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Thursday, September 20, 2018

Journalism With A Meat Cleaver


Scandal Sheet (1931) Feathers Love Nests


Tab editor George Bancroft's credo is, if it's news, we print it, and never mind human casualties. Of course, he'll be hoisted upon his petard in a third act, that the fun for waiting an hour and fifteen minutes for the telegraphed payoff. What's wrong with formula when good enough people play it? Besides Bancroft, there is Kay Francis (what's she doing with him?, we, and she, asks), Clive Brook (him the interloper to Bancroft home/hearth/wife). There is noise of final editions shouted by newsboys, presses stopped so new dirt can be shoveled onto front pages --- when did extras fade from real-life sheets? Newspaper yarns couldn't help at least seeming authentic thanks to much of H'wood writing pool migrating from the trade. Scandal gather is shown on merciless terms, the mother of a suicide auctioning photos and poetry of her just-dead son to scribes scrambling for a spiciest headline. Heartlessness is coin of the realm for press jackals, and we're meant to be but barely shocked by their business as usual. This was cynicism of a deepest kind, talkies a fresh messenger to a public torn loose from age of innocence that was the silent era.






Scandal Sheet was first-foremost a vehicle for George Bancroft, a big galoot, said then-boy Budd Schulberg (in a later, and fine, memoir), and oblivious to what  laughing stock he was among wiser heads on the Paramount lot. One of these was director John Cromwell, who made the best of rush jobs like Scandal Sheet. Cromwell tried explaining nuance of parts to Bancroft, but it was useless. the actor having no "consciousness" of roles he took. "To him it was always just another part to play in the same old manner. He had no realization of the opportunities that were there, so they were simply missed." For a while, though, audiences made do with raw material that was Bancroft, so he saw no reason to vary a simple approach. Maybe Cromwell was misled for imagining he could make something meaningful of stock material. There would come an ally at Paramount in David Selznick, who wanted things better than assembly could disgorge. He and Cromwell did what they could with a few properties (Street Of Chance a worthy try), though both would leave the lot rather than bang heads against a shut door of creative authority. Their association would continue over years DOS spent at independent producing (Little Lord Fauntleroy, The Prisoner Of Zenda, Since You Went Away, all directed by Cromwell).

3 Comments:

Blogger Kevin K. said...

Well, the Daily News tried an "extra" late afternoon edition shortly after I moved to New York in 1981, and it nearly put them out of business.

2:31 PM  
Blogger radiotelefonia said...

Formula pictures about sensationalist newspapers goes back to at least 1921. There is ALL DOLLED UP, which I translated from Old Dutch and completed it from a Brazilian Portuguese synopsis. It already dealt with unscrupulous journalists and editors even committing crimes in order to sell some fabricated news.

2:58 PM  
Blogger Lou Lumenick said...

The New York City papers put out extras on 9/11. When I flew down to Charlotte the next weekend on child visitation I discovered that, much to my surprise, so did The Observer. There were still a few stacked up at a 7-11 near the hotel where I was staying, apparently in hope that people would buy them for keepsakes. Anyway, as a reformed tabloid editor (among other things), this one sounds pretty irresistible. Bancroft was more tolerable during his character actor phase. In WEDDING PRESENT (1935), he plays the city editor boss of Cary Grant and Joan Bennett. When he develops laryngitis, Grant replaces at the tabloid and becomes even more insufferable than Bancroft. Plus William Demarest as a gangster.

4:41 PM  

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