Last night I went to another screening, part of the 11th Film Noir Festival at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood USA. One of the films shown was Deadline U.S.A., the directorial debut of Richard Brooks, who shot to fame soon after with his mega hit Blackboard Jungle. Brooks had been a newspaperman and the veracity his experience brings into play is eye-opening. The scene at the paper are great, especially the scenes in the printing room, these were the days when the paper was printed on giant machines directly downstairs from the reporters desks. A lot of important action takes places right there in front of, over and in the enormous presses. It’s also a very timely piece as the subplot has to do with the selling and closing of a vital newspaper something we are being subjected to on a daily basis across our country, probably across the world. Eddie Mueller (programmer of the Noir Fest) spoke before the screening. He said his father was a newspaperman and this was his favorite film. Then he asked how many people in the audience were in the newspaper game, I would say about half of the crowd raised their hands, this film is beloved by journalists and I can see why. It’s really about the power of the press, about the principles of journalism that inspires a young person to pursue a career in that hallowed field. And never have I seen the ideals of reporting better illustrated, a sensational story of a nude blonde, wearing only a mink coat is fished out of a river, one paper plays it up in true tabloid style, Humphrey Bogart’s paper “The Day” reports it unsensationally.
Bogart plays editor Ed Hutcheson, a tough, obsessed genius newspaperman, unafraid to take on the biggest gangster in town, uncompromising, a beautiful performance. The supporting cast is loaded with great character actors, Kim Hunter as Bogie’s ex-wife, Ed Begley, Jim Backus, Paul Stewart, you’ll see a gallery of faces that you recognize from many films. But the real stand out for me was the dialogue, some of the best, funniest, on the money verbiage I’ve heard in any film. Brooks really knew what he was talking about or should I say writing about.
Brooks on the Right
Michael Cimino was a friend of Richard Brooks and he told me a story about him once. It seems Brooks had just come to Hollywood and he got a gig writing something for Orson Welles. Welles was making Jane Eyre at the time over at Samuel Goldwyn Studios in Hollywood ( across the street from the Formosa Bar) Brooks lived nearby and one night as he was typing feverishly in his apartment, he heard someone yelling his name. He looked out the window and there was Welles, in full Jane Eyre makeup, driving a horse and buggy from the film, out in the street in front of Brooks apartment. ” Brooks, where are my pages! I want my pages!” Welles shouted, urging the young writer to hurry up and finish his assignment. Welles had just taken off from the set still in character, driving a horse and buggy he drove in the film out the gate and down the streets of Hollywood to check up on his writer. Those were the days! But see Deadline U.S.A. if you can, it’s not out on DVD but somebody at Fox should take note and release this wonderful film for the world to enjoy and treasure.
Welles in the Buggy with Joan Fontaine