Newspaperman Bruce Corey returns from World War I with new ideas and wants to start his own tabloid. For want of other financing, he takes on as silent partner Merrill Lambert, gangland gambling kingpin. Thus is born the New York Mercury. Though its standards are not of the cleanest, Corey does fight to keep his paper's voice independent of Lambert. The two men's clash reaches a climax just as unsuspecting young reporter Tommy becomes Lambert's rival for lovely Gail Fenton. Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I saw this movie over twenty years ago, but it remains somewhat more memorable for the speed and sureness of it's directing and acting, particularly the dynamite pairing (I believe the only time it happened) of Robinson and Arnold. Theirs, as it turns out, is an unholy partnership, with Arnold slowly realizing that his control of a major newspaper would give his criminal economic power a tremendous boost, and Robinson slowly realizing the responsibility of a newspaper is more than just ballyhoo and gossip (would that a certain current newspaper tycoon would learn this - but he won't). Inevitably the partnership ends violently, with Robinson left in a very, very peculiar position of knowing too well who killed his partner.
Unfortunately, Mervyn LeRoy's film was smothered in 1941 by Orson Welles' first masterpiece (and greatest film?) CITIZEN KANE. But though Kane does show how a newspaper empire is built (and almost lost) by Kane, that film is actually a look at a flawed "great man", and the problem of how people remember the man's actions. This space is not adequate to go into the plot of KANE (or it's technical brilliance), but one should only note that Charles Foster Kane's ego also involves grasping at a political career aimed at the White House, marrying two women (and losing both of their love for him), building an opera house and failing to control public views on culture, and building a modern version of a pyramid as a final monument to that ego. The many sides of the character of Charley Kane keep our attention with repeated viewings, but such a depth is not found in LeRoy's film. This does not dismiss the LeRoy film as a failure, but relegates it to an entertaining movie only.
The interesting thing is that UNHOLY PARTNERS has (like KANE) a basis in fact. KANE is based (whether Welles admitted it or not) on the life of William Randolph Hearst, with his political interests and his social pretensions. And yes, Susan Alexander is a nasty swipe at poor Marion Davies. But in UNHOLY PARTNERS, the newspaper is based on THE NEW YORK MIRROR, a tabloid that popped up in the 1920s, and lasted into the 1960s (I remember reading it's Sunday comic sections in my first eight years). The newspaper was edited by Phillip Payne, who loved spreading scandalous stories to sell his paper. He also enjoyed ballyhoo - stories about aviators, channel swimmers, murder cases, baseball and football stars, actors and actresses - you did not read THE MIRROR to get an intelligent political viewpoint. He is not known for having any criminal partner, but the Arnold character is clearly based on Arnold Rothstein, the man who fixed the 1919 World Series, and was known as "the big bankroll" being the contact man between Wall Street and the underworld. In 1928 Rothstein was shot to death in a hotel elevator, and the crime was never solved. That same year, like Robinson's character, Payne was killed when a plane he was flying across the Atlantic crashed into it.
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