J. Carrol Naish
- Threatening Phone Calleras Threatening Phone Caller
Lee is a fresh young kid from the South when he gets a job with The Press. His first assignment on gangsters gets his name in the paper, the police on a raid and Lee in the hospital. He quickly finds that it is everyone for himself, so he goes into the business of not reporting for a fee. He quickly learns to shake down the gangsters, and with the paper behind him, they leave Lee alone. But the girl he is crazy for will only trade a ring for his going straight. —Tony Fontana <firstname.lastname@example.org>
"In this blood-soaked town, it's kill or be killed!"
Socially-conscious Warners/First National delivered a corker of a newspaper melodrama in 1931, but this wasn't it: It was "Five Star Final." This fast-moving but muddled early talkie shares the crowded city desk with editors yelling "stop the presses!" and a cursory examination of the process of putting out a news daily. But here, the paper is genuinely excellent and socially responsible, not a muckraking tabloid. And the idealistic cub reporter (Barthelmess, who looks far too old to be a cub reporter) turns rotten awfully quickly, becoming a yes-man to a mobster (Gable in a typical early role, and effortlessly natural and likeable). It drains audience sympathy for our hero, and we don't see why his journalistically wise, sob-sister colleague (Wray, who looks too young to have Seen It All) would stick around with him, or take him back without his having really reformed. The motivations are confused throughout, and when our hero meets an unhappy fate, the movie seems to mourn him, but we don't. It's like a morality tale without a clear moral. Warners got better at its social realism quickly, and Barthelmess went from this comparative potboiler to the far more interesting "Cabin in the Cotton" -- again playing an idealistic sap, albeit one with more consistency.
- Jun 27, 2003
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