Chris Hicks: Newspaper movies have provided a rich genre

Published: Thursday, Sept. 13 2012 3:00 p.m. MDT

The 1930s may have had more newspaper movies in sheer numbers, but the 1950s was perhaps the richest era for them: Not only with “Ace in the Hole” and “Deadline, U.S.A.,” but also another unavailable film, “Come Fill the Cup” (1951), with James Cagney as an alcoholic veteran newspaperman; as well as “Park Row” (1952), Samuel Fuller’s gritty look at newspapering in the 1880s; “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt” (1956), with Glenn Ford framing himself for murder to report on the justice system; “While the City Sleeps” (1956), with reporters pitted against each other to break a story and earn a promotion, starring Dana Andrews; “Sweet Smell of Success” (1957), with Burt Lancaster as a powerful New York columnist; “Top Secret Affair” (1957), a comedy with Susan Hayward as a newspaper publisher digging up the dirt on a new senator (Kirk Douglas); the comedy “Teacher’s Pet” (1958), with old-school Clark Gable going up against “modern” journalism teacher Doris Day; and “—30—,” Jack Webb’s chronicle of one night in a newsroom.

Other great newspaper movies include “I Cover the Waterfront” (1933) with a tough reporter (Ben Lyon) trying to crack a smuggling ring by romancing the daughter (Claudette Colbert) of his chief suspect; the gossip-laden comedy “Libeled Lady” (1936), with William Powell, Spencer Tracy, Jean Harlow and Myrna Loy; “His Girl Friday” (1940), the hysterical distaff remake of “The Front Page”; “Foreign Correspondent” (1940), Alfred Hitchcock’s classic spy thriller with Joel McCrea in the title role; “Citizen Kane” (1941), Orson Welles’ classic fictional biography of a William Randolph Hearst-type character; “Call Northside 777” (1948), with James Stewart trying to prove a convicted killer is innocent; “All the President’s Men” (1976), with Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as real-life reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, exposing the Watergate scandal; “Absence of Malice” (1981), with Sally Field as a reporter manipulated by her sources, and whose reporting hurts innocent Paul Newman and Melinda Dillon; and “The Paper” (1994), with Michael Keaton leading an all-star cast in an ambitious look at a frantic 24 hours in the life of a New York City daily.

And lots of films use newspapers in a sort of peripheral, albeit important-to-the-plot way, including a couple of Frank Capra classics: “It Happened One Night” (1935), the first movie to win the top five Oscars, with reporter Clark Gable pursuing heiress Claudette Colbert for a story; and “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” (1936), with Gary Cooper as a reluctant millionaire and Jean Arthur as the reporter who can’t believe he’s for real. The New York Times figures in the climax of the Robert Redford spy thriller “Three Days of the Condor” (1975). And, of course, the Superman and Spider-Man movies have newspapers providing employment for the superheroes’ alter egos.

But as newspapers retreat and the blogosphere takes over, and the genre gives way to films like “Julie & Julia” (2009), in which the modern-day half of the picture has a blogger (Amy Adams) writing about legendary chef Julia Child (Meryl Streep), movies about crusading journalists may indeed be a thing of the past.

Unless they are period pieces.

E-MAIL: hicks@desnews.com

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