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Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Report Card---"The Front Page".

Well, I'm back from New York, and it was certainly not without adventure.
For the first play, it was 6:30 pm, and we had to make a 7:00 curtain.  No late seating.
We were four blocks away from the theater when my wife wheeling me down the street in my
wheelchair, hit a rut in the pavement, and a wheel broke off the wheelchair, and we had to
grab a cab.
The wheelchair immediately became garbage.
I had to resort to hobbling and Ubers for the rest of the trip.
But I adapted.  I got to the theater on time, and it did not affect my appreciation of the plays I saw.
"The Front Page" is a play that was written in the 1920's.
I had never seen it on stage before.
But I had seen it as a movie in its three incarnations:
The 1931 version with  Adolph Menjou and Pat O'Brien as Walter Burns and Hildy Johnson, which was pretty good, 
The 1941 "His Girl Friday" where Hildy Johnson was turned into a female, Rosalind Russell,
opposite Cary Grant as her boss, Walter Burns.
This was probably the best version.
And 1974's version with Jack Lemmon as Hildy and Walter Matthau as Walter Burns.
I liked this version better than most people who saw it.
The stage version had an all-star cast, top-billed by Nathan Lane as Walter Burns.  John Slattery was Hildy Johnson.
John Goodman was in it, Robert Morse, Holland Taylor, best known as Charlie Sheen's mother on "Two And A Half Men"....shtarkers all.
The problem, and it is a HUGE problem, is that Nathan does not appear until nearly the end of the second act of a three-act play.
This was not the case in any version of the movies.
Walter and Hildy shared equal screen time in all the movies.
The first two acts without him are pretty tedious.
John Goodman got entrance applause and was very good, but he didn't make much difference.
The only reason I went to see this was to see Nathan Lane.
After the end of the first act, there were audience walkouts.
At the end of the second act, there were more walkouts.
People felt ripped off.  I couldn't blame them.
But once Nathan hit the stage, he hit the ground running.
It immediately became explosively funny.
And it remained that way until the end.

On to the scoring:

Is it interesting?

Hardly at all.  Until Nathan entered.

Compelling even?


Is it controversial?

With all the better versions of the script, why would they use the one that keeps Nathan offstage for almost the first two hours?

Is it a story worth telling?

I always enjoyed it before.

Is it good storytelling?

Not this version.

Is it well written?

It was, once.  The third act seems well written, but that's because Nathan has every other line.

Is it well cast?  Well played?

Only Nathan mattered. Check out "His Girl Friday".  Billy Gilbert played the part that Robert Morse plays.  It was pure brilliance.  Morse was merely adequate.

Well staged?

A little unfocused.

Did the director put such a personal stamp on it so that no one else could have made it?

Not at all.

How long does it take to establish the show's locale and time period?


Is it too long? Too short?

It was starting to feel endless, until Nathan showed up.

Is it believable? Do you care about the characters?

Only Nathan.

Is it predictable? Does it surprise you?

Only that they used this script.

Do you think about it after you've seen it?

Often, and with much confusion.

Is it funny?

Not as much as it could have been.

Was it  worth the two hundred bucks it cost to see it?

Not at all.

Is it impressive?

I can't say that it was.

Overall grade: B.

I had much higher hopes.
But any time Nathan Lane does a play, I try to show up.  That won't change.


My books, "Show Runner" and it's sequel, "Show Runner Two", can be found at the Amazon Kindle Store.
Along with the newer ones, "The Man Is Dead", and "Report Cards".
They are all compilations of blog entries that have since been removed from the blog.
So this is the only way you can find them.
You can search by typing in my name, Cindy Williams, Laverne and Shirley, The Odd Couple, or Happy Days.
Check them out.
You don't need a Kindle machine to download them.
Just get the free app from Kindle, If and they can be downloaded to an IPhone, IPad, or Blackberry.
The paperbacks, "Mark Rothman's Essays" and my new novel, "I'm Not Garbo" are not e-books.
But they are available for people without Kindle.
I have many readings and signings lined up for those, and the thing about Kindle is you can't sign one.
If you'd like one of the paperbacks, personally autographed, contact me at

And now, we've got my reading of my "Laverne and Shirley Movie" screenplay on YouTube.



  1. What follows is mainly guesswork:

    From your post, I gather that you were unaware that the original play was - is - two and a half hours long.
    You know the movie versions, which are 1:43 (1931), 0:92 (1941), and 1:45 (1974).
    I looked all this up:
    Hecht and MacArthur had nothing to do with any of the movies, so any cutting of the text was done by the screenwriters (Charles Lederer in '31 and '41, Diamond and Wilder in '74).
    On page three of the Samuel French edition of the Hecht-MacArthur play, there's a boxed notice regarding performance rights.
    Two of the four notices read thusly:

    - "No one shall make any changes in this play for purposes of production."

    - (Abridged)
    " ... Both amateurs and professionals considering a production are strongly (italicized) advised in their own interests to apply to Samuel French, Inc., for written permission ..."

    My civilian interpretation of this is that when the producers of the current "Front Page" decided to go with this production, they were bound by these notices.
    If the producers wanted to use another script, such as one of the screenplays, they would be constrained from doing so by the first quoted notice - they would have to use the 2:30 original, or no go.
    Come to think of it, if they wanted to use one of the screenplays instead of the stage play, that would have involved another rights negotiation with the owners of the movies (who probably paid the play's owners handsomely for the privilege of making those changes) and the estates of the screenwriters, over and above those of the people involved with the original play and its production.

    I suppose that the producers should have informed the customers that they were going to get a 1928 stage play in its original form, and not just a staging of one of the movies - not that would have done much good, given that millennials most likely don't know much about the history of anything.

    Would I pay $200 to see this?
    Probably not, but that's mainly because I'm a retiree on a fixed income.

  2. I still think that we were entitled to know that Nathan Lane doesn't show up until the one-hour and forty five minute mark.

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About Me

Hi. I am, according to my Wikipedia entry,(which I did not create) a noted television writer, playwright, screenwriter, and occasional actor. You can Google me or go to the IMDB to get my credits, and you can come here to get my opinions on things, which I'll try to express eloquently. Hopefully I'll succeed. You can also e-mail me at Perhaps my biggest claim to fame is being responsible, for about six months in 1975, while Head Writer for the "Happy Days" TV series, for Americans saying to each other "Sit on it."