Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
USA, 1931. The Caddo Company. Screenplay by Ben Hecht, Charles MacArthur, adaptation by Bartlett Cormack, additional dialogue by Charles Lederer. Cinematography by Glen MacWilliams. Produced by Howard Hughes, Lewis Milestone. Production Design by Richard Day. Film Editing by Duncan Mansfield. Academy Awards 1930/1931.
Despite the technologically awkward aspects of this 1931 production that leave it horribly dated, this Lewis Milestone classic features a sparkling screenplay (based on the hit stage play) that just can’t be beat. Taking place in a prison’s press room, it stars Adolphe Menjou as a relentless newspaper editor who will stop at nothing to keep his ace reporter (Pat O’Brien) from leaving the business to settle down with a wife (Mary Brian) and proper desk job. A battle of wills is played out one entire evening while the entire press room awaits the execution of a condemned man the next morning. The central conflict is rounded out beautifully by the colourful supporting cast, and all the witty dialogue still sounds sharp after so many decades. This was the first of many remakes of this story, followed by Howard Hawks’ 1939 His Girl Friday (with O’Brien’s reporter role rewritten as a woman for Rosalind Russell), various television versions, a feature remake starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau in the seventies, and the 1988 film Switching Channels, which changed the setting from newspaper journalism to television.