Suvarna Garge (Editor)

The Front Page

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Adapted from
The Front Page


The Front Page The Front Page the FastTalking Broadway Revival About the

Written by
Ben Hecht Charles MacArthur

Date premiered
August 14, 1928 (1928-08-14)

Place premiered
Times Square Theater New York City

The Press Room of the Criminal Courts Building in Chicago, 1928

His Girl Friday (1940), The Front Page (1974), The Front Page (1931), Switching Channels (1988)

Theater talk the front page

The Front Page is a hit Broadway comedy about tabloid newspaper reporters on the police beat, written by former Chicago reporters Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur which was first produced in 1928. The play has been adapted for the cinema several times.


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The play's single set is the dingy press room of Chicago's Criminal Courts Building, overlooking the gallows behind the Cook County Jail. Reporters from most of the city's newspapers are passing the time with poker and pungent wisecracks about the news of the day. Soon they will witness the hanging of Earl Williams, a white man and supposed Communist revolutionary convicted of killing a black policeman. Hildy Johnson, cocky star reporter for the Examiner, is late. He appears only to say good-bye; he is quitting to get a respectable job and be married. Suddenly the reporters hear that Earl Williams has escaped from the jail. All but Hildy stampede out for more information. As Hildy tries to decide how to react, Williams comes in through the window. He tells Hildy he is no revolutionary, and that he shot the police officer by accident. The reporter realizes this bewildered, harmless little man was railroaded — just to help the crooked mayor and sheriff pick up enough black votes to win re-election. It is the story of a lifetime. Hildy helps Williams hide inside a roll-top desk. His daunting challenge now is to get Williams out of the building to a safe place for an interview before rival reporters or trigger-happy policemen discover him. Hildy has no choice but to ask for help from Walter Burns, managing editor of the Examiner — a devious tyrant who would do just about anything to keep Hildy with the newspaper.


The Front Page Gold Coast Arts Center The Front Page on Broadway

The Front Page was produced by Jed Harris and directed by George S. Kaufman, with settings by Raymond Sovey. It opened at the Times Square Theatre, New York City, on August 14, 1928, and ran 278 performances before closing in April 1929.


The Front Page The Front Page at Broadhurst Theater New York NY tickets

The authors' expert plotting and rapid-fire, streetwise dialogue delighted audiences and made their play an instant classic. Hecht and MacArthur strongly influenced many other American comic writers, especially in Hollywood.

The newspapers are modeled on the City News Bureau of Chicago (where MacArthur had worked), Chicago Daily News (where Hecht was a reporter), and Chicago's American. The character Earl Williams is loosely based on "Terrible" Tommy O'Connor. Walter Burns is a thinly disguised caricature of Hearst editor Walter Howey.


The play was restaged four more times on Broadway. In 1946, the revival was directed by Charles MacArthur and ran for 79 performances. The 1969-70 revival was the most successful of these. It was produced at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre and starred Robert Ryan and Bert Convy as Burns and Johnson, running for a total of 222 performances. The 1986-87 revival was produced at the Vivian Beaumont at Lincoln Center, directed by Jerry Zaks and starred Richard Thomas as Hildy and John Lithgow as Burns. This production ran for 57 performances.

A Broadway revival opened at the Broadhurst Theatre, in a limited engagement, starting on September 20, 2016 in previews and officially on October 20. Directed by Jack O'Brien, the cast starred Nathan Lane as Walter Burns, John Slattery as Hildy Johnson, John Goodman as Sheriff Hartman, Jefferson Mays as Bensinger, Holland Taylor as Mrs. Grant, Sherie Rene Scott as Mollie Malloy and Christopher McDonald as Murphy. The production received generally good notices, especially for Lane, and became the first show of the season to recoup and turn a profit.

An adaptation by John Guare of His Girl Friday was produced at The La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego, California, in 2013, directed by Christopher Ashley.


The Front Page has been adapted to film a number of times:

  • The Front Page (1931), directed by Lewis Milestone, starring Adolphe Menjou and Pat O'Brien and Helen Kane.
  • His Girl Friday (1940), directed by Howard Hawks, starring Cary Grant as Walter and Rosalind Russell as Hildy, who in this version is female and Walter's ex-wife. A romantic element is added to the plot, as Walter is trying to win Hildy back both professionally and personally.
  • The 1931 film was adapted to radio by Academy Award Theater (1948), with Menjou and O'Brien reprising their roles from the film.
  • The Front Page (1949), CBS Television series, starring Richard Boone and John Daly
  • The Front Page (1974), directed by Billy Wilder, starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau.
  • Switching Channels (1988), starring Burt Reynolds and Kathleen Turner, with the newspaper reporters updated to television reporters and none of the original dialogue retained.
  • His Girl Friday and Switching Channels changed the male lead Hildebrand 'Hildy' Johnson to females Hildegaard 'Hildy' Johnson and Christy Colleran respectively. John Varley's 1991 science fiction novel Steel Beach takes the story — and the change of sex — to another level; the plot includes a sex-change by a male reporter named Hildy Johnson.

    There have also been four television productions, all under the title The Front Page:

  • 1945, in the US;
  • 1948, in the UK;
  • 1949–1950 (see above) in the US as a series on CBS;
  • 1970, in the US
  • The musical Windy City (book and lyrics by Dick Vosburgh, music by Tony Macaulay) was also based on The Front Page. It premiered at the Victoria Palace Theatre, London, England on July 20, 1982 and ran for 250 performances.

    Additionally, Hecht and MacArthur's story for the 1939 film Gunga Din recycles their basic plot of trying to dissuade someone from leaving his job, in this case Douglas Fairbanks Jr.'s character attempting to resign his post in the British army and comrades Grant and Victor McLaglen conniving to prevent it.


    The Front Page was included in Burns Mantle's The Best Plays of 1928–29.

    The 1986 Broadway revival was nominated for two 1987 Tony Awards: Best Revival and Best Scenic Design (Tony Walton), and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Set Design.


    The Front Page Wikipedia

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