When Hildy Johnson, the top reporter of a Chicago newspaper announces that he is quitting to get married, his editor, Walter Burns desperately tries to change his mind.
When denial, cursing, and luring don’t work, Walter resorts to tricks. It’s the day before a supposed communist is to be hanged, and all Chicago waits with baited breath. Meanwhile, each of the papers has a man on the story trying to get a scoop or angle for themselves. With a train to catch at midnight to join his fiancé, Hildy is at first not interested, but events and his own habits work against him as the day unfolds, and he can’t help but get roped in, especially when the man to be executed escapes and then almost literally falls into his lap.
The Front Page is a 1974 American comedy-drama film directed by Billy Wilder and starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. The screenplay by Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond is based on Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur’s play of the same name (1928), which inspired several other films.
About the Story
Chicago Examiner reporter Hildebrand “Hildy” Johnson (Jack Lemmon) has just quit his job in order to marry Peggy Grant (Susan Sarandon) and start a new career, when convict Earl Williams (Austin Pendleton) escapes from death row just prior to his execution. Earl is an impoverished, bumbling leftist whose only offense is stuffing fortune cookies with messages demanding the release of Sacco and Vanzetti, but the yellow press of Chicago has painted him as a dangerous threat from Moscow. As a result, the citizenry are anxious to see him put to death.
Earl has not left the jail, and enters the prison pressroom while Hildy is alone there. Hildy cannot resist the lure of what could be the biggest scoop of his soon-to-be-over career. Ruthless, egomaniacal managing editor Walter Burns (Walter Matthau), desperate to keep Hildy on the job, encourages him to cover the story, frustrating Peggy, who is eager to catch their train. When Earl is in danger of being discovered, Mollie Malloy (Carol Burnett), a self-described “$2 whore from Division Street” who befriended Earl, creates a distraction by leaping from the third-floor window.
When Earl is caught, Hildy and Walter are arrested for aiding and abetting a fugitive, but are released when they discover that the mayor and sheriff colluded to conceal Earl’s last-minute reprieve by the governor. Walter grudgingly accepts that he is losing his ace reporter and presents him with a watch as a token of his appreciation. Hildy and Peggy set off to get married, and Walter telegraphs the next railway station to alert them that the man who stole his watch is on the inbound train and should be apprehended by the police.
The Front Page (1974)
Directed by: Billy Wilder
Starring: Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Susan Sarandon, Vincent Gardenia, David Wayne, Allen Garfield, Austin Pendleton
Screenplay by: Billy Wilder, I.A.L. Diamond
Cinematography by: Jordan Cronenweth
Film Editing by: Ralph E. Winters
Costume Design by: Burton Miller
Set Decoration by: James W. Payne
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Release Date: December 17, 1974