"They couldn’t find a fart in a rain barrel!"
Description: Charles Durning as Murphy, a 1920s Chicago newspaperman refers to incompetent prison guards in the motion picture The Front Page (1974). Murphy also said, ""May the wind at your back never be your own," as he toasted fellow newspaper man Hildy (Jack Lemmon) when he announced he was leaving to get married.
Hildebrand "Hildy" Johnson and Murphy work for the Chicago Examiner. When Hildy announces he is leaving the paper to get married to Peggy Grant (Susan Sarandon) and take a job at an advertising firm in Philadelphia, his fellow reporters suggest he will miss being a journalist. Hildy replies:
"Journalists. Bunch of crazy butt-in-skies with dandruff on their shoulders and holes in their pants. Peeking through keyholes, waking people up in the middle of the night to ask them what they think about Aimee Semple McPherson. Stealing pictures off old ladies of their daughters that get raped in Oak Park. And for what? So a million shop girls and motormen's wives can get their jollies. And the next day, somebody wraps the front page around a dead mackerel."
Hildy further adds he doesn't want end up "gray-haired, humpbacked, half blind, bummin' cigarettes from office boys."
As Hildy prepares to leave the paper, ruthless, egomaniacal managing editor Walter Burns (Walter Matthau) is not amused at the prospect of losing his ace reporter. Burns wants Hildy to cover the execution of alleged revolutionary Earl Williams (Austin Pendleton) who is sentenced to be hanged at 7:00 a.m. the next day. Burn sets out to keep Hildy in town so he can report the event for the newspaper.
Walter also suggests that Hildy get an exclusive snapshot of Williams swinging by the neck. Hildy protests, "What are you talkin' about? That's against the law. You can't bring a camera in there." But Walter Burns insists, "Who's gonna know? Here, I had this specially rigged up. You clip it to your ankle, you run the tube up your pants leg. Make a hole in your pocket. The minute Williams drops through that trap door you lift your pants leg and squeeze the bulb. Clever?"
|Burns:||Do I have to everything myself? Get the story? Write the story?|
|Hildy:||Listen sap head, I could blow a better story out of my ass umm nose than you can write.|
When Earl Williams escapes from death row in the Cook County Jail, he finds refuge with his girlfriend, Mollie Malloy (Carol Burnett), a self-described "$2 whore from Division Street" who is convinced of his innocence and contacts Hildy Johnson for help. Hildy believes he has the scoop of the century and so he postpones his wedding plans as poor Peggy waits in the background for her man.
Hildy hides Williams inside a roll top desk while Burns calls moving men to transport the desk to a secure spot, so they can interview the man and get an exclusive. But the plan backfires when the sheriff discovers Williams hiding place.
As reporters rush to their phones, they send off these statements to their respective papers:
"Earl Williams was captured in the Criminal Courts Building hiding in a desk...He put up a desperate struggle, but he was overpowered...He tried to shoot it out with the cops, but his gun jammed...Williams was betrayed by an old sweetheart, who then attempted suicide...Duffy, take this down. The Examiner, guardian and conscience of Chicago having single-handedly captured Earl Williams has just handed him over to Sheriff what's-his-name."
With Earl Williams caught, Hildy and Walter are arrested for aiding and abetting a fugitive but are released when they discover "Honest Pete" Hartman, the Sheriff of Clark County (Vincent Gardenia) and the Mayor of Chicago (Harold Gould) had colluded to keep secret a last-minute pardon of Earl by the governor. Burns accuses the Mayor of "Hanging a man just to win an election....You'd hang your mother for a couple of lousy votes." Of course the Mayor denies the allegations and promptly arranges to release Burns, Hildy and Earl Williams.
Finally free to get married, Hildy and his fiancee depart on the local train. Before they go, Burns begrudgingly wishes Hildy well and as a parting gift he gives Hildy a pocket watch. But, as soon as the train leaves, Burns shouts, "The son-of a bitch stole my watch!" and
sends a telegram to the police chief at Gary, Indiana to meet the midnight train to Philadelphia and arrest one Hildy Johnson. Like the Canadian Mounties, Walter Burns always gets his man.
Note: In the film Lucky Lady (1975) Liza Minnelli as Claire says, “Gee, it’s so quiet in here you could hear a fish fart.”
The Front Page (1974) is based on the 1928 play of the same name written by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur. The play has been adapted to film before, first in the 1933, starring Adolphe Menjou as Walter Burns and Pat O'Brien as Hildy Johnson, and then in 1940 under the name His Girl Friday, with Rosalind Russell Hildy Johnson and Cary Grant as her ex-husband, Walter Burns. Still another adaptation was made as Switching Channels (1988) with Burt Reynolds, Kathleen Turner and Christopher Reeve.
Below are some examples from that adaptation:
"Now, get this, you double-crossing chimpanzee: There ain't going to be any interview and there ain't going to be any story. And that certified check of yours is leaving with me in twenty minutes. I wouldn't cover the burning of Rome for you if they were just lighting it up. If I ever lay my two eyes on you again, I'm gonna walk right up to you and hammer on that monkeyed skull of yours 'til it rings like a Chinese gong! - Hildy [to Burns on the phone]
"Listen to me, you great big bubble-headed baboon." - Hildy Johnson [to Burns]
"You've got the brain of a pancake. This isn't just a story you're covering - it's a revolution. This is the greatest yarn in journalism since Livingstone discovered Stanley." Burns [to Hildy]
"Madam, you are a cock-eyed liar!" - Walter Burns
"Oh, good evening madam. Now listen, you ten-cent glamour girl. You can't keep Butch away from his duty!... What's that?... You say that again, I'll come over there and kick you in the teeth!... Say, what kind of language is that? Now look here you." - Walter Burns
Walter Burns: What do you think I am, a crook?
Hildy Johnson: Yes.