Based on the Hecht-MacArthur play made as Front Page in 1931, an editor manipulates his ex-wife into covering an execution instead of leaving to wed.
Reporter Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russell) and editor Walter Burns (Cary Grant) are divorced, but he wants to remarry. He offers her a raise to cover a story; but she is planning to marry Bruce Baldwin (Ralph Bellamy) tomorrow. Walter meets Bruce and takes them to lunch. Walter gets Hildy and Bruce interested in helping Earl Williams get a reprieve. Hildy catches Walter's lie; but he promises to buy insurance, and Hildy accepts, handling Bruce's $500. Hildy comes into the jail press room, learning Earl lost his job and became radical. Walter tells Bruce to make Hildy his beneficiary and gives him a check for $2500. Bruce calls Hildy, who tells him to put it in his hat. Hildy gives money to get an interview with Earl Williams (John Qualen), who says it was an accident. Molly Malloy (Helen Mack) complains to the press and says she only met Earl once; Hildy helps her. Hildy gets a call from Bruce and runs out. Sheriff Peter B. Hartwell (Gene Lockhart) gives out tickets for the hanging. Hildy gets Bruce out of jail after Louis (Abner Biberman) accused him of stealing. Bruce lost his wallet.
Reporters admire Hildy's story. She comes in and calls Walter that she quit. Dr. Egelhoffer questions Earl, who escapes. Hildy calls Walter and chases a man, tackling him to get the story. Hildy calls Walter she paid $450 for the story, and he promises her the money. Earl used Hartwell's gun. Walter sends a blonde to Bruce and Louis with counterfeit money to Hildy. Bruce calls Hildy he was arrested for mashing. The Mayor (Clarence Kolb) complains to Hartwell, and Joe Pettibone (Billy Gilbert) delivers a reprieve from the Governor for Earl. The Mayor bribes him to forget he did so and orders police to shoot to kill.
Hildy gets $450 and Bruce's wallet from Louis, who runs out. Earl comes in the window with a gun. Hildy calls Walter and gets a call from Bruce. Molly comes in. Earl hides in the desk as reporters return. Mrs. Baldwin (Alma Kruger) comes in and asks Hildy where Earl is. Molly says only she knows and jumps out the window. Walter comes in and has Louis carry out Mrs. Baldwin. Walter persuades Hildy they can expose graft and make a revolution, getting her to write. Bruce comes in, and Hildy gives him his wallet and money. Bruce quarrels with her and leaves. Walter hires Bensiner to keep him away from his desk. Louis comes in disheveled and says Mrs. Baldwin was in an accident. Reporters return with Hartwell, who gets his gun back from Hildy. Walter warns Hartwell not to move his desk. Mrs. Baldwin accuses Walter of kidnapping and says Earl is there. Earl's capture is reported on phones. The Mayor comes in, followed by Pettibone with a reprieve, saying the Mayor bribed him. The Mayor declares Earl reprieved. Walter tells Hildy to go to Bruce. She gets a call that Bruce was arrested for counterfeit money. She cries; but Walter says she will write the story, and they will get married again.
Making the reporter a woman improves the comedy and
adds romance to a successful play that satirizes journalistic
zeal and political corruption, yet contrasting them to boring
insurance and home life.