Front Page, The (1931)

“So, you’re leaving me for marriage. Why?”

Synopsis:
A wily editor (Adolphe Menjou) tries to prevent his star journalist (Pat O’Brien) from marrying his sweetheart (Mary Brian) by luring him into investigating a story about a cop-killer (George E. Stone) due to be hung that evening.

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Review:
Fresh from the success of All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), Lewis Milestone directed this 180-degree change-of-pace screwball comedy, based on the Broadway play by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur and famously remade and re-gendered by Howard Hawks as His Girl Friday (1940). Given the brilliance of Hawks’s classic, I was pleasantly surprised by this earlier iteration, which offers ample fast-paced enjoyment of its own. The Pre-Code screenplay reveals its age in terms of numerous good-ol’-boy comments that wouldn’t pass muster these days (“He’s going to write poetry about milady’s panties.”), but otherwise has held up well. One generally expects early talkies to be somewhat static and slow; however, that certainly isn’t the case here. This one’s worth a watch.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Impressive direction and editing


  • A consistently amusing and engaging screenplay: “This place is beginning to smell like… like an owl’s foot.”

Must See?
Yes, as an enjoyable and historically relevant screwball comedy. Selected in 2010 for the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

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