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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Front Page (1931)

On the eve of the execution of a convicted murderer (George E. Stone), rather than covering the story the editor (Adolphe Menjou) finds his top reporter (Pat O'Brien) quitting to get married. As the editor and the reporter's fiancee (Mary Brian) tug at him to each get their way, there's more to the convicted killer's story than meets the eye. Ben Hecht's and Charles MacArthur's 1928 Broadway play THE FRONT PAGE remains the benchmark of all newspaper plays/films. There have been no less than four film versions of it (1931, 1940, 1974, 1988) and while Howard Hawks' 1940 adaptation (retitled HIS GIRL FRIDAY) remains the one to beat, this first film adaptation is pretty robust. The rapid fire dialog as delivered by a stellar cast of character actors remains as funny today as it did back then. O'Brien tends to shout a bit too much but Menjou has the devious serpentine newsman with ink in his veins down pat. The film doesn't bother to hide its stage origins (why should it?) but the director Lewis Milestone is able to make things move around. Since this is a pre-code film, it's amazing what they get away with. With Edward Everett Horton, Walter Catlett, Mae Clarke and Frank McHugh.

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