of keeping Johnson on his payroll), and conspires with Johnson to keep Williams out of sight until they can secure an exclusive interview. Burns will do anything to keep Johnson on the scene, including having the reporter's future mother-in-law kidnapped. Complicating matters are Johnson's fiancée Peggy (Mary Brian), Williams' girlfriend Molly Malloy (Mae Clarke), and the corrupt mayor (James Gordon) and sheriff (Clarence C. Wilson), who have railroaded Williams to the death house in order to win votes and are now trying to suppress the news that the governor has commuted Williams' sentence. The Front Page was remade by Howard Hawks in 1939 as His Girl Friday, with the symbiotic relationship between Burns and Johnson changed to a sexual one by transforming Hildy Johnson into a woman (played by Rosalind Russell) with Cary Grant as her old flame Walter. It was again remade by Billy Wilder in 1974 with Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Carol Burnett, and a young Susan Sarandon. … More
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as Walter Burns
as Hildy Johnson
as Earl Williams
as Sheriff Hartman
as Sheriff Hartman
as Diamond Louie
as Mrs. Grant
as The Mayor
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Critic Reviews for The Front Page
By far the highest honors in this go to Mr. Menjou, who gives as polished a performance of a gruff and unscrupulous editor as he used to give of a man about town.
Milestone's seminal newspaper drama launched a whole cycle of films and set the patterns for sagas about behind-the-scenes operations of tabloids.
Brilliantly cinematic version of the play pales next to the energy of His Girl Friday.
Audience Reviews for The Front Page
Likely the worst of the adaptations of the Front Page. I happened to catch the 70s one and found it much more enjoyable.
This screwball comedy from 1931 is about newspaperman on the night of a convicted murderer's hanging, and the events that unfold when the man escapes, and the one reporter who is trying to leave the business gets the scoop of finding him. He and his editor hide him in a roll-top desk and attempt to get the exclusive story before any of the other papers, and before the police find out. It is pretty good stuff, and holds up well, though I enjoyed the remake with Cary Grant even more. The last line of the film is fantastic and hilarious.
By far the highest honors in this go to Mr. Menjou, who gives as polished a performance of a gruff and unscrupulous editor as he used to give of a man about town. in this pre-code early talkie
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