Sunday, January 31, 2016

µ-Blog – Shortcut at Ikea

µ-Blog – Too long to tweet, too short to call a real post

I went to Ikea today. I made the mistake of taking a shortcut and not following the little arrows they have on the floor. I ended up having to hire a clerk named Sven on loan from the home office to show me how to get to the front. It took the better part of the afternoon. It turns out that Sven was a woman, but I'm convinced that she could take the Rock in a cage fight. I did end up getting a really cool set of five tea light holders for only $3, so there is that.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Announcement: The Blogathon From Another World, April 9–10, 2016

It's on. The Blogathon From Another World has started. To see the posts, go to:

In honor of two Sci-Fi movie milestones in April, Blog of the Darned will be hosting The Blogathon From Another World, April 9–10, 2016:

  • April 7 would have been the 70th birthday of science fiction special effects makeup artist, Stan Winston. Winston died in 2008 of multiple myeloma, a blood cancer. Stan Winston did landmark effects in the John Carpenter's The Thing, The Terminator (and Terminator 2: Judgment Day), Aliens, Predator, Jurassic Park, and many more.
  • April 6, marks the 65th anniversary of the 1951 Christian Nyby/Howard Hawks classic, The Thing From Another World.
    [Updated April 6, 2016: I'm not sure what happened here. It turns out the release date for The Thing From Another World is actually April 27, 1951, not April 6. Both IMDB and Wikipedia agree on that date. I'm not sure where I got April 6, I'm pretty sure I didn't pull it out of my butt. Possibly, the date was updated since I posted this or I got it from a different source. Anyway, apologies.]

In the context of The Blogathon From Another World, the broadest possible definition is applied. Films can be of any era from Georges Méliès A Trip to Moon to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The only restriction is that it must be a theatrical film, not television, i.e., Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is fine, Star Trek, the original TV series, not so much. Beyond that, just about anything is fair game, Godzilla (radioactive monster), Spider-Man (radioactive spider), or Kiss Me Deadly (radioactive beach house). Okay, so maybe the last one wasn't the best example, but I bet if you turned on Kiss Me Deadly during the two minutes you might think it's a Sci-Fi film.

Since most of my film cronies lean toward classic film, I encourage participants to step outside of their comfort zones. Obviously the 1950s was great time for science fiction, but so were the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. Some ideas just to get you started:

  • A comparison of a classic sci-fi film and its modern remake, like the 1953 War of the Worlds with the Spielberg version. 
  • A look at several Sci-Fi films by the same actor, director, or effects artist. For example, two of my all-time top five science fiction films star the same actor, and no, it's not Harrison Ford. 
  • A review of a great underrated Sci-Fi film, like They Live or Miyazaki's, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.
  • Sci-Fi films where the sequel is better than the original, or where the sequel is so bad it kills the franchise
Lineup so far
  • 301 Words – Baseball writer Geoff Young steps out of the batter's box and looks at Serenity (2005)
  • Blog of the Darned – That would be me. I'll be doing The Evolution of Movie Robots: Metropolis to Chappie 
  • BNoirDetour! – BNoirDetour looks at Dark City (1998)
  • Christy's Inkwells – Christy looks at Mysterious Island (1961)
  • CineMaven's ESSAYS from the COUCH – CineMavens brings us a Mara Corday Triple Feature, briefly covering three sci-fi classics from the 50's: The Black Scorpion (1957), Tarantula (1957), and The Giant Claw (1957).
  • F for Films – Josh Wilson looks at Tron (1982)
  • Film Perspective – Elise Sitzman tackles Contact (1997)
  • Horrible Imaginings Film Fest & Podcast – My San Diego homeboy Miguel Rodriguez and I will be doing a podcast on Frau im Mond (1929). Great suggestion, Miguel. This has been on my bucket list for a while.
  • In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood – Crystal takes on Spielberg's 1982 classic, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
  • Movie Movie Blog Blog – Steve Bailey looks at Spiderman 2 (2004), a film where the sequel surpasses the original
  • Serendipitous Anachronisms – Summer Reeves looks at the anime classic Akira (1988)
  • Speakeasy – Kristina looks at The Valley of Gwangi (1969)

Please use the #BlogathonFromAnotherWorld when promoting the blogathon. I also created the following graphics. Please feel to use any of them or the one at the top to promote/use on blogathon posts. More to come later.

I created this with the Star Wars Crawl Creator;
you can see the full crawl here
[Need to click, BEGIN to see it run] 

If you are interested, please post a comment indicating your planned topic. Or feel free to contact me using the email link by clicking my name under About Me.

Thank you

Friday, January 22, 2016

Star–Director Blogathon: Billy Wilder and William Holden, a Match Made in— Well, Probably Not Heaven

This post is part of the CLASSIC SYMBIOTIC COLLABORATIONS: The Star–Director Blogathon

If you had asked me 20 years ago who my favorite director was, I would have said, Alfred Hitchcock without batting an eye. If you asked me now, I still might say, Alfred Hitchcock, but I'd really have to agonize over it. Now, if this post is supposed to be about Billy Wilder, why am I talking about Alfred Hitchcock?

Well, I love Alfred Hitchcock, but he is kind of a one trick pony. It's a really really good trick, and nobody else can do that trick as well as he could. Likely, no one ever will. The reason I now have to agonize over my favorite director is that Billy Wilder could do it all, and nowhere is that more evident than his collaboration with William Holden. In the early to mid-1950s, the pair made three films together, and they about as far apart from each other as films could possibly be:

  • Sunset Blvd. (1950)
  • Stalag 17 (1953)
  • Sabrina (1954)
Two decades later, they teamed up again for, Fedora. The parallels between Sunset Blvd. and Fedora are obvious. If you haven't seen Fedora, it's not about a private eye. That's what the title suggested to me. It's about a movie star, Fedora, who retired and has been living in seclusion in Europe. Obviously, Fedora is two film greats way past their prime trying to recapture their glory days with a rehash of arguably their greatest film together. Or is it? I mean isn't William Holden's character basically the same person as in Sunset Blvd.

Well, except for that whole face-down-in-the-pool thing. Ooh, spoilers. Sorry. I'm going to assume that everyone has seen the first three films and not the last one. Probably, a fairly safe bet. With the exception of the face-down-in-the-pool comment above, I tend to avoid spoilers whenever possible. On Billy Wilder-William Holden pairings from the 1950s, there may be some minor spoilers. On Fedora, I'll do my best to have none.

Let's look at these films separately.

Sunset Blvd.

Like many of Billy Wilder's films, Sunset Blvd. is a bit hard to classify. IMDB calls it both Drama and Film Noir while Wikipedia refers to if as Black Comedy/Drama and Film Noir.  I think all of these work. Most of the comedy in the film stems from Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) saying very funny things that she doesn't realize are funny, or William Holden editorializing about the things she says or does. You feel like you are a bad person for laughing. So, yeah, Black Comedy works. At its heart, Sunset Blvd. is essentially a Tragedy. William Shakespeare couldn't have done better. So, Drama works as well. Film Noir, hmmm. Well, it doesn't have any hard-boiled private eyes. No back alleys or dark nightclubs, but where does most of the movie take place. A Beverly Hills mansion totally gone to seed. An architectural tribute to a bygone era. A mausoleum. How does the Holden voiceover describe the place. 

"The whole place seemed to have been stricken with a kind of creeping paralysis— Out of beat with the rest of the world, crumbling apart in slow motion."  

Sounds a bit Film Noir to me.  Oh yeah, then there's William Holden face down in the— Oops.

And what of the star? William Holden is a down-on-his-luck screenwriter. A former newspaper man who had come to Hollywood to write movies. With only a couple of B-pictures to his credit, he grinds out original stories, two a week, only to not have them sell. He's just an ordinary guy, trying make it in a very rough business. He's trying to avoid having to go back to his old job at the city desk of a Midwestern newspaper and admit to himself that he couldn't make it.

Leave it to Billy Wilder to take Film Noir, a genre that had barely been defined, and turn it on its ear. Look at the characters:

  • Joe Gillis (Holden), his only crime is wanting to make a living writing movies, unless you count missing a few car payments and trying to keep it from being repossessed
  • Norma Desmond (Swanson), delusional, unwilling to accept that the world has moved on
  • Max (Erich von Stroheim), out of love for Norma, he writes her fan mail, so that she can keep her illusions alive
  • Betty Schaefer (Nancy Olson), I like to think of her as an unjaded version of William Holden, before the Hollywood machine had beaten him. Of all the central characters, she's the one that comes through with the least scars. She only has to deal with losing William Holden and likely end up being married to Jack Webb.
None of them are bad people, they're all just twisted by forces beyond their control. If that's not Film Noir, I have no idea what is. There's a certain poetry to Sunset Blvd. from the first frame to the last. It's a masterpiece.

For the part of Joe Gillis, Marlon Brando, Fred MacMurray, and Montgomery Clift were also considered. Clift even signed to play the role and withdrew, claiming it was too close to the role he played in The Heiress. I think it might have worked with any of them. Fred MacMurray was possibly a bit old, only about 10 years younger than Swanson. I really think the age difference is a factor. Brando would have been mid-twenties, possibly a bit young. Montgomery Clift was only a couple of years younger than Holden, but I'm thinking he would have looked younger than Brando. Also, I always got an innocence and vulnerability from Clift. Joe Gillis is world weary and cynical. William Holden could do cynical like no one's business. I just don't see anyone being better in the role than William Holden. It was a signature role for him and his first nomination for an Academy Award.

Stalag 17

Here we have Billy Wilder's take on a War drama, but is about patriotism, comradery, or courage under fire? No, it's about greed and suspicion and betrayal. In a German prison of war camp, the men in a certain barracks always find that the Germans are one step ahead of them and suspect an informer in their midst. Suspicion falls on William Holden's character, Sgt. Sefton, because he always has some scheme going, selling cigarettes and holding gambling events, and using the profits to buy better food and treatment from the German guards. Like most Wilder films, it's a great story with a great cast of characters in roles both large and small, all executed with absolute precision. 

Stalag 17 was shot in sequence, in the same order as the final film. A rarity because it generally takes longer and is more expensive. Many of the actors didn't know about the final plot twist until they were about to shoot it. A former POW, William LaChasse, was hired in a bit part, and the production based much of the look of the camp on his recollections. Holden donned a crewcut and often went unshaven to downplay his looks and add to the gritty reality of the film.

Once again, William Holden was not the first choice for the role. Originally, Charlton Heston was considered. Then, Kirk Douglas was offered the role and turned it down, later saying it was the biggest mistake of his career. William Holden didn't want the part either. The film is based on a stage play. Holden walked out during the first act and later had to be coaxed into reading the screenplay. Still, he refused the role, but the studio bullied him into doing it. During production, William Holden was constantly trying to get Billy Wilder to make changes to the script to make his character more sympathetic. Wilder refused. 

The thing I love about William Holden is that he always have some sort of angle, making him perfect for that role of Sgt. Sefton, who knows all the angles. I really can't imagine anyone else in the role. Definitely, the character is unsympathetic, but Holden's natural charm keeps you on his side. And what did William Holden get out of it, only an oscar for Best Actor, beating out Burt Lancaster and Montgomery Clift in From Here to Eternity.


Sabrina with David (and William Holden)
Sabrina might be the weakest of the films being considered. Why? Because it's just a light comedy. It's fluff and doesn't have the edge that you'd expect out of a Billy Wilder comedy. Yet, the remake 40 years later had only a few minor tweaks to update it and works great. It's cute. It's funny. What more do you want from a comedy? There's a theme about differences in class, but nothing heavy handed. Originally, Cary Grant was cast to play the older Larrabee brother, Linus, and Humphrey Bogart was brought in as a last minute replacement. Personally, I think it works better with Bogart. I think it would be too easy for Audrey Hepburn to fall in love with Cary Grant. Having Bogart get the girl makes the story that much more touching for me.

I'm sure the role of the younger playboy brother, David, was not very demanding for William Holden. Then again, I can't imagine the roles being very demanding for anyone in the cast. When released several critics said they thought Holden would have been better playing Linus and a younger actor playing David. Again, I think you would have the same problem as with Cary Grant. Why wouldn't Audrey Hepburn fall in William Holden as the older brother. As it was, the casting was perfect. William Holden's charm and easy good looks are the perfect counterpoint to Bogart's craggy awkwardness. Only Billy Wilder could have Humphrey Bogart get the girl over William Holden and make it work.

Much of what you see online about the film involves Audrey Hepburn's clothes. I don't think that Sabrina was much more than a blip on the radar for either Billy Wilder or William Holden, but what a wonderful blip. If this is one of their lesser films for both Wilder and Holden, I only wish they had made 10 more each that were just as good.


Fedora couldn't be more of a perfect bookend to the Billy Wilder-William Holden relationship if it tried. I hadn't seen it until about a week ago. I've been working my way through the later Billy Wilder films for the last couple of months. I'm only missing a couple of them (Avanti and Buddy Buddy). I have to say it's easily my favorite of the later Billy Wilder films. 

William Holden plays Dutch Detweiler, a down-on-his-luck film producer, trying to coax classic film star, Fedora, out of retirement. When Holden finds her living in seclusion on a small island in Greece, something is wrong. Fedora appears to be being held prisoner by her doctor (José Ferrer) and her benefactor, the Countess Sobryanski (Hildegard Knef). I honestly don't think I can go into much more detail on the plot without spoiling things. 

Fedora only saw limited release, prompting Billy Wilder to complain that the studio spent about $625 on marketing. Admittedly, Fedora is not a perfect film. I have a feeling that 1970s audiences found the voice-overs and flashback within a flashback structure old-fashioned and offputting. I was fine with it, but then again I watch a lot of old movies. My biggest problem was that it seem overly melodramatic. Billy Wilder had wanted Marlene Dietrich to play the role of Fedora, and Faye Dunaway as her daughter Antonia. I think that stronger casting of the female characters might have turned this flawed but interesting film into a truly great film. That wasn't meant to be. Dietrich apparently hated the book and thought the screenplay did little to improve it. It's not clear to me whether Faye Dunaway was seriously considered beyond Billy Wilder wanting her.

For William Holden, it was a good solid performance. Maybe not Network, but still.... So is Fedora a couple of has-beens clutching at straws? No, not really. Sure, no one is ever going to say it's a better film than Sunset Blvd., but it does have something to say Hollywood and the cost of fame. And that something is not the same thing that Sunset Blvd. says. In fact, it deals with something that Sunset Blvd. only hints at, the double standard in Hollywood with regard to male and female actors. Male actors are allowed to age gracefully. Female actors, not so much.

Thanks to Billy Wilder's skill, you buy Humphrey Bogart in Sabrina getting a girl far too young for him over the more or less age-appropriate and better looking. William Holden. Theresa Wright and Ida Lupino were both born the same year as William Holden. The year that Holden was nominated for Best Actor in Network. Theresa Wright did a made-for-TV called Flood, and appeared in a TV series called The Wide World of Mystery, in an episode titled "Terror in the Night." That same year, Ida Lupino made a film called Food of the Gods (about giant wasps). The fictitious Fedora, she did what many older actresses do when they don't want to co-star opposite giant insects. She tries to fade into the background and let her public remember her as she was. If you haven't seen Fedora, hint, it doesn't work out for her. 

Check out other posts in the CLASSIC SYMBIOTIC COLLABORATIONS: The Star–Director Blogathon

Monday, January 11, 2016

RIP David Bowie – The Man Who Sold the World

I don't normally do this sort of thing, write a tribute to a celebrity when they pass away. I think it's that if I don't know someone personally, it's hard to claim a claim a personal connection to them beyond the obvious connection between artist and audience. Maybe, it's that I spend so much time watching old movies, whenever someone from classic film dies, it's hard to feel bad to hear someone died who was blessed with a very long life. The only thing I know for sure is that the death of David Bowie has hit me a lot harder than these things normally do. 

Looking at Facebook and Twitter, the thing that jumps out at me is that people who are half my age or 20 years older are all feeling the same thing. I think what made David Bowie unique is that he was something of a chameleon. He always managed to stay relevant. Other artists re-invent themselves. Sometimes this is good, sometimes this bad, but it almost always seems contrived. With David Bowie, it was more like he was continually evolving. No matter what he did, he could tap into whatever was happening musically and put out something that was uniquely his but still perfectly at home with what was going on at that moment.

I saw the news in a Facebook post over breakfast. What immediately went through my mind was something that happened on Saturday. My wife and I go to a dance club called, Club Sabbat. The music leans toward industrial, goth, and synth pop. In the back room (on nights when they have a back room), the DJs skew more retro with a mix of 80s music, things like Depeche Mode, The Cure, and Siouxsie and the Banshees, along with older stuff from bands like Convenant, Wolfscheim, and Nine Inch Nails. It's very mixed crowd, gay, straight, whatever falls in between, kids barely old enough get in the bar to people our age, 40s and 50s.

Anyway, it was late Saturday, after 1 am. We were getting ready to leave, when the DJ, put on Fame. What struck me was how well this song held up. Here was a song that was released 40 years ago, older than probably two thirds of the people in the club, yet everybody was digging on it, not because it was old, but because it was good, timeless.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

17 Days and Counting ...

As of today, I have 17 days left of work. My company called it right-sizing. The truth of the matter is it's a combination of downsizing and outsourcing. About half of the technical writers in the office have been let go. In our old group about three quarters of the people will be gone (they had reorganized and our group didn't really have enough work to keep us busy despite other groups drowning). I've let friends know but that's about it. This is my first public post on the matter.

One of my favorite pieces
I woke up yesterday, and for the first time in weeks, I wasn't freaked out. Oh, I'm still a little worried that the family will go destitute, but I figure that I've got about 6 months before I really have to stress about not having a job. What changed? I now know what I'm doing on February 2, and I'm psyched to get started. Years ago, I used to do mosaics mostly out of broken dishes, and I'm starting that up again. My first project is a fireplace surround.

I've been thinking about different design ideas for a couple of weeks now, but it didn't really come together until the last few days. Our house was built in the 19-teens, so I was shooting for Art Deco, in keeping with the age of the house. My original idea was to have two pillars on the fireplace topped with something really cool like a woman's face or the figure of a gazelle or something. I spent a lot of time online looking at pottery, Art Deco reliefs, and anything I could think of. I went to thrift and antique malls looking for inspiration and nothing really jumped out at me. The problem is I needed two things that either matched or at least looked like they went together.

On Sunday, I decided that I should do something with ceramic masks. I went to Party City and got a cheap plastic mask so I could play around with designs. Then I happened on the idea that maybe I should do something Art Deco science fiction, like something out of Flash Gordon. It was with that in mind when I headed to another couple antique stores. The first I knew was mostly furniture, and I didn't expect to find anything there. The second had moved, but there was an architectural salvage place on the same block. There I found my inspiration below.

My inspiration piece
I imagined it as a the top of a space helmet or the head of a robot. I knew right away that this was something I could work with. The idea coalesced over the next day or two with the finishing touches hitting me yesterday morning in the shower. 

In the center of the hearth is a sun. Below it a floating city. On both sides are giant robot guardians. Their outside arms are at their sides; their inside are arms holding tall staffs. At the tops of the staffs are some sort of device pointing at the sun. I haven't decided yet whether it is an artificial sun being powered by the staffs, or a real sun that the staffs are drawing the sun's energy to power the city. The robot guardians are standing on pedestals in a stormy sea. Yes, that's right, ladies and gentlemen, global warming is real. The once fertile world has been transformed into a violent ocean covered planet where the inhabitants only recourse is to live in the clouds. Yes, Mom, I swear, I stopped doing drugs a long long time ago.

Artist rendition
I'm psyched. It's gonna be so cool. Still a bit freaked out about the job thing and the possibility of the family going destitute, but things usually have a way of working out. Toward that end, if you happen to see a Linked-In connection request from me, that would be why.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Front Page (1974) – Cinematic Cover Song

Back in November, I took the train up to Hollywood to see the preview of the TCM/Bonhams classic movie auction. I was only in town for about 4 or 5 hours before I had to jump the train back to San Diego. Whenever I'm up there I like to stop at Amoeba Records, a huge music store. Normally, when I'm there, I spend the entire time looking for music, but they also have movies upstairs. This was the first time I'd ever gone upstairs. 

I ended up buy six DVDs, three of which were from one my favorite directors, Billy Wilder. Of the three, two were later films that they rarely show these days, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970) and the subject of this post, The Front Page (1974). I just got around to watching The Front Page about a week ago.

Before I go on, I want to cover the genealogy of The Front Page. The Front Page was originally a hit play on Broadway, co-written by  Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur. It was considered one of the better plays of 1928 and has been adapted to film four times:

  • The Front Page (1931) – Though not extremely well-known today, this version, directed by Lewis Milestone and starring Adolphe Menjou and Pat O'Brien, was nominated for three Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director and one nomination for Adolphe Menjou as Best Actor (lost all three)
  • His Girl Friday (1940) –  Easily the best known of the remakes today, with the key difference being having the reporter Hildy Johnson be a woman (Rosalind Russell) and the ex-wife of the editor Walter Burns (Cary Grant).
  • The Front Page (1974) – This version directed by Billy Wilder and starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau in the lead roles goes back to the original play with Lemmon as the reporter and Matthau as the editor.
  • Switching Channels (1988) – This version draws from both The Front Page and His Girl Friday and stars Kathleen Turner, Burt Reynolds, and Christopher Reeve. I haven't seen this version and didn't even know it existed until I started researching for this post. The film was considered a failure, and was nominated for two Golden Raspberry Awards, Burt Reynolds (Worst Actor) and Christopher Reeve (Worst Supporting Actor). Now, that I know of it, I really want to see it despite it likely being very bad.

Of these adaptations, there's only one I really know well, His Girl Friday. I'm sure I've seen it easy fifty to a hundred times. I can recite bits of the dialog word-for-word. Before last week, I can't say for sure whether I had seen 1931 version of The Front Page. I probably saw the 1974 version as a kid, when it was shown on TV a year or two after it was released, but if I did, it didn't make a big impression on me, at least, not like other Jack Lemmon/Walter Matthau movies, anyway.

About a week ago, I sat down and watched the 1974 Billy Wilder remake of The Front Page (I also watched the 1931 version as well). Wilder didn't consider it one of his better films and is probably right. For me though, as I watched it (either for the first time as an adult or possibly the first time period), it struck me that this was like listening to a really cool cover version of a song you really like.

I love cover songs. I have hundreds and hundreds of them. In the days of dollar used CDs bins, I often buy albums by a band I barely know because I notice a cover of a song I really like. I think the problem with cover songs, when they go awry, is that they fail to distinguish themselves from the original. Who wants to hear the song played with the same arrangement with only a different singer or more distortion on the guitar solo that is note-for-note the same as the original. Sometimes, it doesn't take very much to make it work, like a singer with a different timber to his voice or female vocals on a song you know from a male singer. My favorite covers are always the ones where the artist takes the song in a completely different direction, like Joey Ramone's version or the Louis Armstrong hit, "What a Wonderful World."

The dialog in the two versions of The Front Page and His Girl Friday is 80% to 90% the same, so seeing the 1974 Billy Wilder version, where I can recite the lines from His Girl Friday by heart, was like hearing a song I love with a different singer who just nails it. 

Billy Wilder didn't like remakes of films, saying "... if a picture is good, you shouldn't remake it, and if it's lousy, why remake it?" It appears that he agreed to do the remake because he had once been a newspaper man himself and thought it was a glamorous profession. Personally, I have a feeling that he went back to the original play rather than His Girl Friday, because he wanted to distinguish his film from the better known version. In that respect, it really works. Knowing Hildy Johnson, as tough dame, hearing her words from a man works in the same way hearing the lyrics from a song you love coming from a singer of the opposite gender.

The cast is awesome. Screen teams just don't get much better than Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. Is it their best work together?  Frankly, no, but some of it comes across brilliantly. Seeing Susan Sarandon in only her fifth film role as Hildy's love interest (remember, Hildy is a man in this version) is a treat. The part of Mollie Malloy is played by none other than Carol Burnett, and it was great to see her in something real and not just a 10-minute bit from her TV show, though the part consists of about the same screen time as one or two of her TV sketches. 

Left to right: Dick O'Neill, David Wayne, Charles Durning, and Allen Garfield
The rest of the cast is almost a who's who of 1970s character actors, Vincent Gardenia as the Sheriff, Harold Gould as The Mayor, and Charles Durning, Herb Edelman, Lou Frizzell, Dick O'Neill, and Allen Garfield as reporters. If you don't know these names, you will surely recognize the faces. Rounding out the cast is David Wayne as Roy Bensinger (the reporter whose desk murderer Earl Williams hides for much of the third act). Aside from the gender switch or switchback if you prefer, one of the few changes is to make the character of Bensinger, gay. Possibly this is in the original stage play, but unless I missed it wasn't even hinted at in The Front Page (1931) or His Girl Friday.

In retrospect, is Billy Wilder's 1974 The Front Page as good as His Girl Friday? No, not even close. Is it as good as one of Wilder's other better films (I can rattle off about a dozen without cheating)? Again, no, not even close. But here's the thing with really great artists, even their bad stuff is well worth a look. That's definitely the case here.