Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Ben Hecht & Charles MacArthur's "The Front Page"

The Front Page is a play written by former Chicago reporters Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur. The setting is the Chicago Criminal Courts Building in the 1920's.  Tabloid reporters, waiting for the hanging of Earl Williams, convicted of murdering a black policeman, sit around a table  encircled in cigarette smoke playing poker (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Front_Page).

All of a sudden, they hear that the convicted murderer has escaped.  Everyone stampedes out of the room except Hildy Johnson.  As he sits there, Earl Williams jumps through the window.  Claiming he shot the police officer accidentally, Williams says he was set up by a crooked mayor and sheriff who were looking for black votes for the next election.

Hildy is convinced that Williams is telling the truth.  He helps him hide in a rolltop desk, hoping to whisk him away to safety and interview him when the opportunity presents itself.  However, he finds he has no choice but to ask for help.  Should he approach his cantankerous editor?

The play premiered at the Times Square Theatre on August 14, 1928.  The Earl Williams character, played by George Leach, was loosely based on Terrible Tommy O'Connor.  The Walter Burns character, played by Osgoode Perkins, was based on Hearst editor Walter Howley.  Lee Tracy played Hildy Grant.  Peggy Grant, Hildy's fiancee, was played by Frances Fuller (http://www.broadwayworld.com/shows/cast.php?showid=317001).

The play was adapted for the stage in 1940 under the title His Girl Friday, starring Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell and Ralph Bellamy.

Theater building facade with colonnade spanning second and third stories and marquee and entrance on the left for two theaters.

Times Square Theatre circa 1922 courtesy https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Times_Square_Theater.

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