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A fresh young beauty becomes an old maid waiting for her suitor to return from the Napoleonic wars. When he returns, clearly disappointed, she disguises herself as her own niece in order to test his loyalty.
Helen Jerome Eddy
Recent college graduate Benjamin Braddock is trapped into an affair with Mrs. Robinson, who happens to be the wife of his father's business partner and then finds himself falling in love with her daughter, Elaine.
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Robert Z. Leonard
C. Aubrey Smith
Walter Burns, editor of a major Chicago newspaper, is about to lose his ace reporter and former wife, Hildy Johnson, to insurance salesman Bruce Baldwin, but not without a fight! The crafty editor uses every trick in his fedora to get Hildy to write one last big story, about murderer Earl Williams and the inept Sheriff Hartwell. The comedy snowballs as William's friend, Molly Malloy, the crooked Mayor, and Bruce's mother all get tied up in Walter's web. Written by
Steve Fenwick <email@example.com>
Rosalind Russell resented the fact that she wasn't the first choice to play Hildy for director Howard Hawks. She showed up to the audition with her hair wet from swimming. See more »
When Bruce Baldwin comes to the press room late in the movie, an electric fan and small shelf on the wall to the left of the door both completely disappear. Both have been there in all previous scenes and both reappear after this scene. See more »
Charles McArthur and Ben Hecht met when both were reporters in Chicago during the 1920s. They created two of the funniest farces in American drama, TWENTIETH CENTURY (about theater people) and THE FRONT PAGE. The latter was based on their experiences as news reporters in those crazy days in Chicago, where the newspapers concentrated on sensationalism and the politics was thoroughly corrupt. The resulting play is hysterically funny and yet remains timely. For all the exaggeration of how Walter Burns and Hildy Johnson manipulate police, politicians, reporters, and civilians to get their scoop, the story remains relevant for several reasons. The political balance in a big Mayoralty election is precarious due to the Earl Williams case. Williams has shot a policeman who is African-American, a big local voting block, and they want him punished. The corrupt Mayor and his idiot jail warden are willing to execute him for the votes needed to stay in office, but the Governor (who is from the rival party) believes the killer is insane (or at least mentally deficient). So already (as you see) race, politics, and the validity of the death penalty get pulled in. Soon we also see examples of nepotism and corruption in the police, and City Hall, cynical politics based on a man's life, and questions about privacy and a free press. For a play from 1931 this one still has relevance.
There had been an earlier version of the play in the 1930s called THE FRONT PAGE, starring Adolphe Menjou as the conniving and devious Walter Burns, and Pat O'Brien as ace reporter Hildy Johnson. It is a good version, and both stars do well with their parts (and both have the verbal speed necessary for the dialog to flow over the ears of the audience). But when the film was remade in 1940, Howard Hawks decided to redraw Hildy Johnson into a female reporter (and previous wife) of Burns. His casting of Cary Grant was radically different too. Burns is a nasty, conniving s.o.b. who would kill for a good story. Menjou was somewhat dapper (he was usually dapper) in the role, but the hardness under the presentable shell was there. And by changing Hildy from a guy to a gal, and Walter's former wife, you had to make Walter look more interesting. So Walter is turned into Cary Grant. There was a search for Hildy, involving Jean Arthur and Irene Dunne as possibilities. Neither ended up playing him. Instead it went to Rosalind Russell.
It has to be admitted Russell had the vocal abilities to push the dialog at the proper clip. Possibly Jean Arthur could have done that just as well, but Arthur did not have the apparent physical strength behind the stylishness that Russell showed. She really does balance well (in this film) with Grant, given their characters.
Motivation changes a little. This Walter Burns still wants to get his scoops, but there are moments of fragility when he realizes he may forever lose Hildy to her fiancé Bruce (the ever helpless Ralph Bellamy). And they oddly work (Hawks manages to keep them under control). Also, as the story is now twelve years older than the original play, certain changes occur in Walter's political views. He does dislike the gang (led by Clarence Kolb and Gene Lockhart) running the city, and points out to Hildy that they have a chance to help give the city the sort of government New York City has under La Guardia. This does not end his joy at scooping the opposition, but it does suggest that Burns has more depth.
It is now generally believed that this is the best of the film versions of THE FRONT PAGE, and one of the funniest films ever made. The entire cast shines (look at the scene where Helen Mack confronts the reporters who have made her look like a tramp, and have told lies about John Qualen (Williams) - she is in a state when Russell takes her out of the press room, and the reporters are thoroughly ashamed of herself - and Russell comes back looking at Regis Toomey, Porter Hall, and the others, and says "Gentlemen of the Press!" with heavy cynical irony). And also note Billy Gilbert's immortal Joe Pettibone, the most hopeless monument of total befuddlement in movies. It is one of the few film comedies of that period that retains it's laughs one viewing following another.
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