"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Million Dollar Movie

Here’s Pauline Kael:

In 1928 Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur wrote The Front Page, the greatest newspaper comedy of them all; Howard Hawks directed this version of it — a spastic explosion of dialogue, adapted by Charles Lederer, and starring Cary Grant as the domineering editor Walter Burns and Rosalind Russell as Hildy Johnson, the unscrupulous crime reporter with printer’s ink in her veins. (In the play Hildy Johnson is a man.) Overlapping dialogue carries the movie along at breakneck speed; word gags take the place of the sight gags of silent comedy, as this race of brittle, cynical, childish people rush around on corrupt errands. Russell is at her comedy peak here — she wears a striped suit, uses her long-legged body for ungainly, unladylike effects, and rasps out her lines. And, as Walter Burns, Grant raises mugging to a joyful art. Burns’ callousness and unscrupulousness are expressed in some of the best farce lines ever written in this country, and Grant hits those lines with a smack. He uses the same stiff-neck cocked-head stance that he did in Gunga Din: it’s his position for all-out, unstuble farce. He snorts and whoops. His Burns is a strong-arm performance, defiantly self-centered and funny. The reporters — a fine crew — are Ernest Truex, Cliff Edwards, Porter Hall, Roscoe Karns, Frank Jenks, Regis Toomey; also with Gene Lockhart as the sheriff, Billy Gilbert as the messenger, John Qualen, Helen Mack, and Ralph Bellamy as chief stooge — a respectable businessman — and Alma Kruger as his mother.

The Front Page was made into a movie in 1931 and then remade as His Girl Friday. It’s about as good as American movie comedy gets. It’ll leave you dizzy.


1 Ben   ~  Aug 15, 2011 10:22 am

One of my favorites all time. Watch some of the Grant scenes in slow motion if you ever get the opportunity- they're incredible.

2 Matt Blankman   ~  Aug 15, 2011 11:40 am

Right after this aired on TCM last night, they showed another of the great film comedies, Leo McCarey's "The Awful Truth," also with Grant. It's said that Grant first really develops the character that would be his on-screen persona for the rest of his career in "The Awful Truth," and that a lot of the mannerisms came from McCarey. Not just his direction, but apparently what he was like. Funny thought.

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