Monday, March 02, 2009

The Front Page, His Girl Friday & Switching Channels

The Front Page began as the hit Broadway comedy, written by one-time Chicago reporters Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur and first produced in 1928. The authors' expert plotting and rapid-fire, streetwise dialogue delighted audiences and made their play an instant classic. Hecht and MacArthur strongly influenced many other American comic writers, especially in Hollywood. The Front Page has been adapted to film a number of times:
  • The Front Page (1931), starring Adolphe Menjou and Pat O'Brien.

  • His Girl Friday (1940), directed by Howard Hawks considered the best of the adaptations, starring Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell. The "twist" to His Girl Friday is that the one of the lead roles was converted from a man to a woman. It was originally supposed to be a straightforward retelling of The Front Page, with both the editor and reporter being men, however during auditions, Howard Hawks' secretary read reporter Hildy Johnson's lines. Hawks liked the way the dialogue sounded coming from a woman, so the script was rewritten to make Hildy female, and the ex-wife of editor Walter Burns. Most of the original dialogue and all of the characters' names (with the exception of Bruce Baldwin, Hildy's fiance, who was of course a woman in the play) were left the same.

  • Today the film is in the public domain. Download from Internet Archives...

  • The Front Page (1974), directed by Billy Wilder, starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau.

  • Switching Channels (1988), starring Burt Reynolds and Kathleen Turner, with the newspaper reporters updated to television reporters and none of the original dialogue retained.
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