Most of what Robert Altman has done with overlapping dialogue was done first by Howard Hawks in this 1940 comedy, without the benefit of Dolby stereo. (The film, in fact, often circulates in extremely poor public-domain prints that smother the glories of Hawks's sound track.) It isn't a matter of speed but of placement—the dialogue almost seems to have levels in space. Hawks's great insight—taking the Hecht-MacArthur Front Page and making the Hildy Johnson character a woman—has been justly celebrated; it deepens the comedy in remarkable ways. Cary Grant's performance is truly virtuoso—stunning technique applied to the most challenging material. With Rosalind Russell and Ralph Bellamy, a genius in his way too.
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