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Mike Reese, yellow journalist and antihero, prints a story that leads to a gang killing, and is blacklisted from the city papers under suspicion of ties with racketeer Carl Durham. So, with a shrug, he makes the suspicion come true, then elbows his way into the editorship of the local paper in a small town where, opportunely, a sensational murder case threatens to destroy the family of newspaper magnate E.J. Stanton. When a black servant is made the patsy for this killing, Reese helps himself by helping her...but proves a dangerous ally. Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Mike Reese is a reporter who is about as sleazy as they come. He must be, he's played by Dan Duryea in the Cy Endfield noir gem. Chuck Tatum of ACE IN THE HOLE has nothing on Mike - except that he probably makes a bigger salary.
Mike's lost his job because given some confidential info about a mobster's secret testimony, Mike runs it the paper that employs him which causes the bad guys to know just where to ambush the man testifying. Sure, the paper is equally at fault, but they'll get off by printing an apology, Mike's the scapegoat.
With a stake provided by the local New England gangster who benefited most from the silenced witness, Mike buys into another suburban newspaper. Shortly thereafter, the murder of the daughter-in-law of a prominent publisher and the cover-up, as well as the innocent black woman accused of that murder, has Mike manipulating all in his path to make his way back to the top and a few bucks on the side.
As the guilty person says of the accused: "She's a n-word, who is going to take her word over ours?" This one is that gritty, but it moves with B movie speed not trying to make a social statement. Or is it? What happened to director Endfield, having to relocate to England owing to HUAC, has some reviewers reading "witch hunt" into the narrative. But if one didn't know the personal history, it's a riveting tale anyway that reveals the levels and layers of corruption and also of the depths of sacrifice. Subtext is just as often the baggage one brings to a film as opposed to what the director installs.
Gale Storm, Herbert Marshall, Harry Shannon, Michael O'Shea and Howard da Silva in what seems to be a return to the kind of character he played in THE BLUE DAHLIA all figure prominently. Mary Anderson plays the accused black woman and there's a bit of irony now in that casting (beyond her being Caucasian) - her brother James Anderson played the vicious Bob Ewell in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. She would also play Duryea's wife in CHICAGO CALLING a couple of years later. Both films are highly recommended.
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