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Eager to land a journalistic position, Adam White goes to work as an advice-giving newspaper columnist. His editor, Shrike, takes pleasure in browbeating his alcoholic wife Florence for her past adultery, and assigning his employees journalistic jobs for which they have little aptitude or interest. Shrike goads Adam into meeting one of his correspondents, Fay Doyle, a teary, self-pitying woman who makes a play for him. Adam is torn between his loyalty to the newspaper and his girl Justy. Written by
Author Nathaniel West is doing a play on words here as "shrike" is similar to a harpy. Mr. Shrike the powerful publisher of a middle America small newspaper, is sardonic and Robert Ryan plays it very well.
The overall theme West presents here is not uplifting (anyone who has read "Day of the Locust" will know his writing style). Brilliant but depressive, and not just in a trendy way.
Montgomery Clift is good as idealistic reporter wanting to make his mark but Shrike sadistically places him as editor of "miss lonely-hearts" column. A column similar to the Dear Abby and confessional for the masses of disenfranchised public. For its time, West was making a parallel to Hearst publications, yellow journalism, etc. that profits off the ignorance of the masses. It is still happening today.
That said this is a brilliant book, but the movie lacks a bit. Myrna Loy comes off as an annoying 1950's housewife who tolerates verbal abuse from Robert Ryan (Ryan, as always is excellent here as in his film-noir with Ida Lupino "Moontide").
You will like this film if you have read West. "Day of the Locust", not uplifting but a brilliant view of Hollywood and the people who inhabit it, and in a way this film shows the similar themes of public needs, alienation, and how it never can be resolved in the miss lonely-hearts columns (of that era) or the reality "medical celebrity Dr advice" we see on mass media today. Highly recommended, but read the book also as there are a few tangents in the film. 8/10.
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