Directed by Howard Hawkes
Based on the stage play The Front Page by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur
Screenplay by Charles Lederer
Starring: Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Ralph Bellamy, John Qualen
Walter Burns (Grant) is an editor at The Morning Post. He’s also the ex-husband of reporter Hildy Johnson (Russell), a tenacious young reporter. When Burns discovers that Hildy is planning to leave the newspaper to settle down and remarry, he decides to do whatever it takes to keep his talented reporter. He stumbles into good luck when a convicted murderer escapes from the local prison and Hildy gets sucked into the story. Now Burns is working on getting the scoop and finding new reasons to keep Hildy around.
This came out in 1940, which turned out to be a nice year for romantic comedies. In addition to this film, The Philadelphia Story was released as well. Both of these films featured Cary Grant (Charade) in great roles. In addition to Grant, this one stars Rosalind Russell (Auntie Mame), Ralph Bellamy (The Awful Truth), and John Qualen (Casablanca). The story for this one came from the stage play The Front Page which was written by Ben Hecht (Notorious) and Charles MacArthur (Wuthering Heights, 1939). Charles Lederer (Mutiny on the Bounty) adapted the screenplay for the film, which was directed by the legendary Howard Hawkes (The Big Sleep).
This movie features some great performances by a number of actors. By far, the best work comes from Cary Grant. His style worked perfectly, creating a calm cool character in the midst of a chaotic series of events. Rosalind Russell also does nice work as the strong female reporter. She manages to hold her own in a cast filled with mainly men. Ralph Bellamy and John Qualen also give nice performances in the film. Along with the rest of the cast, this movie features some really good acting.
The story for this one is nicely told. After being performed on the stage, the story has been adapted for film twice. In addition to this movie, the story has been made into three other film versions. For this version of the story, the success came from the strength of the characters. Walter Burns is nicely written, giving Grant a lot to work with. In addition, the dialogue between Burns and Hildy is quick-witted and very bold. Hildy is also a nicely developed character, making her a strong woman in a world dominated by men. This doesn’t push any agenda, but it allows her to succeed within the story nicely. Overall, this is a great screenplay from an excellent story.
Overall, this is a great movie. Despite being over seventy years old, this one has aged well and still works on every level. Thankfully the comedy isn’t lost in the passage of time, which could have happened if too many references had been overused. The camera work and the sets also do a nice job creating the world the story exists in. The sets do seem a bit more like a stage play might appear, but not in a way that takes away from the overall success of the visuals.
If you’re a fan of good comedy or the stars in this one, you should definitely check it out. I would also recommend this to anyone who appreciates good writing since the story is wonderfully told. Some of the dialogue and the references are a little dated, so it might not work for everyone. Still, I think this has aged nicely considering the seven decades that have passed since it was released. This is a great movie for the whole family, and I give it 4.7 out of 5 stars.