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.
Billy Wilder felt that Chicago was the most exciting newspaper town in the country and as a result, this incarnation of "The Front Page" was the first to mention the city by name and use actual Chicago newspapers.
In an early scene, Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau are arguing in Burns' office. Lemmon mentions having been out of town covering "the monkey trial." In 1999 Lemmon starred as Henry Drummond in Inherit the Wind (1999), based on the 1925 trial of schoolteacher John Scopes, who who arrested and tried for violating a state law that forbade the teaching of evolution in schools. It became known as "the monkey trial".
Carol Burnett was extremely unhappy with her performance in this film, as were a lot of critics. The comedienne likes to tell the story of how she was a passenger on an airline that had The Front Page (1974) as its in-flight movie. At the film's conclusion, Burnett stood up and apologized to the passengers for what they'd just witnessed.
A handful of characters who are merely mentioned in the play actually appear in the movie, such as Duffy, Officer Jacobi, and Dr. Eggelhofer. On the other hand, there are some characters from the original play who were left out of this movie, including Peggy's disapproving mother, court guard Woodenshoes Eichorn, and former criminal Diamond Louis. In addition, Plunkett's name in the play was Irving Pincus (his name was also changed in "His Girl Friday" , this time to Joe Pettibone), and reporter newcomer Rudy Kepler did not exist in the original play.
New Yorker Susan Sarandon was staying at the famed Chateau Marmont Hotel in Hollywood during this shoot and was robbed by an intruder who took her gear while she slept. When she told co-star Walter Matthau about her scary ordeal he insisted on lending her some money to get her through the entire shoot.