In the category of "Movies I Kinda Liked Even If Nobody Else Seems To," we have the 1974 remake of The Front Page, directed by
Billy Wilder and starring the two guys in the picture above. No, it's not as wonderful as the 1931 version with Adolphe Menjou and Pat O'Brien,
and it especially isn't as wonderful as the 1940 version, which was entitled His Girl Friday, which put Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell in the
leads. A lot of critics hated the '74 incarnation and legend has it that when Carol Burnett — who plays the heart-of-gold hooker —
found herself on an airplane with The Front Page as the in-flight movie, she got up, commandeered the P.A. system and apologized to all aboard
for contributing to such a stinker. (She's actually the worst thing in it, and I say that as someone who usually loves Carol Burnett. But
she's miscast and her role is burdened with awkward expository dialogue and an over-the-top window-jumping scene.)
Still, no film with Lemmon and Matthau is without interest and there are quite a few terrific character actors aboard to support them,
including Vincent Gardenia, Martin Balsam, Charles Durning, David Wayne and Herb Edelman. Even when those guys are drowning, it's fun to watch
them swim. Austin Pendleton pretty much steals all his scenes in the role of a nervous leftist sentenced to swing...and gee, Susan Sarandon
sure is pretty.
Anyway, I watched the DVD the other night and found myself enjoying the proceedings despite the overacting, a few curious anachronisms
and a resolution that depends too much on a coincidence. Maybe it's that's wonderful command that Lemmon and Matthau seem to possess.
Everything they say, everything they do seems convincing. They did a few later films that not even their chemistry could salvage but this, I
decided, was not one of them. Wilder said that he felt he'd been "done in" (his term) by such obvious casting. Jack and Walter were so
perfect for the parts, he said, that he never stopped to think whether the movie itself was a good idea. It probably wasn't in terms of serving the
underlying material...but I don't care. I just love watching those guys.