The Front Page

1974, Movie, PG, 105 mins


Wanted: a better remake of Lewis Milestone's classic original and Howard Hawks' revamp, HIS GIRL FRIDAY. This slick remake of the ebullient original falls short of being the film it could have been, despite the presence of master filmmaker Wilder and his engaging costars.

Hildy Johnson (Lemmon) is bound for New York with Peggy Grant (Sarandon) to begin a new life, but Walter Burns (Matthau) uses the escape of anarchist Earl Williams (Pendleton) to hold him on the job. Along the way they pointedly ignore the pleas of prostitute Mollie Malloy (Burnett), who is in love with the condemned man. The hide-and-seek game the newsmen play with authorities in covering up the wanted man's whereabouts is forced, but Martin Gabel, as the balmy psychiatrist, gives a hilarious performance. Durning is too vicious for the newsman role he plays, as is Garfield; Hecht and MacArthur drew their characters as jocular, not sadistic, personalities. The posturing, no doubt Wilder's doing, mars the impact of his satirical cynicism. It overpowers the screenplay and even the good performances of the leads.

Despite the obvious charismatic interaction between Lemmon and Matthau, the film is oddly stilted. In an overly emphatic turn, the miscast Burnett easily gives the most awful performance of her career. She projects only one emotion--a gratingly annoying hysteria. One never enjoys the film so much as when her character throws herself out of a window. Wilder was much more effective with Lemmon and Matthau in THE FORTUNE COOKIE and THE ODD COUPLE. This one just doesn't have the big story at press time. leave a comment

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