I am writing this post from Las Vegas, the third city I have visited in as many posts. The last few days have been spent preparing for the opening of Aussie Improv Comedy Explosion, the comedy show in which I'll be performing for the next month. You may not think there would be any need for rehearsals for an improvised show, but believe it or not, we have found plenty of things to work on, not the least of which is promoting the show to our potential audiences. While the show opened earlier tonight, we have a small rotating cast, so I participated only as an audience member this evening. My first performance on stage will be tomorrow night.
Last night, I made the most of some down time by watching another in the Academy's race for Best Picture of 1930/31...
The Front Page
Bartlett Cormack and Charles Lederer
(based on the play by Ben Hecht & Charles MacArthur)
Adolphe Menjou, Pat O'Brien, Mary Brian, Edward Everett Horton, Walter Catlett, George E. Stone, Mae Clarke, Slim Summerville
Top reporter Hildy Johnson (O'Brien) is packing in the Chicago news scene to run off to New York with his fiancée Peggy (Brian), much to the annoyance of Hildy's editor, Walter Burns (Menjou). As Hildy says his goodbyes to his colleagues in the court press room, a big story begins to unravel that he simply can't resist. Convicted murderer Earl Williams (Stone) escapes and, while all the other reporters are out looking for him, he stumbles right into Hildy's lap. With a scoop like that, how can he possibly leave town? Walter is happy, but Peggy is not, and Hildy can't string them both along forever.
There is an immensely fun and vibrant quality about The Front Page, which is almost entirely on account of the snappy dialogue. The fast-paced conversations, clearly the product of a stage adaptation, are delightfully droll and occasionally risqué (the restrictive Production Code was not quite in force just yet). A lively ensemble of sarcastic characters keep the story moving at an exciting pace.
Of course, as is the case with such wordy pieces, the static staging can seem a bit tiresome at times. Fortunately, the witty barbs come with such frequency that the lack of movement goes largely unnoticed. Besides, the latter half of the picture features more action which alleviates any monotony. In fact, the film's second half is more engaging for other reasons, too. Whereas the opening scenes feature a whole bunch of subplots, albeit related, the second half is satisfyingly cohesive, concentrating on the main narrative.
Adolphe Menjou, a Matt vs. the Academy regular. Also of note are Frank McHugh, whose infectious laugh I noted while reviewing Going My Way, Edward Everett Horton, a prolific character actor of early Hollywood, and George E. Stone, fresh from another 1930/31 contender, Cimarron.
Unsurprisingly for a film that is 80 years old, The Front Page suffers a little from a lack of video and audio quality. For example, the rapid-fire dialogue is often difficult to comprehend. However, only a month ago, the National Film Preservation Board added the film to its National Film Registry, so hopefully, it will undergo a much-needed restoration soon.