11 June 2005 | Ron Oliver
Pre-Code Tale Stops The Presses
The muckraking editor of The Gazette revives an old murder case (with a FIVE STAR FINAL) to increase the paper's circulation.
Movies have long been fascinated with the fast-paced action of the journalistic newsroom and have mined stories about newspaper shenanigans for both comedies & dramas. Here, from First National Pictures, was one of the earliest talkies to have a real success in exploring the medium. The action is fast and the dialogue fits. The film goes further, however, reaching beyond the newspaper staff and focusing on a family who becomes the victim of untrammeled yellow journalism.
Pugnacious Edward G. Robinson gives a vivid portrayal of the unscrupulous editor who slowly begins to develop a soul when he is confronted by the turmoil his decisions have on the lives of innocent folks. Seemingly incapable of giving a bad performance, Robinson fascinates as he chews the scenery with his full-throttle performance. The always sterling Aline MacMahon scores as his wise, levelheaded secretary who nurses a secret love for him. Their scenes together are riveting.
In supporting roles, creepy Boris Karloff plays an alcoholic reporter without any morals whatsoever. Wisecracking Ona Munson has fun with her role of a floozy who becomes a girl reporter. Oscar Apfel is good as the paper's spineless owner. Rat-faced George E. Stone is rather repulsive as the guy who sends out the goons to strong-arm newspaper vendors on the street.
H. B. Warner & Frances Starr both shine as an innocent couple whose lives are made a misery by the rapacious Gazette. Playing their daughter, Marian Marsh has a terrific scene at the film's climax when she confronts the three newspapermen who destroyed her home. Sturdy Anthony Bushell appears as her steadfast society boyfriend.
Movie mavens will recognize little Frank Darien as an eager undertaker. And that's blonde Polly Walters as the Gazette's kooky-voiced telephone operator.