Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Front Page Woman

TCM's programming theme for tonight is working women who decide at the end of the movie that perhaps settling down and getting married isn't such a bad thing after all. One of the movies airing is Front Page Woman at 4:00 AM. I mentioned quite a few of the plot points back in March, and the movie deserves another mention since it's not available on DVD.

Bette Davis plays lady journalist Ellen Garfield, who\s in a rivalry with Curt Devlin (George Brent), each of them trying to scoop the other. Curt loves Ellen, but doesn't think that women make as good of reporters as men -- passing out at an execution might have something to do with that. But Ellen is insistent that women can do the job just as well as men, and wouldn't even think about marrying Curt if he's not going to admit that. Oh, but Ellen is going to get more chances to prove herself, and one of htose chances is about to come if you wait a minute or two -- these mid-1930s Warner Bros. movies don't skimp on the action! An apartment building catches on fire, and Ellen and Curt both race to the scene to get the story, which it turns out is not really about the fire. Ostensibly it is, but Ellen overhears the police refer to one of the escapees by the name of a prominent gangster, while Devlin learns that there was a mystery woman in the gangster's apartment. The gangster dies in hospital, but it was because of a stab wound. Apparently, the fire was just a cover-up.

Nice. So now we've got a murder, which provides ample opportunities for reporters to scoop each other, or to feed each other bogus information so that they'll publish utterly erroneous scoops. And heaven knows that Ellen and Curt take these chances, engaging in all sorts of activites that are probably illegal, which is part of what I wrote about when I mentioned the movie back in March. There's evidence tampering, jury tampering, and all sorts of fraud. And somehow, the cops are so stupid that they have no idea that any of this is going on! It's ludicrous, but a lot of what goes on in these 1930s Warner Bros. movies makes little sense if you think seriously about it.

Front Page Woman is fun in spite of all those plot holes. Bette Davis is energetic, even though this probably wasn't the sort of role she wanted. George Brent isn't as wooden as normal. And Roscoe Karns provides a reasonable amount of comic relief as Brent's photographer. There's nothing groundbreaking or worthy of being called an all-time great here; it's just a nice, entertaining 80-minute ride. In fact, I'd say it's an above average example of the sort of 80-minute movies the studios were putting out during this period: movies that were more than a B-picture, but didn't have any pretentions of being the studios' big prestige movies. And you can do far worse than excelling in such a field.

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