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The Front Page (1931)

TV-PG | | Comedy | 4 April 1931 (USA)
An investigative reporter sees an opportunity for the story of a lifetime when an accused murderer escapes hanging.



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Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 2 wins. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Murphy (as Walter L. Catlett)
Clarence Wilson ...
Sheriff Hartman (as Clarence H. Wilson)
Fred Howard ...
Schwartz (as Freddie Howard)
Phil Tead ...
Eugene Strong ...
Endicott (as Gene Strong)
Spencer Charters ...


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 <garyjack5@cogeco.ca>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis




TV-PG | See all certifications »




Release Date:

4 April 1931 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A Primeira Página  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.20 : 1
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Did You Know?


The last line of the play had to be partly obliterated by the sound of a typewriter being accidentally struck because the censors (even of that day) wouldn't allow the phrase "son-of-a-bitch" to be used in a film. See more »


At approximately 69 minutes, Hildy types furiously at a typewriter, however, with his right hand he only uses his index finger and pushes the same key over and over again. See more »


[first lines]
Title card: This story is laid in a mythical kingdom.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The end credits consist of Walter and Hildy above a big 'THE END,' covering a large question mark, while the sound of the train is heard and music plays. There is also laughter, presumably coming from Walter Burns. See more »


Referenced in Man Hunt (1936) See more »


By the Light of the Silvery Moon
(1909) (uncredited)
Music by Gus Edwards
Played on banjo early in the film
See more »

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User Reviews

News is Made at Night
4 April 2009 | by (Kissimmee, Florida) – See all my reviews

THE FRONT PAGE (United Artists, 1931), presented by Howard Hughes, directed by Lewis Milestone, ventures into the mad world of journalism. Taken from the 1928 play by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, set mostly in a press room in a single night where cigar smoking, card playing, tough-talking reporters await for the latest news coverage for their latest scoop for the front page, the final edition goes to its managing editor and his ace reporter, who are the best of friends in spite of their constant feuding.

"The story is laid in a Mythical Kingdom" where reporters of the Chicago Tribune gather together in the press room of the Criminal Court's Building awaiting to cover the upcoming execution of convicted killer, Earl Williams. Editor Walter Burns (Adolphe Menjou) trusts only Hildebrand "Hildy" Johnson (Pat O'Brien) to cover the story, but Hildy has other plans. He intends leaving the newspaper game to marry Peggy Grant(Mary Brian) where they can live happily ever after in New York. Through tricks and deceit, Walter does everything in his power keeping Hildy from quitting, going to extremes such as hiring "Diamond Louie" (Maurice Black), a notorious gangster, to abduct Hildy's future mother-in-law (Effie Ellsler) as well as separating him from Peggy. Only after Williams (George E. Stone) shoots his way out from the county jail seeking refuge in the press room does Hildy find himself getting the biggest story of his 15-year career, plus an interview with Molly Malloy (Mae Clarke), a streetwalker who believes Earl innocent. Hildy has his work cut out for him keeping both police and reporters from locating Williams, who's hiding in a roll-top desk, and joining forces with Walter as they battle political corruption with Sheriff Hartman (Clarence Wilson) and the Mayor (James Gordon) after learning how they prevented messenger, Irving Pincus (Slim Summerville), from delivering a reprieve for Williams. Stop the Presses!!!!

Taking part in the exclusive story are Edward Everett Horton as the germ conscious Roy Bensinger; Walter L. Catlett and Frank McHugh as wisecracking reporters, Murphy and McCue; Matt Moore as the banjo playing Kruger;Dorothea Wolbert as Jenny, the cleaning lady; and Gustav Von Seyffertitz appearing briefly as the psychiatrist. For being a United Artists release, THE FRONT PAGE looks very much like a Warner Brothers production, especially with future Warners stock players, O'Brien and McHugh, in the cast. Regardless of Menjou's star billing and Academy Award nomination for his limited performance, the byline rightfully belongs to O'Brien, in his feature film debut.

The success of this Academy Award nominated production, THE FRONT PAGE brought forth notable remakes: HIS GIRL Friday (Columbia, 1940) starring Cary Grant (Walter Burns) and Rosalind Russell (the female Hildy Johnson); THE THRILL OF BRAZIL (Columbia, 1946) with Evelyn Keyes and Keenan Wynn, a musical that borrows portions from HIS GIRL Friday; THE FRONT PAGE (Universal, 1974) starring Walter Matthau (Walter Burns) and Jack Lemmon (Hildy Johnson); and an updated version borrowing from HIS GIRL Friday retitled SWITCHING CHANNELS (Tri-Star, 1988), set in a TV station, with Burt Reynolds, Kathleen Turner and Christopher Reeve. There was even a now forgotten 1970 TV movie of THE FRONT PAGE that featured Robert Ryan.

Out of circulation for many years, it wasn't until 1979 when this 1931 original began circulating on television, followed by availability on home video and A&E cable TV broadcasts during the 1980s. Because THE FRONT PAGE is a public domain title, many VHS and DVD transfers have ranged from satisfactory to inferior. To date, the best available print appears on Turner Classic Movies where THE FRONT PAGE has been showing since 2002.

Very much a guy movie that may also appeal to women, THE FRONT PAGE does contain lines and situations that may cause any outraged person to write a "letter to the editor." Watch how Menjou gets by in saying "Son of a ... " without having that scene going through censor problems. In spite of its age and 101 minute length, THE FRONT PAGE has enough speed, lively dialog (with serious overtones) and camera movement to rank this one of the finer newspaper stories in circulation today. (***1/2 inserts) -30-

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