Rosalind Russell, Cary Grant, Ralph Bellamy Dir: Howard Freakin’ Hawks (I inserted awesome middle name, it’s not really his middle name)
All right, let me apologize at the start for plainly stating above that this is a 1940 movie. I’m sure those of you who have seen it already are screaming “But it says MCMXXXIX on the title screen!” It was completed in MCMXXXIX, but was released in January of MCMXL. Calm down.
Here’s the part where I list reasons why you should see it:
Rosalind Russell, who has second billing, but only because she’s not Cary Grant, is onscreen more than anyone in this movie. She is so perfectly cast that one would think she was the first choice for the part. She wasn’t. She wasn’t second either. Or third, or fourth, or fifth. Probably not even sixth. The list of actresses considered are as followed, in order- Carole Lombard, Jean Arthur, Ginger Rogers, Katharine Hepburn, your mama, a spatula, and Rosalind Russell. She was so touched by the consideration that she showed up to the audition with wet hair because shut up. I’m seriously glad they didn’t cast the spatula, it wouldn’t have been anywhere near as good.
Cary Grant, who had first billing because he was Cary Grant. He’s hilarious in this. He’s a fast-talking con-man who happens to be the editor of a newspaper and will stop at nothing to get the story and to get his ex-wife (Russell) back. Listen for him to throw the names of real people into his dialog.
Howard Hawks, the director. He had a lot of unusual ideas about how to get things done in this film. For one thing, he encouraged a lot of ad-libbing and, for another, he had the actors overlap their lines. In other words, person A starts talking, person B starts talking, person A stops talking. Rather than have the audience miss the important lines trying to figure out who to listen to, Hawks put a number of mics (XXXV to be exact) around the room and turned them on and off as necessary.
Little things here and there. Like the guy who looks under women’s skirts as they walk up the stairway, thus earning himself a nickname mentioned only once. And Cliff Edwards, whose presence in a movie will never go unmentioned by me. And the innuendo which is a lot more subtle than pre-code, but still noticeable and still funny.
This movie is famous for the speed at which people talk in the most frenetic moments. It is noticeably rapid but not uncalled-for. How fast is the dialog? I’m glad you asked. It’s so fast, turning on the captions wouldn’t even help Evelyn Wood. BaDUMbum.
The play on which this movie is based has been made into a movie four times. This is the second time. The original story involves two newspapermen who are both men. The first movie was basically the same. In this version, one of the newspapermen is Rosalind Russell (who repeatedly calls herself such), and they amended the script to include the ex-wife storyline. The third time they made this story into a movie it was two men again, and the fourth time it was male/female again. My fingers are tired, I’ll let you google more information on all that. You can start with the search term “The Front Page” which is the title of the play, and the two male/male movies.
If you love yourself even a little you will watch this one.