2 March 2009 | bkoganbing
Deadlier Than The Tommy Gun
Five Star Final according to Edward G. Robinson in his memoirs was a favorite role for him. He enjoyed having to go through a film without once taking up a weapon. But Robinson did have a weapon at his disposal here, one deadlier than the tommy gun. The power of yellow journalism to ruin and destroy lives for the sake of circulation.
Circulation is down at the New York Graphic, the sleazy tabloid where Robinson is the hardboiled editor. Publisher Oscar Apfel decides to rake over a 20 year old murder, one of those where are they now pieces. A woman killed a man who got her pregnant and refused to marry her and another man stepped up to the plate and raised her baby girl as his own. The couple, H.B. Warner and Frances Starr have lived quietly and anonymously on the west side of Manhattan the daughter, Marian Marsh is about to marry Anthony Bushell the son of a manufacturer.
The poking and prying of Robinson's reporters results in tragedy. It also gives Robinson a severe attack of conscience, encouraged by his girl Friday, Aline McMahon.
Stealing the film in the small part he's in is Boris Karloff as disgraced seminarian who affects the guise of clergyman to get the story he's after. It's one of Karloff's best non-horror film roles, he's positively creepy in the part.
The reason for Karloff's disgrace is sexual one and getting Karloff's mojo going as well is Ona Munson who also has a great part as the Nellie Bly of the tabloids. She tops Karloff in what she'll do for a story.
Five Star Final is a hard hitting well acted drama that does tend to go a bit overboard into melodrama, especially when H.B. Warner and Frances Stark are on screen. It was nominated for Best Picture of the year, but lost to the immortal classic Grand Hotel. It was later remade five years later as Two Against The World with Humphrey Bogart taking the Robinson part and the locale changed from a newspaper to a radio station.
I can easily see Five Star Final being remade for this century with the protagonist being the owner/operator of an internet website. The media may have changed, but sleaze is still sleaze.