A Classic, remastered. Finally!
LisaMC | East Central IL USA | 08/03/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I had a DVD of this film, which must have been one step up from a home taping job, because the sound quality was dreadful (to use a favorite Edward Everett Horton word). It was better than nothing, but still left a lot to be desired.
Then I discovered this remastered edition. I got it and watched it and was very pleased. Now, don't get me wrong; this film does not look or sound like something done yesterday, even with the remaster. The picture is still blurry to look at and there are some jumps, but you have to remember that this movie is nearly 80 years old, so it's bound to show its age somewhat.
What is new and better is the sound quality. The dialogue is completely audible, unlike on the previous DVD, where about half the dialogue was muffled to the point of inaudability, and it comes out of both channels on the speakers instead of just one, and you don't have to have the volume at the maximum to hear it. There is still the roar in the background that comes with many very old films, but you can still hear what the actors are saying above it. And the talking is what this movie is all about.
The reporters are acerbic and cranky and mean, but have some humanity, as they sit and wait for a man to be executed. There is a wonderful subplot about the fact that the man is a political pawn and not guilty of the crime, which sheds some light on 1930s politics. Edward Everett Horton has a choice role as one of the men in the press room; it's a serious take on his usual character, an effete hypochondriac, but he doesn't play it for laughs this time. Adolphe Menjou and Pat O'Brien star as the editor and star reporter pair; if you have seen either remakes of the film, the Cary Grant-Rosalind Russell His Girl Friday, or the 70s version with Lemmon and Matthau, you know the basic story. Hildy is trying to quit reporting to get married, but Burns connives to keep him at the job.
There is a lot of pre-code stuff in the movie, which makes it somewhat shocking even today; at one point, one of the reporters actually flips off the Sheriff. The streetwalker is called just that, no euphemisms. There are other things, but I don't want to spoil it for you.
The movie is well worth watching, and learning from. I recommend it for anyone who has seen either remake, just to see where it all started."
Still in need of restoration!
Martinus Scriblerus | Cambridge, Massachusetts United States | 09/04/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The previous reviews, read carefully, make it clear that this "remastered" edition still shows its age. Milestone is a fine director of early sound films--his All Quiet on the Western Front is a masterpiece--who overcame the drawbacks of the new and still being developed early sound technology. But do be warned--even though The Front Page is a fascinating and still vivid film, with obvious interest for anyone trying to look into the antecedents of His Girl Friday, this DVD edition will tax your eyes and ears! If ever a film was in need of a high quality digital restoration, this is it! I had hoped to use this is a film studies class, but now I am not so sure.
On a side note, the film is a window into some really good acting techniques ca. 1930: the character actors playing the various reporters are terrific, one and all. And the pre-code frankness of Edward Everett Horton's effeminately "gay" performance as Benzinger is a delight."
Classic newspaper film
Dr. James Gardner | California | 05/18/2010
(3 out of 5 stars)
""The Front Page" was made in 1931 by Howard Hughes during his most productive years in Hollywood. In 1928 his second film, "Two Arabian Knights" won an Oscar for Best Director and his third film, "The Racket" was nominated for Best Picture. He went on to make "Hell's Angels" (1930) and "Scarface" (1932) both of which were major films.
The film is based on a 1929 play and the characters are based on real reporters and real events known to writer Ben Hecht from his days in Chicago. The prodigious Hecht worked on more than 150 screenplays, was nominated 7 times, and won twice ("Underworld" in 1927 and "The Scoundrel" in 1935). Other notable films he worked on include "Scarface" (1932), "Stagecoach" (1939), "Gunga Din" (1939) and "Notorious" (1946). Hecht was referred to as the "Shakespeare of the movies."
The film stars Adolphe Menjou and Pat O'Brien with Edward Everett Horton. It's an early example of the "screwball comedy" films that emerged strongly in the mid 30s and early 40s - "It Happened One Night" (1934), "My Man Godfrey" (1936), "Bringing Up Baby" (1938), "You Can't Take it With You" (1938), "His Girl Friday" (1940), "The Philadelphia Story" (1940), "Arsenic and Old Lace" (1944).
Director Lewis Milestone worked with Hughes on the Oscar nominated "The Racket" (1928), on this film, and also on Hell's Angels" (1930). He made more than 50 films, was nominated three times and won twice ("Two Arabian Knights" in 1927, "All Quiet on the Western Front" in 1930). Among his many films are such diverse projects as "Mutiny on the Bounty" (1962), "Ocean's Eleven" (1960), "Pork Chop Hill" (1959), "The North Star" (1943), and "Of Mice and Men" (1939). Milestone was not known for comedies, much less screwball comedies, and "Front Page" is his only entry in this genre. Generally speaking, screwball comedies were most effective when they came from directors who specialized in this form - e.g., Frank Capra, Preston Sturges, and Howard Hawks.
Suave Adolphe Menjou was nominated as Best Actor for his role as the newspaper editor. Menjou made more than 150 films, starting in the silent era with standout performances in "The Three Musketeers" (1921) with Douglas Fairbanks and "The Sheik" (1921) with Rudolph Valentino. He's probably best known for his outstanding job in "Paths of Glory" (1957) as the villainous French General.
Pat O'Brien was everyone's favorite Irishman. He was a very good friend of Jimmy Cagney and they appeared in 9 films together, "Angels with Dirty Faces" (1938) being their best pairing. O'Brien and Cagney were among the original "Irish Mafia" that included fellow co-star Frank McHugh, Allan Jennings, Spencer Tracey, Ralph Bellamy and others. O'Brien is best remembered for his role as the coach in "Knute Rockne" (1942) where he asked the team to "win one for the Gipper" (referring to Ronald Reagan).O'Brien plays a newspaper reporter.
Edward Everett Horton specialized in playing the comedy sidekick in more than 100 films and on TV. His memorable film roles include the Mad Hatter in "Alice in Wonderland" (1933), Horace Hardwick in "Top Hat" (1935), and Mr. Witherspoon in "Arsenic and Old Lace" (1944). He had a recurring role in "F Troop" as the Roaring Chicken (1965) and in "Dennis the Menace" as Mr. Matthews (1962-3), and was the Fractured Fairy Tales narrator on the "Rocky and His Friends" series (1960-1).
Mae Clarke has a small role as Molly, O'Brien's fiancé. We remember her best as the girl in "Public Enemy" (1931) who annoys Jimmy Cagney so much that he pushes a grapefruit into her face. She also played Dr. Frankenstein's wife in the classic 1931 version.
Slim Summerville was a busy comedic actor who appeared in more than 200 films beginning with the Keystone Kops in 1912. He's most well known for the series of films he made with Zazu Pitts (e.g., "The Bad Sister" in 1931, "They Just Had to Get Married" in 1933) although he did some good dramatic acting in films like "Western Union" (1941), "Jesse James" (1939) and "All Quiet on the Western Front."
Funny looking Walter Catlett appeared in more than 100 films, playing a nervous type in many comedies ("Bringing up Baby", "Daddy Knows Best", "Fibbing Fibbers"). He had memorable roles as the barber in "Lil Abner" (1940), the stage manager in "Yankee Doddle Dandy" (1942), and the drunken poet in "Mr Deeds Goes to Town" (1936).
Frank McHugh provided comic relief to over 100 films. He was part of the original "Irish Mafia" and appeared in a dozen films with fellow mafia member Jimmy Cagney and 13 films with mafia member Pat O'Brien. "Front Page" was their first film together, and McHugh worked with O'Brian through 1958 in "The Last Hurrah" that starred mafia member Spencer Tracey.
The film was nominated for Best Actor, Best Director, and Best Picture, but didn't win. In 1931 the best picture was "Cimarron", the best actor was Lionel Barrymore in "A Free Soul", and the best director was Norman Taurog for "Skippy". "Front Page" was re-made in 1940 as "His Girl Friday" with Rosalind Russell playing the O'Brien part and Cary Grant playing Menjou's role. It was re-made again in 1974 by Billy Wilder with Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau
As a film about the goings on at a newspaper, "The Front Page" is among the best. Unfortunately, "Citizen Kane" falls into that same category (1941). Other good films that feature newspapers include "All the President's Men" (1976), "Deadline USA" (1952), "Sweet Smell of Success" (1957), and "Ace in the Hole" (1951). Apart from "Citizen Kane", my personal preferences would be "Sweet Smell of Success" and "Absence of Malice".
Looked at nearly a century after it appeared, the film certainly seems racist, sexist, and all things politically incorrect. In addition, the sound is difficult to hear, and some of the photography is pretty dull. If you can put that aside, the film is a riot, capturing the ambiance of newspaper work in the early 1920s in one of the most corrupt cities in the U.S.