Hinchcliffe, the ruthless publisher of a sleazy New York tabloid, is concerned that the ethical journalistic policies of City Editor Randall have caused a drop in circulation. He pressures the newsman to run more sensational stories including resurrecting the twenty year old Vorhees Murder Case. Although the perpetrator's actions were ultimately judged justifiable, and she has been subsequently living an exemplary life in anonymity, Hunchcliffe insists Randall revisit the story. Randall assigns Isopod, an alcoholic degenerate, to dig up anything lurid that he find. The unprincipled reporter fraudulently insinuates himself into the Vorhees' home masquerading as a minister and gets the expose he sought. Yellow journalism triumphs, and a decent woman's name gets dragged through the mud again... with tragic consequences.Written by
Eddie G. is finished pointing at Boris Karloff, who departs and tells the blonde to "get me that address". Then he places his left index upon his lips and starts pondering. His right hand is supporting his bent left arm. Picture cuts to the next frame in a long shot where Edward looks at his secretary, and he is now in reverse position, his right hand upon his lips and his left hand in his pocket. See more »
Joseph W. Randall:
[talking to Jerry the bartender]
Jerry, what do people do who are in trouble and haven't any money to buy liquor? There must be lots of 'em in the world.
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A fast, melodramatic second half not to be missed!
Five Star Final (1931)
There is one main reason to watch this—Edward G. Robinson. I almost didn't continue after the first fifteen minutes because this newspaper office drama was so filled with convenient stereotypes and one-liners it was drab.
Then came the obsessive-compulsive reporter played by Robinson, Mr. Randall. He's intense, and he's not in the movie nearly enough. There is a wonderful quirky part by Boris Karloff (a few months before doing Frankenstein's monster). And a slew of decent smaller parts keep it interesting like Aline MacMahon, playing a stenographer (and in her first film role) and Marian Marsh who plays the daughter with increasing intensity right up to the highly volatile last scene.
This is the heyday of the unsung Mervyn LeRoy, a director with at least two unsurpassed movies ("Three on a Match" and "I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang"), not including his work on "Wizard of Oz." He has a dozen other really good films to his name, and this one survives despite some filler and a slightly functional approach to the acting and staging. This was the day when directors (and their crews) were pressed to shoot movies in a couple weeks or so, and it shows.
I only wish you could see the second half of this movie alone. It gets more dramatic, and more intense (and the one painfully wooden actress dies), and it really drives home the point against yellow, abusive journalism. The first half is stale enough to turn off a lot of viewers, I'm sure, and it brings down my overall impression of the totality. Luckily, if you make it to the end, you nearly forget the forgettable beginning and will leave with a good taste in your mouth.
And all the drinking in the movie? "God gives us heartache, and the devil gives us whiskey," Randall says as he downs a shot. He's seems to be standing at an ordinary bar, not an illegal speakeasy. But the year is 1931, just before the end of Prohibition. (The premiere was September 1931.) Drink is a frank and normal reality in much of the movie as people swig from bottles in their desk and meet at the bar after work, and it's an eye-opener to counteract the more extreme portrayals of alcohol in the movies. And of course, it's normal for the viewer in the theater at the time as well, part of the general feeling that the time had come to change the laws (which Roosevelt did in early 1933).
So, see this if you like pre-Code films, but stick it out through the more mundane parts. It's worth it.
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