FRONT PAGE WOMAN (director: Michael Curtiz; screenwriters: Roy Chanslor/Laird Doyle/Lillie Hayward/based on the short story Women Are Bum Newspapermen by Richard Macauley; cinematographer: Tony Gaudio; editor: Terry Morse; music: Heinz Roemheld; cast: Bette Davis (Ellen Garfield), George Brent (Curt Devlin), Roscoe Karns (Toots O’Grady), Winifred Shaw (Inez Cordoza), Walter Walker (Judge Hugo Rickard), J. Carroll Naish (Robert Cardoza), Gordon Westcott (Maitland Coulter), Joseph Crehan (Spike), J. Farrell MacDonald (Officer Hallohan), Joseph King (Hartnett), Huntley Gordon (Marvin Q. Stone); Runtime: 82; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Samuel Bischoff; Warner Bros.; 1935)
“Shoots for entertainment rather than for any accuracy on being a newspaper reporter.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A breezy comedy-drama directed briskly and with verve by Michael Curtiz (“Casablanca”/”Captain Blood”/”King Creole”) that shoots for entertainment rather than for any accuracy on being a newspaper reporter. It’s based on the short story Women Are Bum Newspapermen by Richard Macauley and scripted by Roy Chanslor, Laird Doyle and Lillie Hayward.
Curt Devlin (George Brent) and Ellen Garfield (Bette Davis) work for rival big-city newspapers, but they’re lovebirds. He wants to marry her, thinking a woman’s place is in the home, but she won’t marry until she proves to him she’s as good a reporter as any man. While covering a murder story, they wager if she can top him she’ll agree to marry him.
We first see them together covering the execution of a woman, where Garfield faints and Devlin sends in a story for her. The only thing is that her paper, the Star has the same story as his the Express, and both reporters feel the heat from their respective editors. The next story that they are trying to out-scoop each other over is an apartment fire, but the bigger story is that showbiz producer and playboy Marvin Q. Stone (Huntley Gordon) was seen fleeing the building with a stab wound. As the story unravels through the efforts of Devlin and Garfield, we learn that Stone’s girlfriend Inez Cordoza (Winifred Shaw) and polo player Maitland Coulter (Gordon Westcott) were also in the apartment. When Stone dies in the hospital, the film follows the arc of having the reporters topping each other on one story after another until at the end Garfield proves herself by topping him and they call it a truce and kiss as Devlin admits she passes muster as a reporter and she agrees to marry him.
It’s filled with constant wisecracks coming out of the sides of the mouth of every character in the story, including supporting players Roscoe Karns as Brent’s loyal photographer and Joseph Crehan as Davis’ harried editor. It passes for a feminist pic, that is 1930’s style.
REVIEWED ON 3/16/2007 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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