To celebrate its 150th Anniversary, The Jersey Journal — the Loew’s hometown newspaper — wants to give you and everyone else a really neat gift: a fun evening at the Loew’s FOR FREE.
On Saturday, April 29 starting at 7:30PM, you can enjoy a performance on the Loew’s Wonder Organ by Nathan Avakian — who is one of the youngest and most celebrated artists playing theatre organs in our time! And following that, “His Girl Friday” starring Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell. It’s one of the most fast-paced and acclaimed comedies of the Classic Hollywood era, and it just happens to be about crusading newspapers and two rival reporters (who used to be married). It will be shown in 35mm on the Loew’s BIG screen.
And as noted above, it will all be FREE!
Why the big deal about the JJ? In today’s world of blogs and other electronic media, for a newspaper to survive at all is, frankly, a big deal. But for The Jersey Journal to be able to mark 150 years of continuous service to its community is a REALLY big deal. It makes the Loew’s, coming up for 88 years old, seem almost a youngster in comparison.
That means, of course, that the JJ was there when plans for the Loew’s were first announced. The paper covered the Theatre’s grand opening, and its big First Anniversary bash during which legendary Mayor Frank Hague cut a huge cake on stage. The JJ offered reviews of all the live shows that performed on the Loew’s stage in the Theatre’s first years, and carried ads for the hundreds and hundreds of movies that were shown on the Theatre’s screen through the decades. The paper helped announce scrap metal and blood drives at the Loew’s during World War II, and publicized kiddie holiday shows that mayors hosted there during the 1950s and ’60s.
The Jersey Journal was there to publish the news when the Loew’s was closed and scheduled for demolition in 1986. It covered the long fight by Friends of the Loew’s to save the Theatre. And since that battle was won, the paper has also reported on FOL’s work — and sometimes struggle — to renovate, restore, reopen and operate the landmark Theatre as a non-profit arts center for our community.
In other words, The Jersey Journal and the Loew’s Jersey go way back. So it’s wholly fitting that the JJ will celebrate its sesquicentennial in the grand old Theatre that still stands in the Square that bears the paper’s name.
“The Front Page,” a slamming-doors kind of comedy/thriller with rapid fire, street-wise dialogue that was a huge hit on Broadway in 1928, had already been made into a hit 1931 movie of the same title when, in 1940, producer Howard Hawks decided to give it another cinematic turn – but with a decided twist.
The basic setup remained: scheming newspaper editor Walter Burns and star reporter Hildy Johnson have a distinctly symbiotic professional relationship that Hildy is about to break-up by getting married and quitting, but Walter is prepared to do almost anything to prevent that from happening. But in this version, Hildy the hard-charging reporter is a woman — in the considerable persona of Rosalind Russell, who was then entering her prime as an archetype of the energetic, ambitious woman. And Walter the editor was transmuted into also being Hildy’s ex-husband, played by Cary Grant with his trademark blend of cheerful nonchalance and devilish manipulation. In doing this, Hawks added a scintillating battle of the sexes to the already very funny proceedings. And if anything, this version makes the original’s barbs about political corruption, the courts, and freedom of the press even sharper.
As Hildy announces her intention to forsake journalism for marriage to the decidedly cloddish Bruce Baldwin (played to typecast perfection by Ralph Belamy), her editor and ex-husband feigns happiness, all the while plotting to try to win her back. The ace up Walter’s sleeve is late-breaking news concerning the impending execution of anarchist Earl Williams (John Qualen) that lays bare blatant political chicanery – the kind of story Walter knows Hildy the consummate reporter can’t pass up. The proceedings get still hotter when Williams escapes and is hidden from the cops by Hildy and Walter right in the prison pressroom.
“His Girl Friday” arguably has the fastest, most cleverly constructed script of any comedy of the 1930s/early ‘40s, with kaleidoscope action, instantaneous plot twists, and overlapping dialogue. And if you listen closely, you’ll hear a couple of “in” jokes, one concerning Cary Grant’s real name (Archie Leach), and another poking fun at Ralph Bellamy’s patented “poor sap” screen image.
At the time, “His Girl Friday” was also rather groundbreaking cinema for the portrayal of a woman as a hard-charging, intelligent and thoroughly professional reporter who may well have been even smarter than her scheming editor and ex. In this, Rosalind Russell became the screen epitome of a female reporter decades before Candice Bergen’s star turn as TV’s Murphy Brown.