In The Front Page, accused killer Earl Williams (George E. Stone) is about to be hanged, and all the newspaper reporters are hanging around next to the prison waiting for the story to drop. Those are horrible puns, but the film likes to use them. Anyway Hildebrand ‘HIldy’ Johnson (Pat O’Brien) has just gotten engaged to Peggy (Mary Brian) and they plan on moving to New York where Hildy can make more money as an ad man and leave the grimy newspaper business for good. But he can’t seem to keep away from his reporter buddies waiting for the scoop by the prison. He makes it seem like he wants to rub his good fortune in their faces before he goes, but perhaps he’s not ready to leave the reporter lifestyle.
Meanwhile in the jail next door, Earl has been asked to reenact his crime, but the bumbling Sheriff (Clarence Wilson) gave him a loaded gun for the simulation. Earl ends up accidentally shooting a man and fleas the prison in fear. This is the biggest news the reporters could hope for, so Hildy spends half of his honeymoon money to find out the scoop. Now he’s stuck on the job until his boss, Walter Burns (Adolphe Menjou), can pay him back. But while everyone is scrambling about, Hildy finds Earl climbing into the building. With the help of Burns, he hides Earl in a roll-top desk in order to get the scoop first and straight from the source.
Honestly, I’m surprised this film has survived well enough to be on Netflix instant streaming. The film is fuzzy and the audio is terrible. It takes a while to tune into the sound well enough to decipher what is being said. It all sounds like when a radio is just a little out of tune, but without the scratching. If you can’t stand low quality, don’t drive yourself mad with The Front Page.
What this film depicts best is the dog-eat-dog world of newsmen. One minute they’re all gathered around a table playing cards, next Hildy is hanging onto Earl and hiding him all for his own scoop. Of course, he’s under the influence of his old boss, Burns, but I was still wondering why Hildy was so determined if he was going to New York. At one point it seemed he was willing to throw his whole idea of the future away, his fiancé, her mother and everything.
“Tell her nothing. She’s a woman, you fool!”