Newspapers in the movies

Mar 5th, 2009 | By | Category: Featured

Journalists and journalism show up in movies all the time. Here is a rundown on some films you might enjoy.

The latest — but not the last — newspaper movie is “State of Play,” released April 17, 2009. It is a political thriller in which a reporter (Russell Crowe) untangles the death of a the mistress of a congressman (Ben Affleck).

The movie is based on a six-part British television serial by the same name. For the film, the story has been moved to Washington. D.C.

The film also features Rachel McAdams, Helen Mirren and Jeff Daniels. 127 minutes

Order DVD of British miniseries.


Here’s a trailer from “State of Play.”

More newspaper movies

Looking to escape the rigors of a day at the newsroom? How about a nice newspaper movie? That’s sick! You need to get a life.

We can’t help you with that, but if you haven’t had your fix for the day, here are some of the best newspaper movies of all time (and a few clinkers) to help you unwind — if that’s what you call it. (It seems that a certain amount of obsessiveness can be an occupational hazard.)

Are we missing one of your favorites?

Citizen Kane

A classic, not just among newspaper movies, but among all American movies ever made. In June, 1998, a panel of the American Film Institute chose it as the best American feature film ever. Orson Welles directs this parallel to the life of William Randolph Hearst. The flashbacks and camera angles were ahead of the times for the 1940s. Starring Welles and Joseph Cotten. Black and white, 1941, 119 minutes. Two-DVD special edition.

FOUR PACK: The Front Page

The first of four comedic takeoffs on the 1928 Hecht and Macarthur play. The formula is simple and true: ace reporter and editor battle with each other and with corruption. This classic stars Pat O’Brien, Adolphe Menjou and Mary Brian. The first three end with one of the play’s best lines. But you won’t read it here. You’ll have to wait till you get the movie. Black and white, 1931, 99 minutes. Order the DVD.

Sequel: His Girl Friday

A clever twist takes the lead from two males and gives it to Cary Grant (as the editor) and Rosalind Russell (the retirement-bent reporter) for a battle of the sexes. Quick wit and repartee make this movie the fastest of the four — and, some say, the best. Black and white, 1940, 90 minutes. Order the DVD.

Threequel: The Front Page

Slower paced than its predecessors, but still very funny. Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau in the lead roles, Carol Burnett and Susan Sarandon support. Here, Lemmon and Matthau are in the same predicament as O’Brien and Menjou in the scene above. 1974, 105 minutes, Order the DVD.

Nyquil: Switching Channels

Apparently, three times was a charm. The fourth is not charming. This version updates “His Girl Friday” and sets it at a TV station. It doesn’t cut it. (Or, is this a reflection of newspaper arrogance? Compare and decide for yourself.) Kathleen Turner and Burt Reynolds at left, as well as Christopher Reeve and others. 1988, 113 minutes. Order the VHS.

Deadline USA

Chicago Tribune columnist Bob Greene once called this the best newspaper movie of all time. Disagree? YOU tell him. Humphrey Bogart, as editor of The Day, has his hands full trying to stave off an attempt by the founder’s daughters to sell out to the competition, orchestrate an expose on a murderous crime empire and save his marriage. Can anyone, even Bogie, manage all that? Learn the answer — and how a running press can be used as a murder weapon. High marks for authenticity and adventure. Black and white, 1952, 87 minutes

Teacher’s Pet

So, you think that the gulf between newsroom and classroom is a fairly modern invention? Check out this 1958 flick. Hard-boiled New York Evening Chronicle City Editor Clark Gable, right, is invited to speak to a college journalism class. Here’s part of his RSVP: “If you’ve ever been inside a real, live newsroom, you’ll remember that a city editor’s job is to get out a daily paper. Unfortunately, that doesn’t leave him much time for such pleasant diversions as bridge luncheons, guided tours through Rockefeller Center, the canning of crab apples and lectures to journalism classes.” Soon, Mr. Hard-Boiled sees the light of day — as in Doris Day, journalism teacher. They begin to close the chasm between profs and professionals. 1958, 120 minutes. Get the VHS.

Blessed Event

Daily Express gossip columnist Al Roberts makes his living and a name for himself by writing about Broadway stars and, often, the passage of time between matrimony and maternity. When he picks on a hood, the hood sends Frankie to have a little talk with Roberts about his work. The columnist gets a confession out of Frankie and turns him into his own bodyguard. Al seems pretty smart, until he takes on a crooner. Starring Lee Tracy and Dick Powell. 1932, black and white, 89 minutes. Get the VHS.

-30- (a.k.a. Deadline Midnight)

Ever dream of having Joe Friday as your managing editor? Joe Friday IS your managing editor? See Jack Webb at his Friday-best in this film set at a metro daily, apparently in Los Angeles. He both directs and stars. “The Motion Picture Guide” calls this, “one of the most accurate and most memorable newspaper films ever made, and one of Webb’s best productions.” The clueless copy boy? That’s David Nelson (son of Ozzie and Harriet). 1959

All the President’s Men

We know how this one turns out, but a good script and authentic acting by Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford keep things rolling. Redford, at right, not only bought the film rights to the book, co-produced the film and acted in it, he also suggested that the book be written in the first place. Find out why all those Baby Boomers wanted to become Carl Bernsteins and Bob Woodwards in the mid-70s.1976, 136 minutes. Two-DVD special edition.

Absence of Malice

This is a sentimental Detroit Free Press favorite, written by former Freep executive editor Kurt Luedtke. Forever fretful Miami reporter Sally Field ties an innocent Paul Newman to the disappearance and possible murder of a union leader. A suspenseful examination of newspaper ethics, often used in the classroom by teachers and professors. 1982, 116 minutes. Get the DVD.

Continental Divide

John Belushi plays Ernie Souchak, a cigarette-smoking, hat-in-the-office-type Chicago reporter who gets enough dirt on the Mob that they blow up his apartment. Soooo, as often happens in newsrooms, his editors send him out of town — to Colorado — to investigate an eagle researcher, played by Blair Brown. They clash, they kiss, they fall in love, and Belushi is called back to Chicago when one of his sources gets wasted. We know, happens all the time. 1981, 103 minutes. Get the DVD.

A Case of Libel

You’ve seen Ed Asner as a journalist; he’s powerful as an attorney in this re-enactment of the libel trial over columnist Westbrook Pegler’s smear campaign against Quentin Reynolds. Regarded as one of the best courtroom dramas ever. 1984, 92 minutes. Get the VHS.

The Pelican Brief

In this adaptation of John Grisham’s bestseller, a smart law student (Julia Roberts), in the course of doing her homework, trips over evidence that high government officials conspired in the assassination of two Supreme Court justices. Realizing that there is more riding on this than her semester grade, she enlists the help of an investigative reporter (Denzel Washington) in a dangerous race to get the story out. No word on her grade. 1993, 141 minutes. Get the DVD.

I Love Trouble

It’s a comedy! It’s a romance! It’s an adventure film! What it wasn’t, was all that great. Nick Nolte and Julia Roberts personify a Chicago-style, David-and-Goliath newspaper war. Smug star reporter Nolte and cubbie Roberts pursue the same story — and each other — and wind up on the same side when things get dangerous. (Some of the same energy as Teacher’s Pet.) Fun, but hardly a hit. Some serious journos panned it for its romance and lack of authenticity. But, HEY, it’s a MOVIE! 1994, 123 minutes. Get the DVD.

The Paper

The rush to report and publish a story about a double homicide with racial overtones propels us through 24 hours of the life of the New York Sun and its scrappy assistant managing editor, played by Michael Keaton. Being courted by some other, arrogant newspaper in town (we wonder whose?), dueling with an avaricious managing editor (Glenn Close) and keeping his very pregnant reporter-wife (Marisa Tomei) waiting, Keaton takes us pell-mell to an ending where everything is tied up with a neat little bow. Roger Ebert wrote, “you get cocooned in a tight little crowd of hyperactive competitors, and eventually your view of normality begins to blur.” Now, THAT sounds familiar! Ron Howard directs, 1994, 112 minutes. Get the DVD.

If you need a serious hit of newspaper movies, check out Richard R. Ness’ “From Headline Hunter to Superman.” This 808-page tome, published in 1997, catalogs 2,100 feature films dealing with journalism. Here are a few more titles:

  • The Final Extra (1927)
  • Big News (1929)
  • Copy (1929)
  • Five Star Final (1931)
  • Scandal Sheet (1931)
  • Platinum Blonde (1931)
  • I Cover the Waterfront (1933)
  • It Happened One Night (1934)
  • Front Page Woman (1935)
  • The Libeled Lady (1936)
  • Inside Story (1939)
  • Foreign Correspondent (1940)
  • Confirm or Deny (1941)
  • Nine Lives are Not Enough (1941)
  • Meet John Doe (1941)
  • Ace in the Hole (1942)
  • They Got Me Covered (1943)
  • It Happened Tomorrow (1944)
  • Night Editor (1946)
  • The Big Clock (1948)
  • Call Northside 777 (1948)
  • Big Town (1950)
  • The Big Carnival – remake of Ace in the Hole (1951)
  • Come Fill the Cup (1951)
  • The Captive City (1952)
  • It Happens Every Thursday (1953)
  • Front Page Story (1953)
  • Slander (1956)
  • Sweet Smell of Success (1957)
  • Between the Lines (1977)
  • The Journalist (1979)
  • City News (1982)
  • The Year of Living Dangerously (1982)
  • Under Fire (1983)
  • The Killing Fields (1984)
  • Not for Publication (1984)
  • Mean Season (1985)
  • Fletch (1985)
  • Jack and Mike (1986)
  • Salvador (1986)
  • Newsies (1992)
  • The Public Eye (TV Series, 1997)
  • Heads (TV, 1993)
  • Madman of the People (1994)
  • Welcome to Sarajevo (1997)
  • Never Been Kissed (1999)

Paul Schindler’s journalism movies
The Image of the Journalist in Popular Culture
The Internet Movie Database

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One Comment to “Newspapers in the movies”

  1. David Murray says:

    How could a list of films about journalism leave out Call Northside 777, with Jimmy Stewart in an outstanding performance as the crusading newspaperman who saves a man from life in prison–and it was all true!

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