During a high profile Mafia testimony case in California's Riverside County, a hired killer checks-in a hotel room near the courthouse while his next door depressed neighbor wants to commit suicide due to marital problems.
When Hildy Johnson, the top reporter of a Chicago newspaper announces that he is quitting to get married, his editor, Walter Burns desperately tries to change his mind. When denial, cursing, and luring don't work, Walter resorts to tricks. It's the day before a supposed communist is to be hanged, and all Chicago waits with baited breath. Meanwhile, each of the papers has a man on the story trying to get a scoop or angle for themselves. With a train to catch at midnight to join his fiancé, Hildy is at first not interested, but events and his own habits work against him as the day unfolds, and he can't help but get roped in, especially when the man to be executed escapes and then almost literally falls into his lap.Written by
The film cast includes three Oscar winners: Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Susan Sarandon; and two Oscar nominees: Vincent Gardenia and Charles Durning. The latter received two nominations each in the Best Supporting Actor category. See more »
Earl Williams is scheduled to be executed by hanging in June of 1929. Electrocution replaced hanging as the method of capital punishment in Illinois in 1928. See more »
Billy Wilder's work didn't exactly decline in quality during the 70's; rather, he seems to have been making less of an effort to break new ground and reinvent genres, instead leaning back on genres he new well and making perfectly solid films that were fun to make and fun to watch. The Front Page is no exception; on the surface it's easy to blame Wilder of lacking originality, in adapting a play that had been put to film twice before. However, the 1931 version really isn't good enough to pay attention to, and the 1940 version (His Girl Friday) changed things around quite a bit, making Wilder's version the definitive version of the play. Wilder reverted the lead role from a woman back to a man, retaining the relationship between the two leads to the 'male life partners' version that the original play had, which I found more interesting than the romantic relationship in 'His Girl Friday'.
And the best thing is that the chemistry between Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau is so good, that they make this relationship really work. They worked twice before, in 'The Odd Couple' and 'The Fortune Cookie', and once again prove how good they are together; a testament to that is that the first half of 'The Front Page', in which Lemmon interacts with actors like Susan Sarandon and Austin Pendleton, moves along with a lazy pace, usually witty but never grabs the viewers completely; but the second half, which is mostly around Lemmon and Matthau, sparks all over the place and is an absolute joy to watch, right up to the ending - and nobody could direct an ending scene like Wilder. It's Wilder's knack for pacing that makes the film work, and Lemmon and Matthau have amazing timing that compliments it perfectly. The film may not be groundbreaking but it's a nearly perfectly made comedy, with some vicious observations about the nature of media and politics.
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