Wednesday, April 22, 2020
Nate Hood's Quarantine Capsule #17: The Front Page  ★★★★
And while The Front Page certainly has more going for it than mere looks, one can’t discuss the film without acknowledging that its most striking element is Glen MacWilliams’ wildly inventive cinematography. (It’s like how the first thing anyone talks about in Howard Hawks’ classic 1940 remake His Girl Friday is…the talking, specifically the lightning fast repartee between Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell.) Milestone clearly hadn’t shaken all his silent film sensibilities off, as the film demonstrates a kinetic liveliness and pictorial complexity many of its era literally couldn’t match due to the clunky weight and fussiness of early sound equipment. One can’t help but marvel at some of the camerawork like the opening shot of a lightning-fast pull-back from a close-up of a sack of flour tied with a noose to a long shot of the gallows. Or consider a later shot where a harried sheriff passes out papers to a group of reporters. As he circles their table—sheriff in the background, reporters in the foreground—the camera tracks him as he completes his 540° circuit, creating an oddly striking carousel effect.
But The Front Page isn’t just a film to stare at, it features some of the briskest dialogue, character work, and humor of Milestone’s career. And personally, I loved how it’s a time capsule of how early twentieth century Americans talked. There’s something strangely charming in how they talk about “hamburger sandwiches” and sending “postal cards.”