Deadline U.S.A. (1952)
Take a whole lot of Humphrey Bogart, add a hard nosed script by Richard Brooks and sprinkle a little class with Ethel Barrymore and you get a must see tale of a big city editor fighting not only crime and corruption but the impending sale of the paper thus shutting down the freedom of the press.
Joining in for the Barrymore celebrations kindly hosted by Crystal from In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood I chose to revisit a Bogart title I hadn’t seen in over twenty years. Big mistake as it’s far better than I recall and highly recommended.
Our tale of a big city newspaper offers Bogie a solid role as the editor in charge of overseeing the daily operations of Ethel Barrymore’s paper “The Day.” The plot will take in the stories of a Capone like gangster that pushes Bogart’s buttons, Kim Hunter as Bogie’s ex-wife and Ethel’s desire not to sell the family paper despite being outvoted by stockholders.
Richard Brooks script does a fine job of keeping all the plot points moving solidly beginning with young reporter Warren Stevens getting to close to gangster Martin Gabel thus leaving him beaten to a pulp and setting Bogie off to the point of wanting to expose Gabel for the gangland figure he is despite the legal system constantly coming up short.
Seemingly unrelated is the body of a young woman found floating in the local river. Between Bogart and his top notch squad of newsmen including Paul Stewart, Jim Backus and a really fine Ed Begley, information will come to light that points towards the gangland figure Bogart has his sights set on. With the impending sale of the paper, Bogie wants to go out on a high and when a key witness is brought into the newspapers headquarters Bogie believes he’s about to bring his man down. This scene is top notch Bogie and isn’t too be missed as he plays it tough in getting the information he needs from a classic example of a modern day “Judas.” That is until hitman Joe Sawyer turns up.
The tensions run high throughout this storyline of Brooks story that was released by 20th Century Fox and also allowed Brooks to step into the directors chair.
On the dramatic side Bogie and Kim Hunter fence over the state of their marriage and her wanting to move on despite one suspects loving her man yet finding no time in his life for her. I’m always reminded of other films at times and their situation brought to mind Paul Newman and Jennifer Warren in Slap Shot. Newman like Bogie is married to his job first but still can’t let go off his estranged spouse.
While this is Bogie’s film from the outset, Ethel gets the opportunity to share some key scenes with Bogie and it’s a real pleasure to watch these two “old” pros play off one another. Once Ethel realizes that she must save the paper and preserve her late husbands work Bogie has his ally as well as someone who can relate to what he is going through with wife Hunter.
This film was the first for both Bogie and Hunter following their Oscars the previous year. Both are believable yet it’s Bogart who grabs the film by the throat and has me convinced he could have been a real big city editor with two Pulitzer Prizes to his credit as his character here does.
If like me you appreciate the character actors that frequently turn up, there are plenty to spot here. The previously mentioned Ed Begley deserves a second comment here as Bogie’s second. Joe Sawyer goes back to Bogie’s Warner days actually appearing as one of the gang members in the career making The Petrified Forest. Western regular John Doucette, Willis Bouchey, Parley Baer and Dabbs Greer turn up as well.
Director Brooks had a hand in writing the Bogie-Huston classic Key Largo and would also direct Bogie again following this title with the Korean War tale Battle Circus.
Though this is not a gangster role for Bogart, don’t miss this one. He still has the customary hat, overcoat and bow tie and while not brandishing a hand gun he’s just as tough as ever making his presence felt. It’s no wonder he was placed atop the AFI’s list of all time movie stars.
“That’s the press, Baby.” To hear Bogie say that line is music to the ears.