Big city newspaper owner Carter is publically attacked by small town newspaper owner Ulysses Bradford for twisting the truth, exploiting the sacred power of the press for commercial gain.
“A free press is the sole right of the people. The editor is but the trustee of that right, not the dictator. Beware of those who hide behind the front pages of America who use for their own advantage the power of the press. They are as dangerous as enemy planes, bombs, guns, tanks.”
Carter, shamed, agrees with Bradford’s editorial, vows to improve his paper at a press conference, but is shot before he can get through the speech. Things get farfetched here, but it’s obviously the work of chief editor Howard Rankin (below), a transparent villain introduced delivering a light line about sending someone to a concentration camp.
Now it’s up to Edwina (“Eddie” to her friends), Carter’s longtime secretary, to convince smalltime Bradford to come to the big city, take the reins of the paper (it was left him in Carter’s dying will), get managing editor Griff from under Rankin’s thumb, catch trigger man Trent at another murder and force a confession from Rankin. Can they succeed in these noble deeds? Yes!
Oh and I didn’t mention Rankin incites a riot to destroy a warehouse hoarding rationed goods, which turns out to be a secret army supply, and he frames a young commie ex-newsman for Carter’s murder. All this in 60 minutes. Big ol’ propaganda piece for a free press, with more and more spoken comparisons between Rankin and nazi bigwigs as the crimes are revealed. But the worst insult of all: “Why, Howard Rankin isn’t even a real newspaperman.”
Fuller wrote the story, not the screenplay, but we still get idealistic speeches about the press, mentions of Horace Greeley and a character named Griff. Sounds like our Sam. Doesn’t look like him unfortunately… feels like a quickie. No wonder, since director Lew Landers made 28 movies from 1942-44.
Minor Watson (Woman of the Year, Lang’s Western Union) played the murdered newsman, Larry Parks (played Al Jolson in a biopic and its sequel) the commie, Victor Jory (the Rupert Everett part in the 1935 A Midsummer Night’s Dream, also played The Shadow in the 1940 serial) the evil henchman, Atlanta native Lee Tracy (Doctor X and Borzage’s Liliom) the eventual-good-guy editor Griff and Otto Kruger (High Noon, Dracula’s Daughter) the maniacal Rankin. Our female lead Gloria Dickson died in a house fire two years later. Guy Kibbee (Ulysses) seems to have had a nice career despite his unfortunate name, from 30’s musicals to Capra to John Ford. The previous few years he’d been starring in a comedy series as Scattergood Baines.
In the featurette, Tim Robbins says a buncha general things about Fuller’s movies, mentions the year 1959, so I figure he thought he’d be on the Crimson Kimono disc, not having his interview slapped between clips of Power of the Press. Tim is a suitable interview, since I’ve had that song about “the press, the press, the freedom of the press” from his Cradle Will Rock in my head since I watched this.