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A: Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur Pf: 1928, New York Pb: 1928 G: Drama in 3 acts S: Press room of Criminal Courts, Chicago, 1920s C: 19m, 5fA group of cynical journalists await the hanging of Earl Williams, a ‘Bolshevik’ who has murdered a black policeman. For the unscrupulous Mayor and bungling Sheriff, the execution is crucial in securing the African-American and law-and-order vote in the impending election. Hildy Johnson, a crime reporter for 15 years, arrives in the press room to say goodbye, since he is marrying, moving to New York, and taking a job in advertising. When news comes that Williams has escaped, the reporters rush off, leaving Hildy alone. Williams appears through the window, and Hildy hides him in a large folding desk. On the verge of scooping the best story of his life, Hildy callously delays his wedding, and phones his boss, the hard-bitten editor Walter Burns. When the police arrive back, Hildy and Burns are arrested for harbouring a criminal, but are released when it becomes clear that the Mayor and Sheriff Hartman have been trying to conceal Williams's reprieve. Hildy and his long-suffering fiancée Peggy finally leave, and Burns gives Hildy his gold watch as a present. Burns then telegraphs the police in Indiana, insisting that they arrest Hildy for stealing his watch.

A: Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur Pf: 1928, New York Pb: 1928 G: Drama in 3 acts S: Press room of Criminal Courts, Chicago, 1920s C: 19m, 5f

The world of modern journalism, with its ‘dramatically’ breaking news stories and sceptical view of society and politics, has provided dramatists with interesting material (e.g. Wesker's The Journalists (1975); Hare and Brenton's Pravda (1985), and The Front Page stands as the first major play set in a press room. It allows the writers opportunities for not only a robust and lively comedy but also for a sharply satirical view of the insensitive and misogynistic world of newspapermen and of corrupt and bungling local government, anticipating the similarly farcical but thought-provoking Dario Fo's Accidental Death of an Anarchist. Of the three film versions, Howard Hawks's His Girl Friday (1940), with Hildy as a woman, was the most successful.

Subjects: Theatre — Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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Authors

Ben Hecht (1894—1964)


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