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Brenda de Banzie
When powerful publishing tycoon Earl Janouth commits an act of murder at the height of passion, he cleverly begins to cover his tracks and frame an innocent man, whose identity he doesn't know, but who just happen to have contact with the murder victim. That man is a close associate on his magazine whom he enlists to trap this "killer" George Stroud. It's up to George to continue to "help" Janouth, to elude the police and to find proof of his innocence and Janouth's guilt. Written by
For some reason (despite a tendency to join forces to protect the first amendment's freedom of speech), movies tend to make publishers look venal and awful. Even that most sympathetic of publishers, Charles Foster Kane, is a megalomaniac (albeit one robbed of a happy childhood). Look at the news publishers in "Five Star Final" or even "Unholy Partners"...anything for a story,for circulation, no matter who gets hurt by the publicity. Look at Walter Burns in all the versions of "The Front Page". Look at Sydney Kidd (Henry Daniell) in "The Philadelphia Story". In this film the publisher is a trifle closer to Charles Foster Kane. Earl Janoth does not own and run a newspaper or a magazine, but a whole empire of different magazines with names like "NewsWays" and "CrimeWays". He even centers it in one single building in New York City. And he has no doubt about his prominence. When his right hand man (George Macready) suggests he was not recognized by a witness, Janoth moans (a trifle loud for affect), "Everybody knows me." This film is a nice combination of film noir and study of a publishing empire. Kenneth Fearing had worked in advertising in a magazine, and had an idea of how they actually ran. His novel (which was recently published in the two volume edition on noir novels in the "Library of America" series of books) became a best seller and classic of that field of writing. The movie (with some changes) is a classic too. The issue of this film is can the hero (Ray Milland) manage to sabotage the investigation he is ordered by Janoth (Charles Laughton) to conduct, without Laughton or his ally Macready realizing he is the man they are seeking. It is done with style and comic timing (thanks to Elsa Lanchester, Philip Van Zandt, and several other character actors). Even Laughton and Macready are used for humor, although their characters are menacing. Macready has just set up the orders for Milland's investigation, and Milland (confused but trying to buy time), says "Right." Macready looks at him and says, "What do you mean "Right"?" And look at Laughton's silent reaction to Lanchester's portrait of the sort for witness Milland has to find.
This is one film noir that gets better with every new viewing. Watch it by all means.
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