Friday, December 26, 2008

Best Picture Nominees: The Front Page (1931)

It is difficult to judge Lewis Milestone's version of Ben Hecht's and Charles MacArthur's play The Front Page without comparing it to its definite remake, Howard Hawks' His Girl Friday. Pat O'Brien is Hildy Johnson, a reporter about to leave his job and get married, who is lured back into his old trade by his editor Walter Burns (Adolphe Menjou) and a story to good to be passed up. The bantering between the journalists in the court house's press room is the major thread of the film. A pity that the sound quality of the version I watched did not pay justice to the scenes.
A good early sound film with interesting camera movements and clever use of the relatively new medium, The Front Page is a good and effective film, albeit a bit sexist with its suggestion of women interfering in men's friendship and business. That's another reason why I prefer His Girl Friday, with Rosalind Russell playing a female Hildy Johnson and supplying this film with the gimmick that puts it on a level above the original.
So far it is the best of the 1931 nominees I've seen.

1931 rankings so far: The Front Page, Cimarron

Still to watch: East Lynne, Skippy, Trader Horn


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