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 ... See full summary »
A frustrated former big-city journalist now stuck working for an Albuquerque newspaper exploits a story about a man trapped in a cave to re-jump start his career, but the situation quickly escalates into an out-of-control circus.
Director Billy Wilder salutes his idol, Ernst Lubitsch, with this comedy about a middle-aged playboy fascinated by the daughter of a private detective who has been hired to entrap him with the wife of a client.
Hildy Johnson is the top reporter on a Chicago newspaper during the 1920s. Tired of the whole game he's determined to quit his job to get married. His scheming editor, Walter Burns, has other plans though. It's the day before guilty (but insane) murderer, Earl Williams, is due to go to the gallows and Burns tempts Johnson to stay and write the story. Written by
Col Needham <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Walter Burns' idea for Hildy Johnson to surreptitiously snap a death photo of Earl Williams' execution by strapping a camera to his ankle with the shutter release in his pocket actually happened. On January 12, 1928 (over 18 months before the Ben Hecht - Charles MacArthur play "The Front Page" opened), murderers Ruth Brown Snyder and her lover, Henry Judd Gray, were executed in New York's Sing Sing prison's electric chair for the murder of Ruth's husband, Albert Snyder, the previous year. At the moment of her electrocution Tom Howard, a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, used a one-time-use camera strapped to his leg to snap a picture of her at the moment of her death. The picture later became notorious as an example of the lengths to which some reporters would to go get an exclusive. The camera used is now part of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. In another film irony, the Snyder and Gray case was also used as the basis for a James M. Cain novel later made into a classic film, Double Indemnity (1944), also directed by Billy Wilder. See more »
The girls at the mayor's favorite cat house know him as The Green Hornet, after the radio superhero. The Green Hornet did not air until 1936, and The Front Page is set in the year 1929. See more »
I'm sure that the reason for Billy Wilder to do a remake of The Front Page is the fact that around the time this was made, politicians running for office on 'law and order' platforms was suddenly coming into vogue. The chief example among these was Richard Nixon and we all know what happened to him in 1974. Seemed like a case of perfect timing to me.
The original material that Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur wrote in the Twenties was perfect for Billy Wilder's cynical mind. Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau were born to play the roles of Hildy Johnson and Walter Burns.
Of course other things now that the Code was lifted could also be made more explicit. David Wayne's character of Benzinger is quite openly gay in the film. It's an interesting characterization he does. Of course he's the butt of all the jokes in the pressroom, but I thought it rather funny when at the end when title cards show what happened to all the principal characters, he was the only one with a happily ever after ending. He settled down with a life partner and ran an antique store. A rather subtle comment on the sanctity of heterosexual marriage decades before gay marriage was an issue.
Carol Burnett was a big fan of Billy Wilder and it is mentioned in a recent biography of Wilder that she wanted very much to be in one of his films. Carol got her wish and did very well as Molly the prostitute who befriends poor Earl Williams, the anarchist who accidentally killed a policeman and is sentenced to be hung.
Austin Pendleton is all right as Williams, but no one ever played the role quite like John Qualen in His Girl Friday. Qualen had a patent on those little men up against the system parts.
Speaking of His Girl Friday, my favorite part in all versions of The Front Page is that of the messenger from the governor carrying Earl Williams reprieve. No one will ever top Billy Gilbert in His Girl Friday though Paul Benedict of The Jeffersons gives a good account of himself as well.
Sad to say that demagogic politicians who bray about law and order are still among us. Maybe it's time for another remake of The Front Page.
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