Between the Lines (1977) Joan Milken Silver

LinesI have always had an affinity for newspaper themed films. As a kid in Junior High, I had, for a short period, illusions of being a newspaper reporter. I’m not sure what exactly sparked this interest, but while the desire to be a reporter died my love of films with newspapers/reporters has remained strong. Billy Wilder’s Ace in the Hole, Sam Fuller’s Park Row, Alan Pakula’s All the President’s Men, Howard Hawks’ His Girl Friday, Alexander MacKendrick’s Sweet Smell of Success, Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane, Phil Karlson’s Scandal Sheet, Richard Brooks’ Deadline U.S.A. and more recently Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight are just some of my favorites.  As you can tell from this small list, newspaper reporting can be an heroic endeavor or it can be down and dirty, even scandalous. Continue reading

Nothing Sacred (1937) William Wellman

I always thought “His Girl Friday” was one of the most acidic screwball comedies to ever hit the screen until I watched “Nothing Sacred.” The cup runneth over in this sharply written film and it isn’t with love. For this you can thank Ben Hecht who co-wrote the original source material for the prior film, the Broadway hit, “The Front Page” and was the only credited writer for the latter (Producer David O’Selznick handed Hecht’s script over to George S. Kaufman, Moss Hart, Dorothy Parker and Ring Lardner Jr. among others. Despite all these other hands in the pot, Hecht’s sour look remained intact). Hecht may be more the auteur of these two films than either of the two directors. Both are driven by aggressive, cynical newspaper reporters who will exploit and outright lie to sell newspapers and make a buck for themselves. If anything stops “Nothing Sacred” from being a full blown masterpiece of prickly comedy, it has to do with two components. The first, the part of Wally Cook, the cynical newspaper reporter screams out for Cary Grant. Instead, here we have Fredric March. Now, it’s not that March is bad, he’s not. He just seems like he is wound up a little bit too tight for the role. He cannot let himself let loose like Grant would have. The second factor is the treatment of the film’s black characters which I will get into in more detail a little further on.

For Ben Hecht, it not just the newspaper reporters who are nasty, evil and corrupt, it’s the entire cast! Carol Lombard’s Hazel Flagg is an unscrupulous liar willing to carry on a charade just so she can get out of her hick New England town and visit New York City. The folks from Warsaw Vermont, Hazel’s small hometown are monosyllable, unwelcoming and suspicious of outsiders. Even the kids are nasty; one youngster (Billy Barty) bites Wally on his leg while others pelt him with stones after he arrives in town inquiring about the unfortunate Hazel Flagg.

I should talk a little about the plot before going any further. As I said, Lombard plays Hazel Flagg, a small town girl from Warsaw, Vermont, where people don’t take kindly to strangers, especially slick New York City newspaper reporters. Factory worker Hazel was misdiagnosed by her doctor (Charles Winninger) who informed her she was going to die due to exposure from radiation poisoning at the factory. Her fellow co-workers collected $200 dollars to send Hazel on her dream trip to see New York before she dies. However, just before she is about to leave, she receives even worst news from her doctor. You see, he made a mistake, she’s going to live! Upset, she cries out “It’s kind of startling to be brought to life twice…and both times in Warsaw!” Continue reading

My Top 10 Newspaper Films

In conjunction with the Film Forum’s latest retrospective THE NEWPAPER PICTURE which begins today and runs through  May 6th, I thought I’d list my top 10 favorite newspaper films plus a list of honorable mentions. I have always had an affinity for newspaper themed films, along with train themed films among a few others.  Check out the FILM FORUM’s schedule here.  Also attached is a N.Y.Times article by A.O. Scott  on the retrospective.

Below is my top 10 list.

A note….

The top ten are in order of preference as they relate to being a newspaper film and not necessarily the overall quality of the movie. Subsequently, “Citizen Kane” ranks fourth  as a newspaper film which does not mean this is the 4th best film.

Finally please submit your own list of favorites.

1  Ace in the Hole (1951)

2  Park Row (1952)

3  All the President’s Men (1976)

4 Citizen Kane (1942)

5 Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

6 His Girl Friday (1940)

7 It Happened One Night (1934)

8 Zodiac (2007)

9 Absence of Malice (1981)

10 The Paper 1994)

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Call Northside 777 (1948)

Dealine U.S.A. (1952)

Five Star Final (1931)

Meet John Doe (1941)

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936)

Scandal Sheet (1952)

Shattered Glass (2003)

Shock Corrider (1963)

State of Play (2009)

The Front Page (1931)

The Harder They Fall (1956)

While the City Sleeps (1956)

Woman of the Year (1942)