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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

The Front Page (1974)



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I'm not fond of Billy Wilder's 1974 adaptation of The Front Page, though Wilder is one of my favorite directors, and I almost always enjoy and admire Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, apart or together. True, I am spoiled by superior earlier adaptations of the play, and I was turned off by the sporadically crude dialogue. But this version seldom seems to get off the ground; the actors appear to be going through all the correct motions, and yet the end result is less than what it is supposed to be. It's a tough play to do properly. I've seen several adaptations, filmed and staged, and even the best ones feel heavier than a fast-paced screwball comedy should.

If the previous paragraph does not make this clear, Wilder's The Front Page is problematic for me, because I see faults with it, and my inclination is to make excuses for every one of them. I can see something special at work here: I just wish my quibbles, objective and subjective, would get out of the way. Since several of them are subjective, however, I feel reasonably confident in recommending the film.

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