Deadline – U.S.A. (1952)

Directed by Richard Brooks
Cinematography Milton R. Krasner

Ed Hutcheson, tough editor of the New York ‘Day’, finds that the late owner’s heirs are selling the crusading paper to a strictly commercial rival. At first he sees impending unemployment as an opportunity to win back his estranged wife Nora. But when a reporter, pursuing a lead on racketeer Rienzi, is badly beaten, Hutcheson is stung into a full fledged crusade against the gangster, hoping Rienzi can be tied to a woman’s murder.

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James Dean appears in a tiny non-speaking role in the film as a press boy.

During the first day of shooting, star Humphrey Bogart admitted to friend and writer/director Richard Brooks that he had been drinking until late in the morning, and had not learned his lines. Earlier in the day, while he had being difficult on the set and resistant to saying his lines (ones he never knew) veteran Ethel Barrymore pushed him to just get on with it, by explaining that ‘The Swiss have no navy’. In other words, like actors, they are powerless.

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The story is based on the closing of the New York “Sun,” founded by Benjamin Day, in 1950. The Sun was sold to the Scripps Howard chain and absorbed into the “World-Telegram.”

A homage to those great Warner dramas of the 1930’s

31 December 2009 | by calvinnme (United States) – See all my reviews

I don’t know if it was intended to copy the fast-paced press room and gangster films that Warner Brothers did in the 1930’s, but you certainly get a chance to see what Bogart could have done had he been a star at Warner Brothers during the 30’s rather than largely a supporting player.

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Of course, everything here is taking place in present day – 1952 – but not only does the film reach backwards for its brisk pace, it reaches forward into the 21st century with some of its subject matter. In particular, there is the subject of how big companies buy smaller more effective companies to eliminate the competition, and the subject of inherited wealth and how the companies that formed that wealth are often not appreciated by the spoiled children-heirs.

Here Bogart plays the editor in chief of crusading hard-hitting daily newspaper “The Day”, which is about to be sold off by the bored children of the deceased founder. The founder’s widow (Ethel Barrymore) unfortunately is outvoted by her ungrateful children, and with the encouragement of Bogart’s character tries to come up with enough money to buy her children’s shares back from her daughters. In parallel with this is the story of The Day trying to break one last big story before they are bought out – a story that will break the power of a local crime boss who is not taking his possible downfall lying down.

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This one is seldom seen and very well done, and I highly recommend that you see it if it ever comes your way.

surprisingly timely

7/10
Author: blanche-2 from United States
6 August 2005

A very good movie about The Day, a newspaper publishing its last editions, and its aggressive attack on a known mobster. Humphrey Bogart does an excellent job as the editor, and Ethel Barrymore gives a wonderful, regal performance as the widow of the publisher, whose daughters are now demanding that the paper be sold to a competitor.

The film brings up, a mere 53 years ago, issues that are relevant today – the tabloids versus real, factual news, and the meaning of a free press. These debates continue today, but unfortunately, it seems that the tabloid type of journalism is winning. As for a free press – our press might be freer than many, but it isn’t entirely free. As anyone who lost money in the great savings and loan scandal can tell you, important stories disappear from the front pages all the time.

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Bogart’s strong performance is the engine that keeps this film going, and there’s a nice performance by Kim Hunter as his ex-wife. Deadline USA reminds us of the good old days, when you could believe what you read in the New York Times.

Racing to beat life’s deadline

8/10
Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
9 June 2006

Deadline – U.S.A. has Humphrey Bogart as the editor of a big city newspaper that is in the process of being sold to a Rupert Murdoch like chain that publishes scandal sheets. His paper is in the process at the same time of doing an expose of notorious racketeer Martin Gabel.

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And if that ain’t enough for Bogey his wife Kim Hunter is splitting from him. It’s the usual story, she can’t stand having him married to her and the paper as well.

Growing up in New York in the Fifties we had several newspapers, each vying for a smaller readership. I remember we had the Times, News, Post, Herald Tribune, World-Telegram&Sun, Journal-American, and the Daily Mirror. Some of those you can see are the products of consolidation, there were more in the past. After a printer’s strike in the sixties most of them went out of business.

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The papers were competing for a shrinking share of readership. In the previous generation, radio competed with the print media and I grew up with that new phenomenon of television. Today we are seeing the effects of the Internet as the individual’s primary source for news.

The gangster part of the plot gets started with the discovery of the body of a Virginia Hill like moll, the former mistress of Martin Gabel. While some of the scandal sheets cover the sensational aspects of the murder of a glamor girl, Bogey’s paper does some serious investigative reporting and uncovers a lot of evidence. Their work also has consequences including the maiming of young reporter Warren Stevens.

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In the meantime the heirs of the newspaper’s original founder are looking to sell the paper. Opposing it is their mother, Ethel Barrymore and she has a fine part and is obviously the model for the widow publisher played by Nancy Marchand in Lou Grant. She has one classic scene with Humphrey Bogart where they commiserate over their mutual problems.

Deadline – U.S.A. is a realistic look at the life of a big city paper in days gone by. It’s a gritty piece of nostalgia, as timely in its day as The Front Page was in the Twenties. Cast members like Paul Stewart, Jim Backus, and Ed Begley look and feel right at home at their jobs.

The film is recommended particularly for younger viewers who are glued to their computers and television to see how a newspaper functioned back in the day.

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One of Bogart’s two most underrated films.

Author: bat-12 from New York, N.Y.
5 April 1999

This film was released (as I remember) the same year as The African Queen. I have always liked it more than the latter film. Richard Brooks’s prior experience working on a newspaper gives it a genuine idea of what that kind of work is like. The performances of Bogart and Barrymore are very good. I think it’s one of her very best. This movie deserves to be seen and appreciated more.

“…and the lawyers are up in the dome right now waiting to explain the nature of their crime with facts, figures and falsehoods. One more ‘F’ and they won’t be drafted.”

7/10
Author: classicsoncall from Florida, New York
4 June 2006
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

“Deadline U.S.A” is the story of a newspaper facing extinction, though it delves into a neat little crime story that graces page one prominently during it’s final days.

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What’s interesting is that the gangster drama doesn’t involve Humphrey Bogart as a mobster or a law man; he’s the editor of ‘The Day’, a paper put on the selling block by an owner family at the advice of their financial attorney. The family’s matriarch, portrayed by Ethel Barrymore eventually sees the light of ‘Day’ so to speak, as you know she will. Her conversation with Bogey near the end of the film is a classic tribute to freedom of the press and the role of newspapers as society’s watchdog.

There’s another side story going on as well, though it’s not entirely necessary. Ed Hutcheson (Bogart) attempts to reconcile with ex-wife Nora (Kim Hunter), and though it appears he’s hit a roadblock, winds up winning her back in the end. It’s never made clear however what the turning point in the relationship was, since Nora was planning to remarry and abruptly changed her mind.

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Classic film fans will enjoy seeing Ed Begley and Jim Backus in roles as newspapermen employed by ‘The Day’. The mobster being investigated by the paper is portrayed by Martin Gabel. It was with a bit of discomfort watching Bogey’s character get into the back seat of Gabel’s car to ‘go for a ride’. That scene could have gone either way, especially since editor Hutcheson felt compelled to crack wise with a goon who had murder included in his resume. As for the rough stuff, that was generally handled by Tomas Rienzi’s main henchman Whitey, Joe Sawyer in an uncredited role, but a Warner Brothers mainstay nonetheless.

With the clock running out on the newspaper, and a judge siding with the sellers, Hutcheson gets to the finish line with his page one story with damning evidence of Rienzi’s complicity in the death of his hush hush girlfriend and her brother. But the film ends so abruptly, there’s no time to reflect on the bittersweet finale, not even a shot of Bogey and his ex getting back together for a feel good moment.

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If you enjoyed this film, you might want to check out another lesser known Bogart movie titled “Two Against The World”, it also goes by “One Fatal Hour”. There he finds himself in another media forum running a radio station. Like “Deadline U.S.A.” though, it may be difficult to find since neither has been commercially released. You’ll have to keep your eyes peeled for a cable presentation, or source it from private collectors.

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Everyone is Pressed

9/10
Author: pensman from United States
7 April 2004

`Stupidity isn’t hereditary, you acquire it by yourself.’ A great line from one of those films you need to have made every so often-one that glorifies the value of a free press. Bogart is the hard-hitting editor of a newspaper on the brink of extinction. He has to decide whether to fight for the press or his wife. Oh yes, his ex-wife tired of being a `bulldog’ widow and is ready to remarry. Will the daughter of the original-now deceased-owner/publisher move on to a less printful husband? Will the publisher’s widow be able to halt the sale of her husband’s paper? Will the editor be able to bring down a local racketeer/thug/murderer?

No doubt this film will fade into obscurity to be viewed only by a few journalism/media majors doing a research paper on the portrayal of the press in film-assuming they go beyond All the President’s Men. Too bad.

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