Hildy Johnson, newspaper reporter, is engaged to Peggy Grant and planning to move to New York for a higher paying advertising job. The court press room is full of lame reporters who invent stories as much as write them. All are waiting to cover the hanging of Earl Williams. When Williams escapes from the inept Sheriff, Hildy seizes the opportunity by using his $260 honeymoon money to payoff an insider and get the scoop on the escape. However, Walter Burns, the Post's editor, is slow to repay Hildy back, hoping that he will stay on the story. Getting a major scoop looks possible when Hildy stumbles onto the bewildered escapee and hides him in a roll-top desk in the press room. Burns shows up to help. Can they keep Williams' whereabouts secret long enough to get the scoop, especially with the Sheriff and other reporters hovering around? Written by Gary Jackson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Running Time: 101 Minutes
MPAA Ratings: PG
I'm not really sure what to think about 1931's The Front Page, the first filming of the Ben Hecht play that went on to at least four more remakes, the best of which is 1940's His Girl Friday. I attempt to be impartial and to avoid presentism, but it was really hard for me to excuse the rampant racism and sexism in this movie, and normally I don't have a problem letting certain things go. In the space of 101 minutes, the film manages to mock Italians, homosexuals, psychologists, African Americans, and, most notably, women. The only group to come off looking sort of honorable are the anarchists, but their representative in the movie was a convicted murderer. (That, and I don't think the filmmakers knew the difference between Anarchists and Communists.) I can freely admit that I hadn't ever heard the word "pickaninny" used in a film before this. I was almost awed by the number of objectionable instances. And this was a tremendously popular movie, netting three Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor. It is just very difficult to look at a movie like this without being put off by the stereotypes that were much more acceptable in the 1930s or earlier.
Ahh, but the movie. It is a somewhat "madcap" comedy, in which much of the comedy comes from rapid-fire dialog delivery and people running around frantically. It follows the last day in the newspaper career of Hildy Johnson, the screen debut of comic actor Pat O'Brien. He is retiring to marry his beloved fiancee Peggy, played by Mae Clarke, but his boss, brilliant but mean-spirited Stevens (played by an Oscar-nominated Adolphe Menjou), will stop at nothing to keep him on the payroll. The movie revolves around a sensational murder case in which an Anarchist killed a black policeman and was sentenced to hang. The chief of police, played by Clarence Wilson, is counting on popular support for the hanging to win him the election coming up in a few days. In fact, he and the mayor of Chicago have conspired to push the execution closer to the election to ride the wave of public support for their "git tuff on crime" stance. And you thought political corruption in Chicago was a recent thing... Anyway, the killer escapes after a major screwup where a psychologist brought in from Vienna decides to reenact the crime by giving him the chief of police's gun. Everyone runs around yelling, trying to be the first newspaperman to find the killer and scoop the story. Hildy, though, is the lucky guy, and he decides to hide the man in a rolltop desk and smuggle him out for an interview. His boss wants to use this case to bring down the corrupt mayor and chief of police, and at the same time remind Hildy that he's a born reporter who wouldn't be happy as an advertising exec, the job his fiancee has lined up for him in New York.
The movie has its share of funny lines and characters, but it's not nearly as funny as the most famous remake, 1940's His Girl Friday. That film, starring Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell, avoids many of the racist and sexist overtones of this version by casting Russell as the departing reporter. It admits what this film categorically denies: that women are capable of doing as well as or better than men. As slight as its "feminist" leaning is, it makes this version look like it was made by Neanderthals. www.movie-vault.com
This is what movies are all about! Great Acting. Great Action. Steady rhythm of dialog and a little romance doesn't hurt a bit. I especially enjoyed Frank McHugh. These are some of the finest actors of the time. Adolph Menjou and Pat O'Brien were perfect partners in newspaper heaven. One of the early best sassy comedies with a bite to it. Be it that the visuals are not quality, the backbone makes you forget it was made in 1931. The beginning is unique with a newspaper flare! Sit back and enjoy this finely performed movie and it's earliest best! Written by Jimbo
Edward Everett Horton
George E. Stone
Best Actor in a Leading Role - Nominated
Best Director - Nominated
Best Picture - Nominated
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