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  • A powerful, uncompromising early look at "Yellow Journalism" which made a great enough impact at the time to be counted among the year's best films at the Academy Awards – to say nothing of the rush of similar pictures which followed in its wake, culminating in Howard Hawks' masterpiece, HIS GIRL Friday (1940).

    Edward G. Robinson is re-united here with the director of LITTLE CAESAR (1930), the film that made him a star, and delivers another great performance which is sufficiently nuanced to anchor the somewhat melodramatic plot in reality. Supporting him, among many others, are Aline MacMahon as his long-suffering secretary who's secretly in love with him and Boris Karloff in a marvelous turn as the most shamelessly hypocritical reporter on the newspaper's payroll. The cynical, rapid-fire dialogue gives it an edge and an authenticity that's almost impossible to recapture these days and, needless to say, became one of the key elements in this type of film.

    The film features a number of good scenes but the highlights would have to be: the split-screen technique introduced to shut out the former convict, who is now being hounded by "The Gazette", from having a conversation with either the owner of the paper or its news editor (Robinson); the lengthy and heart-breaking scene in which the female ex-convict's husband (played by the ever-reliable H.B. Warner) bids farewell to their daughter and her soon-to-be husband without letting them in on the fact that the woman has committed suicide and that he intends to join her soon after; the hysterical tirade at the end by the daughter when she finally confronts the men who have destroyed her life, a brave tour-de-force moment for Marian Marsh (familiar to horror aficionados from SVENGALI [1931], THE MAD GENIUS [1931] and THE BLACK ROOM [1935]) who had so far only rather blandly served the romantic interest of the plot; the final shot of the picture, with the latest issue of "The Gazette" being swept into the gutter by street-cleaners along with the rest of the garbage, thus leaving no doubt whatsoever as to where the film-makers' true sentiments lay.
  • It's amazing to see that the sleazy tabloids we deal with today are not that different from the one portrayed in this picture. They will do ANYTHING and sink to ANY depths to cover a story--especially if it includes sleaze, innuendo and outright lies. In this case, they resurrect an old story and destroy an innocent woman just to sell a few more papers--resulting in a horrible tragedy that was completely preventable.

    Although some of the supporting cast is only fair, the lead played by Edward G. Robinson is what makes the picture. He is a pig living in the filth his readers want until he and his paper just push too far and Robinson can no longer live with himself. His rather histrionic reaction is amazing to watch--not so over the top but just full of fury and intensity. A must see little sleeper of a film.

    FYI--Humphrey Bogart did a very good remake of this movie a few years later ("Two Against the World"). It's also very good but I would advise seeing the Robinson version first--after all, in most cases the original is better than the remake and this is no exception.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    A decent woman and her husband are driven to suicide by the jackals of the press. There is no satisfaction in the end, for the press is relentless in its exploitation of human suffering, wallowing in hypocritical sanctimony and drunk with power, due to its stranglehold on information and its corruption of the political process. The only satisfaction given us in "Five Star Final" is a rhetorical one and, mercifully, the survival of a few brave souls willing to pick up the debris of lives destroyed by the Gazette, the tabloid journal of the film.

    Edward G. Robinson plays a ruthless, yet conscience-ridden editor, who too late realizes that crusading journalism - investigative reporting we call it these days - is often just a pretext for pandering to the vulgar public's taste for road kill. I like Robinson in this kind of role better than Robinson the gangster type. He has a brow that is far more affecting when tightly knit in anguish than in fierceness. And his last scene is a tour de force of cathartic fury, which director Mervin LeRoy frames effectively, so that the audience shares in the emotional release.

    Also not to be missed is Boris Karloff's sleazy, resourceful hatchet man, who insinuates himself into private lives like a pickpocket. There are other fine performances, notably that of H. B. Warner, who is touching as a tormented victim of publicity. Another standout is Anthony Bushell, as the fiancé of Warner's daughter. He could have played the usual pretty-boy lug, but instead brings sensitivity to an otherwise stock character.

    Viewers might be put off by some of the acting technique of this early (1931) talkie. Gestures tend to melodramatic here, due to most of the cast's coming from silents, in which pantomime is important, or the stage, where one must project into back rows. But it's easy to overlook this minor irritant.

    Everyone saw the news media's apotheosis of itself in "All the President's Men". For a balanced view of the media, they should see more films like "Five Star Final," a gem whose neglect no doubt delights the jackals of the press.
  • 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.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This film was made in 1931, but deals with issues that we still face today. How far should journalists probe into the private lives of others, simply for the sake of higher circulation? Should there be standards of integrity and honesty in reporting?

    The plot concerns a trashy newspaper with dwindling circulation. The editor and owner decide to rake up an old murder case, because that's the kind of trash their low-life readers enjoy. The problem is that the murder in question was committed by a woman who is now leading a respectable life. (We're never given all the details on how she got out of prison, etc., or the real parentage of her child.) Is the paper willing to sacrifice the happiness of a family for the sake of more sales? There are a lot of interesting characters here, such as the conflicted editor (Robinson), a sneaky reporter (Karloff), and the grief-stricken father (Warner). Warner has the best scene, as he tries to maintain his composure while talking to his daughter and her fiancé on their wedding day, while his wife is lying dead in the next room. (Speaking of that, watch his hand as he opens the bedroom door and discovers his wife's lifeless body.) There are plenty of comic relief characters, with names like Ziggie and Kitty, and even a droning switchboard operator with a recurring part.

    The Hays code obviously hadn't completely kicked in yet, because there is dialog here that is racier than films of the later 30s (such as fairly open discussions about illegitimacy). Take for instance Robinson's final line, accompanied by a telephone thrown through his boss's glass door.

    It's all played for melodrama, but it works, helped along by clever camera work and lighting, and a no-frills script.
  • Dr. Ed-231 May 2002
    from a solid cast makes this film a must see. No wonder this earned a best-film Oscar nomination! Edward G. Robinson turns in another terrific performance as the tough editor of a sleazy NYC newspaper. Marion Marsh starts out iffy but her final scene is excellent. Frances Starr, H.B. Warner, Aline MacMahon (of course!), and Boris Karloff are all excellent as well. Nice comedic support from Polly Walters as the operator and Harold Waldridge as the office boy. But it is Robinson who carries this ensemble film through its twists and turns and has a few swell lines as well. The only problem is Ona Munson, who is pretty dreadful as the pretty dreadful character of Carmody. Marsh is remembered for her Trilby to John Barrymore's Svengali, but this is a better performance. And what a shame Starr made only 3 films! Her telephone scene is a cinematic classic!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This is what made Edward G. Robinson so great. He could take any role and make it unique and also from the start he could kid his "tough guy" persona (which he doesn't do here)!!!! Aline MacMahon also deserves praise. This was her first film and she was perfect in the role of Miss Taylor - Randall's "conscience". Yes, she soon started to play kindly aunts and best friends but she was vital to any film that she was in and in this film, next to Robinson, she is the highlight. Adorable Marian Marsh, who had just had a hit as Trilby in "Svengali" went on to star in several hits of the early 30s. In this film she plays the daughter Jenny Townsend and her high light is the end - "Why did you kill my Mother????"

    Joseph W. Randall (Edward G. Robinson) is managing editor of the Evening Gazette, the biggest scandal rag in the city. He is determined to make the paper more respectable and because of that the circulation is down. "you are trying to get above our readers... Say if I sat on a cigar box I'd be above them!!!". The paper's owner "the sultan of slop" decides to resurrect a 20 year old murder case where a young woman Nancy Voorhees killed her boss. She stood trial but was let off because of her baby. The paper wants to know what became of her. She is now married to a bank manger (H.B. Warner) who loves her dearly and stood by her. Her daughter, Jenny is about to be married to Phillip (Anthony Bushell) whose parents are in high society.

    Boris Karloff is really creepy as Isopod, a defrocked priest - "don't drive in taxis with him!!!" He poses as a priest interviewing the parents of the bride - in reality trying to get a scoop for the paper. Jenny's parents confide in him, thinking he really is a priest and of course Isopod takes it to the papers.

    The story makes front page news on the day of the wedding. Phillip's parent visit and command that the wedding be called off. Nancy, the mother, calls the paper, and by the use of a triple screen you see how her pleas go unanswered by everyone, except Miss Taylor. Her husband goes to see a friend who says he will do all in his power to stop the story but it is too late for Nancy, who has taken her own life.

    "Why did you kill my mother!!!!". Even though Phillip has stood by her, Jenny is distraught and goes to Randall's office planning to kill him. After a huge show down that will leave you emotionally breathless a glass door is broken and Randall goes off with Miss Taylor - "if you want my opinion - take me to a speakeasy some night - I won't be working for you then"!!! - to start a clean life away from the gutter of the scandal rag that has "more huddles on this paper than on the Notre Dame team!!!!"

    The door that was broken was the door to the owner's office - not the door out of the office.

    Highly recommended.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Hard to imagine the message of this film, since some 75 or so years later, Princess Diana was killed in a car crash trying to escape paparazzi.

    The film's premise is simple. The owner of a second tier newspaper wants to find some way to boost circulation. He appoints an editor played by film legend Edward G. Robinson to dig up the dirt on an old story. Twenty years ago, a woman named Nancy Voorhas shot and killed her lover.

    Trouble is that Voorhas has moved on, and has a brand new family. When she learns that the story is coming to public light yet again, she pleads for Joseph Randall (Played by Robinson)to drop the story. And the behest of the newspapers owner, he refuses. With all of the questions and pressure surrounding her, Voorhas commits suicide.

    What is left is for Joseph Randall to question if it was all worth it. Was it worth the life of Nancy Voorhas to sell extra copies of a newspaper? Robinson gives a speech at the end of the film that really was ahead of it's time, and was perhaps a foreshadowing of an age where celebrities are stalked, and people famous for a crime are forever hounded by that moment. The Joseph Randall character resigns his post, and states that he and the paper's editor played a role in the death of Nancy Voorhas, and should take the rightful blame.

    This is a must own film for any fan of Edward G. Robinson, and should be considered one of the landmark and greatest films of all time. It's rare to find on DVD, but if you should find it, buy it. You won't be disappointed.
  • 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.
  • Contra Jesse Jackson, there are too many Christians in New York – but apparently not in the newspaper business.

    One can take this movie as a parable, only slightly exaggerated perhaps, of the entire "news" media.

    Although some of the dialogue is somewhat corny, by today's standards, anyway, much of the rest is chilling, or infuriating, or heart-breaking, by turns.

    Aline MacMahon, whose character told the messenger boy not to change his name, and followed with the line in the first paragraph, has one of her best roles, and she is terrific.

    Edward G. Robinson, as the managing editor, tells her she is the visible conscience, and he brings powerful emotion to his role.

    Marian Marsh has the movie-stealing scene, one of power and heartbreak and possibly her best performance in her three-decades-long career. You'll find her character justified even while you're urging her not to do what she threatens.

    There is a generally superb cast, including Boris Karloff, whose playing is – as usual – often over the top, but in his last scene, without words, he makes one wonderful move that deserves applause.

    Taken to task for a story that has given tabloid-sized "news" papers their tawdry reputation, and, in fact, made the very word "tabloid" a synonym for that kind of garbage, the publisher tries to say that papers transcend the individual.

    In other words, phooey on individuals; we want to boost circulation no matter who, or what, gets hurt.

    In truth, such publications, and, in fact, all the so-called mainstream "news" media have been all too willing to stomp on individuals and, in fact, on the entire country, in order to have a scoop, a ratings coup, or a jump in circulation.

    Granted, most wouldn't have stooped to quite the low of the paper in this story, but the ultimate end is not much different.

    It's been not quite 80 years since "Five Star Final," and daily papers are dying like the proverbial flies, all over the country – and many people are just nodding and saying "about time."

    Remember the period and the context, and pay close attention to "Five Star Final." It has something to say, and says it extremely well.
  • The story holds true just as much today as it did when it was made. Powerful newspapers will stop at nothing, it seems, in the name of circulation. Scandal sells. The best scene in the whole movie is when Jenny confronts each of the three protagonists with the question, "Why did you kill my mother?". Randall, realizing what he has caused to happen, attempts to kill the story, then turns in his resignation. (Or maybe he realized just how much power he held in his hands and wanted no more of it.) This movie shows that the pen, indeed, is mightier than the sword.
  • This Oscar-nominated film (Best Picture) shows the dark side of journalism as a paper delves into the past of a woman (Frances Starr) who was impregnated by her boss and acquitted of his murder.

    Edward G. Robinson (Little Caesar) is a newspaper editor that is interested in boosting circulation and is not concerned with the lives he destroys in the process. He goes after Nancy Voorhees (Starr), who is now Nancy (Voorhees) Townsend and is not concerned that she has not told her daughter (the doll-faced Marian Marsh), who is now about to me married, about her past.

    Robinson was absolutely brilliant in the role and ably assisted by Boris Karloff and Oscar-nominated actress (Dragon Seed) Aline MacMahon in her first film.

    A classic showing the seedy side of journalism.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Edward G. Robinson works for a tabloid, that sensationalizes the news and cares more about its numbers of readers than having a dignified reputation. When it decides to run a story of "What Ever Happened to..." about a young pregnant lady who shot the father of her baby years ago, when he wouldn't marry her, the film shows how it affects the lady's current family. The case made headlines years ago, and it's a capital idea to write about it now, of course, because the readers want to know, have to know, really care about it. Costarring Aline MacMahon, as Eddie's secretary who's in love with him and Boris Karloff in a memorable role, this is one hard-hitting film, that pulls no punches. What's unique about it is that there's no music score. It begins and ends with the sound of the newspaper machines running. Its frank and brutal way of telling the story and fleshing out its character make this a film that you won't likely forget, especially with the speech made at the end of the film by the young daughter of the lady who shot her father. By the end, you may feel preached at, because it's not subtle, but that's the point of the film. That all actions have consequences, and that the heart of the story is the people, and that newspapermen have to show respect for their subject. Before Absence of Malice came Five Star Final telling a story that's timeless.
  • Ordered to up the sleaze quotient for increased circulation, New York "Gazette" newspaper editor Edward G. Robinson (as Joseph W. Randall) dredges up the story of a local woman who shot her adulterous lover dead, and earned a scandalous reputation. The serialization sells newspapers, but the subject Frances Starr (as Nancy Voorhees) has changed her life with second husband H. B. Warner (as Michael Townsend); moreover, the couple has kept the sordid past secret from pretty daughter Marian Marsh (as Jenny), who is about to marry handsome high society's Anthony Bushell (as Phillip Weeks). When boozy staff reporter Boris Karloff (as Isopod) absconds with Ms. Marsh's picture, the consequences could prove tragic...

    This is a fine if dated early "talkie" with a message still reverberating. The ensemble cast, sometimes venturing into melodramatics with understandable verve, is fun. Successful Broadway star Aline MacMahon makes an impressive film debut as Mr. Robinson's lovelorn secretary. Director Mervyn LeRoy moves it nicely and includes some rich "split-screen" work.

    ******** Five Star Final (9/10/31) Mervyn LeRoy ~ Edward G. Robinson, Frances Starr, Aline MacMahon, Boris Karloff
  • Warning: Spoilers
    As a former jackal of the press myself, I get a big kick out of newspaper movies. FIVE STAR FINAL is one of the best, ranking alongside THE FRONT PAGE and its various remakes, CITIZEN KANE, MEET JOHN DOE, the little-known DEADLINE, U.S.A. (with Bogart as a crusading editor), ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN, and ABSENCE OF MALICE. (I'm probably leaving out a couple of other favorites but those are the ones that come to mind at this writing.)

    This film has three things going for it. The story, based on a play that opened in 1930, was probably more relevant in that era than today. Most news outlets (excluding those that are exclusively on the internet) now are more respectful of the privacy of private citizens than are the employees of the Evening Gazette; and I've never known a reporter or photographer who lied about being one to get a story. But an intimate followup on the "crime" committed twenty years earlier by Nancy Voorhees -- and for which she was not convicted -- was the type of sensational bread-and-butter that certain sleazy newspapers pursued before World War II. (Today's sleazy tabloids, print and electronic, are far more likely to go after real celebrities who hunger for any kind of publicity. And many so-called internet journalists, without training, editing, or professional standards, are much worse.) Though this kind of yellow journalism is an aberration in today's newspaper industry, in 1930 it was all too prevalent, especially in the cut-throat world of New York City's intensely competitive dailies. It's very representative of the era, and on top of that it's just a good yarn.

    The supporting actors are extremely well-cast. Aline MacMahon as the editor's lovelorn secretary, George E. Stone as the paper's staff bootlegger and fixer, H.B. Warner as the understanding husband of Nancy Voorhees, and Oscar Apfel as the villainous publisher Hinchcliffe are particular standouts. It's interesting to see Boris Karloff in a pre-FRANKENSTEIN role, though it's difficult to think of him as a womanizing reporter. Some may find the acting in the film too stagy and overdone, but if you can adjust your expectations and accept the dated style, it works very well.

    Then there's Eddie G. He had just achieved stardom with LITTLE CAESAR when FIVE STAR FINAL was made, and despite the excellent competition he commands the screen as the Gazette's editor, who is both repelled by the betrayal of his journalistic ideals and excited by the repellent story he's ordered to pursue. The hand-washing (which actually occurs only about three times in this 90-minute movie) is a perfect metaphor for his guilt, and his reliance on the bottle was (maybe still is) all too common an occupational hazard for newspapermen of this era. At film's end, we finally get the emotional explosion that has been building in Robinson throughout the movie. Very satisfying. What a shame this actor never received even an Oscar nomination, much less a statuette (except for an honorary one awarded after his death.)

    FIVE STAR FINAL was nominated for the best picture Oscar in 1931 but lost out to CIMARRON. Guess which film has aged less. Despite the dated setting and story, FIVE STAR FINAL still crackles with passion and humor. It is an enduring example of what Warner Brothers accomplished, altogether unintentionally, in documenting America in the 1930s. I can understand that it's not to all tastes, but this jackal of the press finds in FIVE STAR FINAL characters and issues that still resonate with journalists today.
  • classicflm27 April 2003
    This early pre-code really packs a wallop, Even today. All performances are top notch, and Robinson is his usual genius. Luckily, this film pops up on Turner Classic Movies now and then, so be sure not to miss. Ona Munson plays plays a prostitute, 8 years before she played a Madame in GONE WITH THE WIND!
  • 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.
  • The exploitativeness of tabloids is always a good subject, even back in 1931. "Five Star Final" is about a ruthless editor (Edward G. Robinson) who hounds a woman involved in a 20-year-old murder with tragic results. The film sports a good cast, including Boris Karloff, Mae Marsh, Ona Munson, Aline McMahon, and H.B. Warner.

    Robinson, as the editor, decides to do a series on an old murder and track down one of the people involved, Nancy Vorhees. She is now married with a daughter about to get married. The film looks at the effect it has on the lives of everyone in the family.

    I am not as enthusiastic about this film as some of the posters here, though I imagine it was very hard-hitting for 1931. The acting is very melodramatic, and while I appreciated the devastating effects of the story, I really thought a bad situation was made much worse by the behavior of the girl's parents at the end of the film.

    It wasn't until the mid-thirties that the class system in America began to disintegrate, so it's still quite evident here, with the way the young woman's future in-laws react to the scandal and Robinson's analysis of black readers.

    At the time the film was made, any publicity was looked down upon - today it's considered a great thing, though I don't suppose involvement in a murder would be. You might get a book deal out of it, though, and a TV movie. Nancy Voorhees today could have given the paper an exclusive interview and become a sympathetic character. But it was such a disgrace, and people seemed to have no understanding or compassion.

    It's hard to judge the performances because the acting style and the dialogue are so different from even a few years later. Of all of them, Aline McMahon, as the cynical secretary, comes off the best.

    Definitely worth seeing.
  • Five Star Final (1931)

    *** (out of 4)

    An editor (Edward G. Robinson) at a sleazy newspaper makes a mistake by bringing a 20-year-old murder case back to the headlines. Earlier this year I watched the remake One Fatal Hour with Bogart, which pretty much followed this film word for word but this one here is slightly better due to the rich performance from Robinson and a powerful ending attacking the media. Some racy Pre-Code dialogue centered around a gay reporter is pretty eye catching as is the pre-Frankenstein performance by Boris Karloff as a drunken reporter.
  • This largely forgotten film stars Edward G. Robinson and was one of the Best Picture Oscar nominees in 1931-1932. Robinson plays the editor of a newspaper whose publisher instructs Robinson to come up with a story that will increase circulation. Robinson's solution is to track down a woman who killed the father of her child twenty years before when he refused to marry her, but she was acquitted, largely because of her child. She has since married, and her daughter is on the eve of her own marriage and has no idea of her mother's past. Robinson's "what ever happened to" idea is a success, but at a horrible cost to the family involved.

    Not on DVD or VHS, the film uses some techniques that were rather odd for Warner Bros at the time, considering that their urban dramas usually were very fast-paced. To begin with, the film makes a big production of introducing Robinson to the audience, having the other players talk about him at length, and even showing a shot of just his hands as he washes up before he makes his big entrance. Then - the whole movie proceeds to switch its dramatic center more to the family that Robinson's newspaper is writing a scandal piece on and its tragic effect on them.

    Robinson and Boris Karloff - in an odd turn as an alcoholic reporter just prior to his star-making role in Frankenstein - have acting in the age of sound down to a fine art. However, the actors playing the roles of the family targeted by Robinson's scandal sheet seem to be hold-overs from the silent era, the best known being silent star H.B. Warner. Their speech is somewhat slow and over-dramatic, and their gestures exaggerated, but not ridiculously so. This might have been to contrast them with the hard-boiled occupants of the newsroom, but it makes the film look like it has two entirely different directors.
  • Viewed this film years ago on a late late T.V. show and was able to tape it. The author of the original play, Louis Weitzenkorn, was once the managing editor of the New York Evening Graphic, a yellow journalism tabloid which gave him the idea for the main character of Hinchecliffe former publisher of the New York Mirror. The film was remade as Two Against the World in 1936. Bernard Hinchecliffe(Oscar Apfel) owner of the notorious scandal sheet, the GAZETTE and his managing editor, Joseph Randall(Edward G. Robinson), is ordered to boost the circulation by doing a story on the Vorhees case. Years ago, Nancy Vorhees(Francis Starr) murdered the man who betrayed her. Randall seeks the services of T. Vernon Isopod (Boris Karloff), an expelled divinity student. Isopod disguises himself as a clergyman and enters the Townsend home, gaining their confidence. Ona Munson, veteran film actress of the 1930's and 1940's along with Boris Karloff fullfil their newspaper duties perfectly. Five Star Final is a great film classic because of the great acting of Edward G. Robinson.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    First, why do I say it is dated? It is a matter of acting tastes. While several of the leads (the always good Robinson and Karloff, Aline MacMahon, and H.B.Warner) give strong performances (witness Warner's last three minutes in the film as the strain of his wife's tragedy finally destroys him), there is too much of the 1931 "staginess" of the acting style of that day in FIVE STAR FINAL. Put this way: my mother (who watched the film with me) enjoyed it, but laughed at that staginess - she was born in 1928, so as a kid many movies of the early 1930s would have had that style of acting, and she found it archaic).

    Bernarr MacFadden is recalled (if at all) as a one time newspaper owner and food/diet/health faddist. The latter career is what most people remember (one of his diet/health followers was Greta Garbo). Coming from the hinterlands, MacFadden looked like a hick but had tremendous energy, ego, and ambition. He bought the failing New York Evening Graphic in the 1920s and taking full advantage of that age of ballyhoo turned it into the raggiest newspaper of the day. As mentioned he made up "photographs" supposedly showing the crimes and punishments he was reporting. He did everything to scoop the rival Hearst and other papers of news dirt. His intention was (as was Hearst's, with more plausibility) to build himself into a national figure for political office - hoping to eventually become President. It did not work (fortunately). I say that safely. I have read his editorials about the end of certain criminals, and he sounds not soporific but childish in the intensity of his dislike (in one of them he actually wrote something like, "Now, he's dead, dead, dead...that'll show him!" - I am not making that up!!).

    The depth of the Graphic's career really was in 1928. A ridiculous marriage-divorce case, that of millionaire landlord Edward Browning (age 70) and his young wife "Peaches" (age under 20) broke out, and instead of ignoring it and concentrating on real news, MacFadden actually did his idiotic fake photos on the front page. Browning apparently (like all husbands with their wives, or people with their sex companions) had private language with Peaches that the court revealed. When he wanted sex but badgered his wife he (supposedly) said "Woof, woof, don't be a goof!", and if he described intercourse he'd say, "Honk, honk, it's the bonk!". MacFadden showed Browning and Peaches in bedclothes in their bedroom, with cartoon balloons with the expressions in them. The "goof" expression was coming from Browning, but the "bonk" expression came from a goose or duck that was transposed into the frame of the picture (probably because the latter's "quack" is sometimes like a "honk").

    FIVE STAR FINAL was one of the favorite of Eddie Robinson. Coming a year after his breakout success in LITTLE CAESAR he was glad (for once) not to have to be a gangster but a city room editor on a tabloid ready to blow up. Robinson's Joseph Taylor has been working for a New York City newspaper for 10 years as editor (before that he worked on other papers, but none quite so sensational). The owner of this paper, Hinchcliffe (Oscar Apfel) is a respectable looking millionaire, but he is an arch-hypocrite. He likes higher and higher circulation and does not mind if he uses scandals to boost his paper. By the way, some of the best minor sequences in FIVE STAR FINAL show Hinchclffe and Robinson discussing items that have to be moved or dropped and the effects on the public. Apparently their dropping of some articles by former Black heavyweight champ Jack Johnson (about his girlfriends) caused a dip in the circulation sales in Harlem (Robinson adds to this tidbit by mentioning that his housekeeper stopped buying the newspaper when that happened!).

    The plot of the film is that a twenty year old homicide that resulted in the acquittal of the perpetrator is resurrected for circulation. The woman (Marian Marsh) has married (H.B.Warner) and has a daughter (Frances Carr) who is getting married to the son (Anthony Bushnell) of the a wealthy manufacturer. The revelation of the old scandal (skillfully hidden by Marsh and Warner) is threatened by the newspaper series. The older couple then compound the problem when they mistakenly trust Boris Karloff as a clergyman (he was a defrocked theology student, who now is a sleazy reporter). The revelations lead to deeper and deeper problems, and eventual tragedy.

    Aline MacMahon is Robinson's secretary (and girlfriend) who knows he is better than his activities suggest. But it is not until the tragedy that Robinson's self-loathing for his activities emerges. It determines him on a showdown with Apfel, which is complicated by the arrival of another party who wants a confrontation and an explanation.

    The film is good, if some of the dialog turns to be too racy (and even bigoted) at times. The issue of the limits of a free press are always with us, and this presents it quite well up to Robinson's final commentary and actions to show his disgust with his job.

    How true is it that we do not forgive old felons or suspects in crimes? It varies. Those who are pedophiles or sex criminals are rarely forgiven, especially as they have to register with the police in many jurisdictions. As for our murderers, well you have the example of O. J. Simpson, and how he may now be finally facing a delayed punishment in a different crime. On the other hand, you have the case of the successful detective story novelist Anne Perry, who went to prison as a juvenile for murder. There is no universal rule on accepting these people one way or another. It probably depends on the crime involved.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    . . . FIVE STAR FINAL reassures America's moms that there are media Guardians to prevent Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, Casey Anthony, or Jody Arias from changing their name and marrying their sons or daughters (or having a secret child who'd do the same thing). The "Townsend Crime Family" pictured here cuts their murderess-gene-bearing ward "Jenny" off from all her paternal relatives, and raise her as a wanton second-generation gun-wielding hothead. "Joe Randall" (Edward G. Robinson), the courageously crusading managing editor of the New York Evening Gazette, makes sure beneficiaries of "jury nullification" such as O.J. Simpson, Ms. Anthony, Ms. Arias, and the Townsend matriarch "Nancy" do NOT go laughing all the way to the bank with their gold-digger marriages. But with America now being carpeted wall-to-wall with the National Enquirer as well as thousands of on-line watchdogs and Blogs, plus millions of cell phone cameras, there's less and less danger of sneaks such as the Townsends trying top rub elbows with normal people, let alone marry into their family trees. FIVE STAR FINAL put new teeth into American precepts such as "The Truth will out" and "You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you cannot always fool everybody as long as we have Wikipedia." FIVE STAR FINAL paved the way for ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN. Without it, King Richard I (a.k.a., President Milhous Nixon) might have been succeeded by Queen Julie lording it over us even today!
  • rmax30482320 September 2014
    Warning: Spoilers
    Another reviewer mentioned that this was ahead of its time and they were right. Most of these fuzzy black-and-white 1930s movies about detective, reporters, and one or another particeps criminis seem hastily flung together. They're pretty crummy. You await the outcome only because you're barely curious. It's like waiting for a particularly dull jigsaw puzzle to be completed, just because you've already invested so much time in it.

    Except for an unnecessary and hysterical ending, this one is exceptional. Robinson is the editor of a New York tabloid. The owners are all over him for the paper's low circulation, so Robinson orders his reporters to dig up the story of a twenty-year-old murder, a love tragedy, and find the woman who shot her philandering paramour. Dig into it. Find out where she lives, what happened to her, and we'll run a daily special on her crime and her current life.

    It's not such a hot idea from a moral point of view, a little like "Absence of Malice." The murderer, Nancy Voorhees, now Nancy Townsend (Frances Starr), has established a new life with a good man (H. B. Warner). Nancy's daughter, Marian Marsh, is a student at Hunter College and is supposed to marry a devoted young man from a family of social standing. The story wrecks their happy lives and leads to two suicides. Robinson, at the urging of his secretary, Aline MacMahon, tells off his bosses, throws a telephone through a glass door, and quits.

    A few observations. Almost everyone overacts, but that's to be expected in a year when sound was hardly established and silent-movie conventions prevailed. Frances Starr is especially egregious in this regard. There are moments when her performance looks like a parody.

    Robinson is introduced washing his hands, and MacMahon remarks that he does it compulsively, several times a day. (Cf., Lady MacBeth.) Prohibition was still the law in 1931, yet everybody saunters in and out of Corcoran's to have a drink. Robinson keeps a pint stashed in his desk drawer.

    There are some nice pre-code tickles in the dialog. Ziggie Feinstein is arranging a taxi race from the Bronx to mid-town and he's already fixed it. "I'm going to let an Irishman, a Jew, and a Wop win." When a low-life employee threatens to quit, Robinson gets to quote the Bible: "O, Death, where is thy sting?" Of his secretary, who sits and glares at him disapprovingly, "Don't just sit there like a visible conscience." And: "God gives us heartaches; the devil gives us whiskey." I don't claim these are flights of poetry, just that you're unlikely to find lines even of this level of originality as Philo Vance goes about solving a mystery.

    One of the lower forms of reporter is the silkily sinister Boris Karloff, who poses as a priest in order to get the dish -- when he's sober. The character's name is "Mr. Isopod." It's hard to believe that was an accident. In Greek it means "even footed" or even, by extension, "even handed," whereas in fact he's a scurrilous skank.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This is an amazing newspaper drama about a scandal sheet, the New York Evening Globe, that focuses on gossip, whether slander or not, destroying lives they have no business interfering in. And why bring up a 20 year old murder where the exonerated killer has reformed, lived a decent life, and is preparing to see the illegitimate daughter from that scandal be married into high society? Because that's what scandal sheets do, then, now, but hopefully not always. 82 years after this film was released, its message is still clear yet the attack it makes on these trash moguls has not been heeded, only worsened through today's hideous social media.

    The story here surrounds a woman (Frances Starr) who killed her lover who left her pregnant and refused to marry her. She was exonerated, married a man whom she truly grew to love (H.B. Warner) and has raised a beautiful daughter (Marian Marsh). At the Evening Globe, the owners suggest bringing back the story in serial form and find out what happened to her. Marsh's fiancée's (Anthony Bushell) parents are not forgiving, and as more of her past is exposed, Starr makes a drastic decision which results in tragedy for everybody and hopefully a guilt that will follow the Globe's owners to the grave.

    Under their thumb is Edward G. Robinson who goes along with the story yet as the clock ticks away, his own guilt surfaces, especially when Starr keeps trying to get ahold of him or the owners to beg them to cease the story for her daughter's sake. This is where the film is almost like the countdown to an execution, and the great tension arrives. Aline MacMahon, in her film debut, is outstanding, giving one of the greatest performances I've ever seen on film. She admits she's working in this position because it was the only job she can find, finds everything her employers do disgusting, and turns to drink to get the bad taste out of her mouth, hoping it will give her the courage to tell her boss (whom she obviously is in love with) off. Robinson finally gathers the courage to face the truth and his confrontation with his boss may have you cheering.

    In smaller roles as some of the sleazy reporters are George E. Stone, Ona Munson and Boris Karloff. The future King of Horror plays one of the sleaziest characters ever on film; He's a defrocked minister who continues to wear the uniform to get his victims to confide in him. Even Munson, playing pretty sleazy here herself, admits she is disgusted by him. The scene where Marsh confronts the Globe is celluloid at its eeriest with Karloff frightened out of his boots as he faces his sins at the hands of one of the victims.

    The reason these stories fascinate the public is obvious. As the musical "Sweet Smell of Success" (based upon the 1957 film noir) indicated, the public thrives on dirt, and they don't even care if it's true. You may, as I did, find this film to be an excellent expose on the evils of abuse because of the freedom of the press, yet you will be angry, as you should be. Think of that the next time you pass a newspaper rack at your local grocery store and see some innocent person's life being exposed in print or turn on your morning news to find out that it is not news, only unnecessary gossip.
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