Park Row (1952, Samuel Fuller)

Two or three years ago I completed a holy quest to track down and watch every movie by the extremely great Samuel Fuller. This directly led to the creation of this journal, because it turns out that I don’t remember movies very well when I just watch them one after another and never think about them again or discuss them with anybody so now it’s as if I’ve seen no (or just a few) movies by Samuel Fuller instead of all. Fortunately they’re all worth revisiting (except maybe for Underworld USA or Shark! or Madonna And The Dragon) so they’ll all show up here eventually, and maybe I’ll remember them better this time.

So here’s Park Row… selected by John Sayles, aired by Turner Classic, and digitally botched by Comcast (god, they’re worse than ever). Such a sappy and idealistic little flick for the first 30 or 40 minutes, about a fiery newspaper man (Gene Evans) who dreams of starting his own paper and whose dreams come true when a booze-buddy (vet actor Herbert Heyes) turns out to be a rich investor. His little-paper-that-could is run on honest journalism, ingenuity, and dedicated employees including Italian typesetter Mr. Angelo, linotype inventor Mergenthaler (sculptor Bela Kovacs), reckless bridge-jumping reporter Steve Brodie (George O’Hanlon, voice of George Jetson) and young type-sorter and paper-hawker Rusty.

The movie doesn’t show or narrate the events… it reports them. Sam was a newspaper man, a writer, photographer, and a war vet… and all of those come out in this movie, as the second half turns into a war between Evans and his rival paper’s editor Charity Hackett, and not just of wits… wagons run off the road, news stands destroyed, fist fights, even bombs thrown through windows, highlit by an awesome tracking shot that Sam reportedly created by strapping the camera to a man’s back and having him run after Evans, weaving through the movie’s single street set. The movie’s still corny, and at the end Charity admits defeat and offers to fold her paper, in love with the uncompromising Evans. But the grittiness and the sentimentality ramp up simultaneously and complement each other in a way Sam wouldn’t manage again until “The Naked Kiss”.

Excellent movie. It sneaks up on you.