Monday, May 8, 2017
Doing Nothing To Prevent It
wrote about it, one of the highlights of the recent TCM Classic Film Festival for me was the new restoration of the 1931 version of THE FRONT PAGE which I had never seen all of before, being mostly familiar with the 1974 Billy Wilder remake and especially Howard Hawks’ HIS GIRL FRIDAY which turned the lead reporter character into a woman and made it a full-on romantic comedy. But THE FRONT PAGE ’31 was a minor revelation, sharply drawn featuring some wonderful character actors as well as a finely honed sense of place which gave me a window to this particular world more than I had ever felt with any other version. And although the source material is largely confined to the age in which it originated, during the cable boom of the 80s it did inspire one more film which I didn’t bother to mention last time around. If SWITCHING CHANNELS is remembered at all these days it’s as the film Michael Caine had to drop out of because he was stuck filming JAWS THE REVENGE, also the reason he was unable to accept the Oscar he won that year. But that aside, this fourth celluloid version of THE FRONT PAGE has been erased from all memory, the sort of thing that maybe gets a brief mention in career summaries of the people involved and not much more. Released by Tri-Star in March 1988 just a few months after the acclaimed BROADCAST NEWS, even then it looked like not much more than an also-ran. My vague recollection is that when Kathleen Turner appeared on Letterman to plug the film and he remarked on the similarity she simply replied, “It’s funnier than BROADCAST NEWS” to which Dave laughed in her face. Now, it’s possible my memory is faulty on this point but regardless you’d better be able to back up such a claim even when you’re in publicity mode and that’s a tough one to pull off. For the record, SWITCHING CHANNELS isn’t funnier than BROADCAST NEWS. It’s isn’t funnier than a lesser MARY TYLER MOORE rerun. It isn’t even funnier than a ninth season episode of MURPHY BROWN. It did open the same day as the Richard Pryor vehicle MOVING, so at the least it has an outside shot of being the funniest movie released that week.