Saturday 22 July 2023

Movie Review: Scandal Sheet (1952)

Genre: Crime Drama Noir
Director: Phil Karlson
Starring: Broderick Crawford, John Derek, Donna Reed
Running Time: 82 minutes

Synopsis: Hard-nosed newspaper editor Mark Chapman (Broderick Crawford) has revitalized the New York Express by turning it into a scandal sheet, fueled by the investigative crime reporting of his protégé Steve McCleary (John Derek). Steve's girlfriend Julie (Donna Reed) works in the newsroom and disapproves of Chapman. She is also sympathetic to the plight of Charlie Barnes (Henry O'Neill), an alcoholic former award-winning reporter. When an inconvenient acquaintance from the past threatens to reveal sordid secrets, Chapman is personally embroiled as Steve digs into the latest crime scandal.

What Works Well: Samuel Fuller's 1944 novel becomes a taut noir, director Phil Karlson squeezing every drop of irony from a story of ambition, crime, and deception. Sharp editing makes best use out of every scene, brevity highlighting the complexities of an editor fixated on personal glory at literally any cost (a dominant Broderick Crawford); the too-good instincts of a star reporter (an adequate John Derek); and hovering over them the well-faded glory of a once-excellent journalist (a heartbreaking Henry O'Neill). When McCleary assembles the city's drunks to pursue a lead, he stumbles upon the city's real boulevard of broken dreams.

What Does Not Work As Well: One character's about-face from seeking sordid stories to striving for honourable outcomes is rather sudden.

Conclusion: Scandal seekers gloriously consumed by their own lust.

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