Monday, February 16, 2009

The Front Page (1931)

Directed by: Lewis Milestone

Starring: Adolphe Menjou and Pat O'Brien

Plot: A newspaper reporter, hoping to leave the business, stumbles into the story of a lifetime.

Thoughts: All Quiet on the Western Front was easily Lewis Milestone's magnum opus. Topping it would be difficult, if not impossible. So Milestone didn't even try, he just concentrated on making a good film. In this case, The Front Page mostly delivered. Considered the progenitor of the "newspaper" genre, the film was a rapid-fire roller coaster ride of humor and drama. This isn't the sort of film you can follow while surfing the Web and talking to your pal on the phone.

The Front Page was a direct adaptation of the 1928 Broadway play by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur. The characters were based on actual personnel at the City News Bureau of Chicago where Hecht and MacArthur worked for a time. Milestone's reliable standard bearer, Louis Wolheim, was intended to play newspaper magnate Walter Burns but died before he could be cast. Adolphe Menjou had been a veteran of the silent era and one of the few who made the transition to sound films.

Over the years, several other adaptations would be produced, including a one-hour radio version in 1948 for Academy Award Theater starring Menjou and O'Brien. The Front Page is available via DVD-R on-demand publishing that essentially uses the master made for the 1997 VHS release. With this film being a Howard Hughes production, it occasionally turns up in the Turner Classic Movies schedule rotation.

The Front Page garnered three award nominations. Aside from Best Motion Picture, it also earned a Best Director nod and a Best Actor consideration for Adolphe Menjou's portrayal of the weaselly Water Burns.

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