The Bette Davis Project: Front Page Woman (1935)

Front Page Woman (1935)Synopsis:

Ellen Garfield (Bette Davis) is an ambitious reporter who is tired of playing second fiddle to her male counterparts. Rival newsman Curt Devlin (George Brent, Dark Victory) is in love with Ellen, but he also happens to be an incorrigible sexist. A sensational murder case triggers a man-vs-woman battle between Ellen and Curt.

Reaction & Thoughts:

I thoroughly enjoyed this admittedly predictable programmer. Front Page Woman, written by Laird Doyle, Lillie Hayward, and Roy Chanslor, directed by Michael Curtiz (Casablanca and Mildred Pierce), is your typical battle of the sexes story, but it is a lot of fun. It is also a clever spoof of newspaper people. Both elements — feminism and media circus — are integrated smoothly into the narrative.

Cutiz’s rapid pace, the witty script, and the hilarious banter between Davis and Brent, make this quickie a pleasant viewing experience from start to finish. Davis surprised me here. I’ve been very critical of her comedic abilities, but I’m now retracting a bit from my harsh criticism. Not sure if it was the script or Curtiz’s direction, but she’s syllable perfect and her timing is flawless. Davis has, of course, excellent rapport with Brent. They aren’t Tracy and Hepburn, but they are an acceptable facsimile of the real thing.

Although they had appeared together in three previous films, this is the first time Davis and Brent played the leading roles. Warner Bros. quickly recognized that they had something worth exploiting and the studio re-teamed them in multiple films. The cast also includes J. Carrol Naish (Rio Grande), Roscoe Karns (His Girl Friday), and Joseph Crehan (The Big Sleep).

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Anyhow, Front Page Woman is an unpretentious romantic farce, perfect for a slow night. It’s short and very entertaining, and more important, Davis is great in a rare comedic role. B&W, 82 minutes, Not Rated.

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