As newspapers come under increasing threat from falling circulations, staff cutbacks, online competition and fake news, Cinema Paradiso celebrates the heyday of print, when intrepid reporters were willing to do anything to get a bylined scoop on to the nation's breakfast tables.
Although news sheets have existed since ancient times, film-makers have yet to focus on a Roman reporter producing his handwritten acta diurna or a second-century Chinese scribe poring over his court bulletin. Not even the avvisi of Renaissance Venice or the first printed German and Dutch gazettes of the early 17th century have sparked a creative impulse. However, Warner Bros did commemorate the birth of the news agency, as Edward G. Robinson assumed the role of Julius Reuter in biopic king William Dieterle's A Dispatch From Reuters (1940), while Robert Duvall appeared as press pioneer Julius Pulitzer in Kenny Ortega's Newsies (1992), a Disney adaptation of Alan Menken's Tony-winning musical about the 1899 strike by New York's newsboys.
The first modern war correspondent featured in Tony Richardson's The Charge of the Light Brigade (1968), as TP McKenna played William Howard Russell of The Times, while Ben Chaplin and Julian Rhind-Tutt star as Great War trench chroniclers Captain Fred Roberts and Lieutenant Jack Pearson in Andy De Emmony's The Wipers Times (2013). But, while the newspaper remained a crucial means of conveying news and opinion throughout the 20th century, it began facing competition from radio and newsreels, which made the prominent figures more visible and recognisable and introduced a cult of personality (and even celebrity) to political life.
From Page to Screen
The lure of the moving image proved irresistible for numerous journalists, who decided to swap the page for the screen. Among the first to make an impact was Frances Marion, who wrote many of Mary Pickford's starring vehicles in the 1910s before going on to become the first woman to win an Academy Award for Best Screenplay for husband George W. Hill's The Big House, which was released the same year that Marion helped Greta Garbo talk in Clarence Brown's Anna Christie (1930), which Marion adapted from a play by Eugene O'Neill.
Many other Hollywood scenarists started out in a newsroom, including Dudley Nichols, who famously turned down the Oscar he won for John Ford's The Informer (1935), only to collect it three years later. Fellow hacks Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur channelled their experiences into the 1928 Broadway play, The Front Page, which was not only filmed under its own title by Lewis Milestone and Billy Wilder in 1931 and 1974 respectively, but also by Howard Hawks as His Girl Friday (1940), with Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell as the competing Morning Post hacks.
The following year saw the release of the most famous newspaper picture of them all, Orson Welles's Citizen Kane (1941), which the actor-director co-scripted with former reporter Herman J. Mankiewicz. As they based the character of Daily Inquirer proprietor Charles Foster Kane on newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst, he tried to use his influence to sabotage the project, as Benjamin Ross recalls in RKO 281 (1999), which stars Liev Schreiber as Welles, John Malkovich as Mankiewicz and James Cromwell as Hearst.
Ironically, the screenplay for His Girl Friday was written by Charles Lederer, who was the journalist nephew of Hearst's actress mistress, Marion Davies, and who would go on to marry Welles's first wife, Virginia Nicholson. Among their contemporaries with ink on their fingers were John Huston (In This Our Life), Frank Tuttle (This Gun For Hire, both 1942), Henry Koster (Harvey, 1950), Nunnally Johnson (Black Widow), Katy Jurado (Broken Lance, both 1954) and Ernest Lehman (North By Northwest, 1959). Two members of the Hollywood Ten had been newspapermen, Ring Lardner, Jr. (Woman of the Year, 1942) and John Howard Lawson (Sahara, 1943), whose plight was allegorised to Oscar-nominated effect by fellow HUAC blacklistee, Carl Foreman, in Fred Zinnemann's classic Western, High Noon (1952).
Several European film-makers got their start in print, including Dane Carl Theodor Dreyer (The Passion of Joan of Arc, 1928), Anglicised Hungarian Alexander Korda (The Private Life of Henry VIII, 1933), Italian Cesare Zavattini (Bicycle Thieves, 1948) and Frenchmen Henri-Georges Clouzot (Le Corbeau, 1943) and René Clair, who starred Dick Powell as a 19th-century reporter who acquires the gift of predicting the headlines in It Happened Tomorrow (1944). Among the postwar converts were Chris Marker (Le Joli Mai, 1963), Pier Paolo Pasolini (Hawks and Sparrows, 1966) and Claude Lanzmann (Shoah, 1985), as well as the unlikely British duo of Ealing screenwriter TEB Clarke (Hue and Cry, 1947) and Oscar-nominated actor Peter O'Toole (Lawrence of Arabia, 1962).
In more recent times, crossing the divide has happened less frequently. But a number of prominent writers and directors have made the transition, including Gordon Parks (Shaft, 1971), Terrence Malick (Badlands, 1973), Joe Eszterhas (Flashdance, 1983), Garry Marshall (The Flamingo Kid, 1984), James Toback (The Pick-Up Artist, 1987), Edward Zwick (Glory), Paul Greengrass (Resurrected, both 1989), Nora Ephron (Sleepless in Seattle, 1993), Isabel Coixet (My Life Without Me, 2003) and Cristian Mungiu (Beyond the Hills, 2012).
The speed of the dialogue in the early sound era suited the newspaper movie, as the stories invariably centred on hard-boiled, but erudite young men and women, whose urban existence ticked to the click of the telex machine. Sadly, few of these rat-a-tat pictures have been released on disc. Having starred in the original production of The Front Page, Lee Tracy was frequently cast as an intrepid reporter who did whatever it took to break a story. In addition to lighter outings, he also headlined The Power of the Press (1943), which was based on a story by Samuel Fuller.
He would revisit his time as a journalist in the novel that inspired Phil Karlson's Scandal Sheet (1952), in which editor Broderick Crawford and crime reporter John Derek find themselves on opposite sides of a murder story. As a director, Fuller would also relive old times in Park Row (1952), which harks back to the 1880s to focus on an ethics and circulation war between rival New York proprietors Gene Evans and Mary Welch, and Shock Corridor (1964), in which Peter Breck's bid to win a Pulitzer Prize backfires when he pretends to be insane in order to investigate a murder in an asylum.
Glenda Farrell was cast in seven of the nine Warner programmers featuring ace reporter Teresa 'Torchy' Blane. Claudette Colbert also showed her mettle in James Cruze's I Cover the Waterfront (1933). But her runaway heiress was the target for Clark Gable's roving reporter in Frank Capra's It Happened One Night (1934), which became the first film to win the Big Five Oscars. A Sicilian migrant, Capra had a love-hate relationship with the media and journalists of differing ethical standards crop up in The Power of the Press (1928), Mr Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Meet John Doe (1941), Keeper of the Flame (1942) and State of the Union (1948), while a newspaper plays a key role in It's a Wonderful Life (1946).
Dispatches From the Front Line
As the Second World War broke out, America sought to remain in isolation. But ex-pat film-makers like Alfred Hitchcock kept pricking the nation's conscience with thrillers like Foreign Correspondent (1940), in which New York Daily Globe reporter Joel McCrea discovers the dastardliness of a foe that will stop at nothing to dispose of a Dutch peace campaigner. It took until the conflict was almost over for James Cagney to expose the perfidy of the Japanese militarist regime in Frank Lloyd's Blood on the Sun (1945). But the same year saw Burgess Meredith play Pulitzer winner Ernie Pyle following the Oscar-nominated Robert Mitchum and his C Company comrades from North Africa to Monte Cassino in William A. Wellman's The Story of G.I. Joe (1945), which boasted nine actual war correspondents among its technical advisers. Tragically, Pyle never got to see the tribute, as he was killed while covering the battle for Okinawa.
The Korean and Vietnam wars played out on television and Hollywood seemed uncertain how to depict either campaign. Stanley Kubrick eventually smuggled journalist Matthew Modine into R. Lee Ermey's unit in Full Metal Jacket (1987), while Roland Joffé ventured into Cambodia to tell the story of the friendship between New York Times reporter Sydney Schanberg (Sam Waterston) and his interpreter, Dith Pran (Haing S. Ngor), in The Killing Fields (1984). Ngor, who had survived three Khmer Rouge prison camps, won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, while Linda Hunt won the Supporting Actress Oscar for portraying a male photojournalist accompanying Australian war correspondent Mel Gibson to 1960s Indonesian in Peter Weir's The Year of Living Dangerously (1982).
For the rest of the decade, the focus fell on the conflicts in Central America. Nicaragua provides the setting for Roger Spottiswoode's Under Fire (1983). which stars Nick Nolte as a photographer in a fictionalised retelling of the story of ABC reporter Bill Stewart. James Woods wields the camera in Oliver Stone's Salvador (1986), while Matthew Macfadyen struggles to settle to life on New Zealand's South Island in Brad McGann's In My Father's Den (2004) and Juliette Binoche has to decide between family and career after being wounded in a suicide bombing in Erik Poppe's A Thousand Times Good Night (2013). For all its good intentions, this seems somewhat melodramatic beside the recollections of the real-life experiences of photographers Don McCullin and Tim Hetherington in David and Jacqui Morris's McCullin (2012) and Sebastian Junger's Restrepo (2010) and Which Way Is the Front Line From Here? (2013).
Drawing on the memoirs of ITN's Michael Nicholson, Michael Winterbottom's Welcome to Sarajevo (1997) provides a harrowing insight into the horrors witnessed by television crews in the civil wars following the dismemberment of Yugoslavia. The same war zone greets Andie MacDowell when she refuses to believe that Pulitzer-winning photojournalist husband David Straithairn has perished in Élie Chouraqui's Harrison's Flowers (2000). Determined to rebuild his career after an on-screen meltdown, TV reporter Richard Gere returns to the same terrain with cameraman Terrence Howard and guide Diane Kruger in Richard Sheppard's The Hunting Party (2007).
The last days of Apartheid are captured by South African photojournalist Greg Marinovich (Ryan Philippe) in Steven Silver's The Bang Bang Club (2010), while the First Gulf War comes under scrutiny in Mick Jackson's Live From Baghdad (2002), which recreates the efforts of CNN producers Robert Weiner (Michael Keaton) and Ingrid Formanek (Helena Bonham Carter) to provide 24-hour rolling news coverage of the developing situation. Since 9/11, however, the campaigns being covered by the world's media have come under the umbrella of the War on Terror and Jehane Noujaim offers a fascinating insight into how the escalating crisis was covered by the Al-Jazeera network in the documentary, Control Room (2004).
Angelina Jolie earned a Golden Globe nomination for her performance as Mariane Pearl searching for her kidnapped Wall Street Journal husband Daniel in Michael Winterbottom's A Mighty Heart (2007), while documentarist Brian Oakes moved from Pakistan to Syria to consider another brutal execution in Jim: The James Foley Story (2016). Tommy Lee Jones plays veteran war correspondent Joe Galloway in Rob Reiner's Shock and Awe (2017), which charts the investigation by Knight Ridder journalists Jonathan Landay (Woody Harrelson) and Warren Strobel (James Marsden) into President George W. Bush's claim that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. The 2003 invasion was one of many conflicts covered for the Sunday Times by American journalist Marie Colvin, who is played with compelling conviction by the Golden Globe-nominated Rosamund Pike in Matthew Heineman's A Private War (2018).
Two of comic-bookdom's most enduring heroes have worked for newspapers. First voiced by Bud Collyer in Dave Fleischer's Superman (1941), mild-mannered Clark Kent would report for the Daily Planet in 16 further animated episodes. Also known as The Mad Scientist, the series launcher was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Short Subject: Cartoons. The role passed to Kirk Alyn in the serials Superman (1948) and Atom Man vs Superman (1950) before the Man of Steel in ensuing TV series Adventures of Superman (1952-57) was played by George Reeves, whose troubled off-screen life was enacted by Ben Affleck in Allen Coulter's Hollywoodland (2006).
Jackie Cooper was cast as the Planet's editor, Perry White, while Margot Kidder landed the role of reporter Lois Lane in Richard Donner's Superman (1978), which was the first of four blockbusters starring Christopher Reeve. The same trio would return alongside Marc McClure as shutterbug Jimmy Olsen in Richard Lester's Superman II (1981) and Superman III (1983) and Sidney J. Furie's Superman IV: The Quest For Peace (1987).
As Nicolas Cage never got to headline Tim Burton's Superman Lives in the 1990s, so the next to play Krypton's most famous son was Brandon Routh in Bryan Singer's Superman Returns (2006), which co-starred Kate Bosworth as Lois, Sam Huntington as Jimmy and Frank Langella as their boss. But it was all change again, as Zack Snyder took over the DC Comics franchise and Henry Cavill donned Clark's specs in Man of Steel (2013), which paired him with Amy Adams as Lois and Laurence Fishburne as Perry White. Yet, while the trio joined forces again in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), there was no room for the latter in Justice League (2017), although Marc McClure did manage a cameo as a cop.
Over at the Daily Bugle, editor J. Jonah Jameson was voiced by William Woodson opposite Dan Gilvezan's Peter Parker in the 1981 animated series, Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends. The roles passed to Edward Asner and Christopher Daniel Barnes in Spider-Man: The Ultimate Villain Showdown, Spider-Man: The Return of the Green Goblin (both 1995) and Daredevil vs Spider-Man (1996), which were spun off from the 65-episode Spider-Man (1994-98) series.
By the time the franchise returned to the live-action big screen, Jameson (JK Simmons) has become convinced that the hero of Sam Raimi's Spider-Man (2002) is a menace to society. We know, of course, that Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) wouldn't hurt a fly and Jameson takes him on as a photographer, while he continues his physics studies at Columbia University in Spider-Man 2 (2004) and Spider-Man 3 (2007). However, plans for two further Raimi sequels fell through and five years elapsed before Andrew Garfield started spinning webs in Marc Webb's The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014).
But the retool had no time for JJJ (who was going to be a TV executive in an unrealised James Cameron script from the mid-1990s). Moreover, he failed to reappear in subsequent Marvel outings featuring Tom Holland, Anthony and Joe Russo's Captain America: Civil War (2016), Avengers: Infinity War (2018) and Avengers: Endgame (2019), as well as Jon Watts's Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) and Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019). But Jameson was voiced by creator Stan Lee in Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman's Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018), in which Jake Johnson plays Peter Parker, as does Chris Pine and (at long last), Nicolas Cage. And, just to complicate matters further, Shameik Moore also voices Brooklyn incarnation, Miles Morales.
Another graphic icon whose reporterly vocation kept pitching him headlong into adventures was Tintin, whose creator, Georges Prosper Remi (aka Hergé), is profiled in Anders Østergaard's documentary, Tintin et Moi (2003). Originating on the pages of a newspaper, Le Vingtième Siècle, he was played by Jean-Pierre Talbot in Jean-Jacques Vierne's Tintin and the Mystery of the Golden Fleece (1961) and Philippe Condroyer's Tintin and the Blue Oranges (1964). He was also voiced by Colin O'Meara in Stéphane Bernasconi's animated series, The Adventures of Tintin (1991-92), and by Jamie Bell in Steven Spielberg's CGI blockbuster, The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (2011), which also featured Andy Serkis as Captain Haddock and Nick Frost and Simon Pegg as hapless detectives Thomson and Thompson.
Shades of Black and White
The newspaper movie was treated to a little Technicolor Americana, as Des Moines reporter Dana Andrews romances Jeanne Crain in Walter Lang's tale on the overlooked Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein musical, State Fair (1945). It also got a touch of whimsy in the multi-directed On Our Merry Way (1948) and a dash of romance in William Wyler's Roman Holiday (1953), which sees American journalist Gregory Peck befriend unhappy princess Audrey Hepburn in the Eternal City.
But the celebratory mood after wartime victory didn't last long. Indeed, as the shadow of the Cold War started to encroach, US society began to take a long, hard look at itself and this sense of introspection was reflected in a series of 'problem pictures'. Among them was Elia Kazan's Gentleman's Agreement (1947), which won the Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director for its bold examination of anti-Semitism. The nominated Gregory Peck stars as the journalist who adopts a Jewish identity to gauge the reaction of his fellow New Yorkers, while Celeste Holm took the Best Supporting award for her performance as the magazine's fashion editor.
In the first Hollywood picture to be shot on location in the Windy City, James Stewart embarks upon his own fight for justice in Henry Hathaway's fact-based Call Northside 777 (1948), as he's detailed by Chicago Times editor Lee J. Cobb to investigate the suspect conviction of Richard Conte for a Prohibition cop killing. Actual events also inspired the Pulitzer-winning Robert Penn Warren novel that was adapted in Robert Rossen's All the King's Men (1949), which earned the Academy Award for Best Picture, as well as acting honours for Broderick Crawford and Mercedes McCambridge. John Ireland was also nominated for his turn as a reporter who becomes the PR agent for Crawford's ruthlessly ambitious politician. Jude Law assumed the role of the Louisiana hack in Steven Zaillian's 2006 remake, while Sean Penn took over as the governor corrupted by power.
It's somewhat surprising that the current fixation with fake news and viral memes hasn't prompted someone to remake Billy Wilder's Ace in the Hole (1951), which also drew on actual events in winning the Best Director prize at the Venice Film Festival. Seething with cynicism, the story centres on New York muckraker Kirk Douglas, who seeks to rebuild his scuffed reputation on the Albuquerque Sun-Bulletin by whipping up a media frenzy after Richard Benedict becomes trapped in a cave while searching for some Native American artefacts. Condemning the ghoulish nature of the readership, as much as those seeking to cash in on tragedy, this unflinching snapshot proved a commercial disappointment, as audiences refused to recognise the unflattering depiction of themselves.
Humphrey Bogart played a nobler newsman in ex-reporter Richard Brooks's Deadline - USA (1952). But he is markedly shadier as the sports writer in Mark Robson's The Harder They Fall (1956), who conspires with boxing promoter Rod Steiger to convince no-hoper Mike Lane and the scoop-hungry public that he has a genuine shot at the heavyweight title. Editor Sidney Blackmer has an even darker scheme in mind in Fritz Lang's last Hollywood assignment, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (1956), as he persuades daughter Joan Fontaine's reporter fiancé, Dana Andrews, to incriminate himself in a murder case in order to expose the misuse of circumstantial evidence in capital investigations.
New Orleans journo Rock Hudson also gets a bit too close to the story when he latches on to air show pilot Robert Stack and his parachutist wife Dorothy Malone in Douglas Sirk's The Tarnished Angels (1957), which was adapted from William Faulkner's novel, Pylon. New York sportswriter Gregory Peck also finds love on the job when he meets socialite Lauren Bacall after a golf tournament in Vincente Minnelli's Designing Women. Across the city, gossip columnist Burt Lancaster proves he's prepared to do anything to keep press agent Tony Curtis away from younger sister Susan Harrison in Alexander Mackendrick's Sweet Smell of Success (both 1957). Adapted from a novelette by the aforementioned Ernest Lehman, this sour insight into the fame game drew on the career of Walter Winchell, who is played by Stanley Tucci in Paul Mazursky's biopic, Winchell (1998).
Helen Mirren essays another infamous gossip writer, Hedda Hopper, in Jay Roach's Trumbo (2015), which earned Bryan Cranston an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. Elizabeth Taylor also played Hopper opposite Jane Alexander's Louella Parsons in Gus Trikonis's teleplay, Malice in Wonderland (1985), with the roles of these poisonous rivals passing to Brenda Blethyn and Fiona Shaw in RKO 281. Jennifer Tilly made a suitably waspish Parson as Peter Bogdanovich returned to the Hearst-Davies affair in The Cat's Meow (2004), a speculation on the shooting of pioneering film-maker Thomas Ince (Cary Elwes), that starred Edward Herrmann and Kirsten Dunst as the San Simeon twosome and Eddie Izzard as Charlie Chaplin. It should also be noted that Madge Blake contributed a caricatured version of Parsons in Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen's Singin' in the Rain (1952), while Hopper (a former actress with a long list of credits) cameod as herself in Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard (1950) and Jerry Lewis's The Patsy (1964).
Surveying the Passing Scene
Not every member of the Fourth Estate is pivotal to the action as James Stewart's incapacitated shutterbug in Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window (1954) or Marcello Mastroianni's roving Roman reporter in Federico Fellini's La Dolce Vita (1960), which gave the world a useful word in casting Walter Santesso as a photographer named Paparazzo. But reporters often prove useful when awkward questions need to be asked or the action needs pushing down a tangential avenue. In Stanley Kramer's Inherit the Wind (1960), for example, Gene Kelly's Baltimore Herald journalist persuades lawyer Spencer Tracy to represent teacher Dick York against famed prosecutor Fredric March in a case to determine whether evolution can be taught in American schools.
Similarly, Carleton Young is one of several reporters listening to James Stewart's account of his frontier friendship with John Wayne in John Ford's The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), which culminates with Young destroying his notes and famously musing, 'This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.' Billy Crudup would perform a similar role in interviewing the Oscar-nominated Natalie Portman in Jackie (2016), Chilean director Pablo Larrain's record of the last days of John F. Kennedy's presidency. Journalist Paul Stewart would also spark flashbacks in Richard Brooks's In Cold Blood (1967), which starred Robert Blake and Scott Wilson in Truman Capote's account of the true-life crimes of Kansas killers Perry Smith and Richard Hickcock - the writing of which would be the subject of Bennett Miller's Capote (2005) and Douglas McGrath's Infamous (2006), which respectively featured the Oscar-winning Philip Seymour Hoffman and Toby Jones as the inquisitive novelist.
While aspiring journalist Jean Seberg sells the New York Herald Tribune on the streets of Paris in Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless (1959), Jack Nicholson's disenchanted American reporter swaps identities with an Englishman who dies in his hotel in Chad in Michelangelo Antonioni's The Passenger (1975). Nicholson co-stars as playwright Eugene O'Neill in actor-director Warren Beatty's Reds (1981), which chronicles firebrand journalist John Reed's relationship with writer Louise Bryant (Diane Keaton) and their experiences while covering the Russian Revolution in 1917.
Walter Matthau's profession as a sports writer is used to highlight his incompatibility with neurotic divorcee Jack Lemmon in Gene Saks's hilarious take on Neil Simon's hit play, The Odd Couple (1968). Pulitzer-winning Argus scribe Jennifer Jason Leigh is equally chalk-and-cheese with over-promoted mailroom clerk Tim Robbins in Joel and Ethan Coen's corporate screwball, The Hudsucker Proxy (1994). But they strike up a rapport, as do single mom Michelle Pfeiffer and commitment-phobic columnist George Clooney in Michael Hoffman's One Fine Day (1996) and permanent bridesmaid Katherine Heigl and wedding announcement writer James Marsden in Anne Fletcher's 27 Dresses (2008).
Fleet Street and Glossy Mags
In its heyday, Fleet Street was one of the most powerful addresses in Britain. The majority of the national dailies were based there, although there were rarely cited by name in films about newspapers. Consequently, journalists filed their copy with various Clarions, Echoes and Chronicles in London and beyond in a range of mostly low-budget thrillers, dramas and comedies. A fairly representative selection sees idealistic cub reporter Rex Harrison fall foul of the big noise in a small Scottish town (and fall in love with his daughter, Vivien Leigh) in Victor Saville and Ian Dalrymple's Storm in a Teacup (1937); sacked staffer Barry Barnes teams with wife Valerie Hobson to solve the murder of an underworld source in David McDonald's This Man Is News (1938); and Hobson and Richard Greene provide The Gazette with a scoop involving the People for Peace Society in Harold French's wartime flag-waver, Unpublished Story (1942).
Rather more adventurous were Val Guest's The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961) and The Beauty Jungle (1964). The former offered a rare insight into a real newsroom, as the Daily Express not only let Guest shoot in its Fleet Street offices, but it also allowed editor Arthur Christiansen to play himself, as hard-drinking hack Edward Judd, veteran science correspondent Leo McKern and weather girl Janet Munro investigate the effects of simultaneously detonated nuclear bombs. Journeyman Ian Hendy and photographer Ronald Fraser pound the local beat in the latter, although the discovery of Bristol secretary Janette Scott in a seaside bathing pageant convinces the ambitious Hendry that he has found his ticket to the big time.
The tone is altogether more serious in David Drury's Defence of the Realm (1985), as Gabriel Byrne suspects foul play when bibulous colleague Denholm Elliott suffers a heart attack while attempting to clear the name of MP Ian Bannen, who has been caught up in a sex scandal while opposing the siting of American nuclear missiles on British soil. More parliamentary shenanigans spark the conspiracy theories in David Yates's State of Play (2003), a six-part BBC serial scripted by Paul Abbott that brings John Simm, Kelly Macdonald and Bill Nighy of The Herald to the office of MP David Morrissey while investigation a brace of murders. Kevin Macdonald helmed the 2009 big-screen version, which put Washington Globe editor Helen Mirren and reporters Russell Crowe and Rachel McAdams on the tail of Congressman Ben Affleck after his mistress's death on the DC Metro.
Monthly magazines aren't really part of our brief. But the movies set in the glamorous world of the glossy periodical look so tempting on the Cinema Paradiso shelves that we simply have to pause and browse at such titles as George Cukor's The Philadelphia Story (1940), which earned James Stewart the Oscar for Best Actor as the Spy magazine reporter sent with snapper Ruth Hussey to cover the wedding of society heiress Katharine Hepburn, who isn't quite over her divorce from yacht designer Cary Grant. Grace Kelly has a similar problem with Bing Crosby in Charles Walter's musicalised variation, High Society (1956), with Frank Sinatra assuming the writer role to join his crooning hero in exploiting the gems in the Cole Porter song score.
Composer Jerome Kern and lyricist Ira Gershwin provided the tunes for Charles Vidor's Cover Girl (1944), in which Brooklyn nightclub owner Gene Kelly becomes jealous when magazine editor Otto Kruger makes a play for star dancer, Rita Hayworth. There's nothing chic about the content in Crimeways, the true-life murder magazine edited by Ray Milland for tyrannical publisher Charles Laughton in John Farrow's The Big Clock (1948) and the publication is even more down to earth in Jesse Hibbs's Joe Butterfly (1957), as Audie Murphy is helped to run the troop weekly, Yank, for the GIs stationed in postwar Japan by Burgess Meredith (who, regrettably, appears in yellowface).
The subject matter's even sleazier in both Terry Bishop's Cover Girl Killer (1959) and Curtis Hanson's LA Confidential (1997), while gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson is given a double dose of Johnny Deppness in Terry Gilliam's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) and Bruce Robinson's The Rum Diary (2011). Shirley MacLaine has camera and will travel to wherever World Illustrated editor John Gregson decides to send her in the snazzy 1971 TV series, Shirley's World, while the heyday of Rolling Stone enabled Cameron Crowe to snag a Best Screenplay Oscar for Almost Famous (2000), as teenager Patrick Fugit hitches a ride with Billy Crudup's band and legendary music journalist, Lester Bangs (Philip Seymour Hoffman).
Although Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) wrote a weekly column for The New York Star in Michael Patrick King's Sex and the City (1998-2003) and its movie spin-offs, she very much moved in the fashionista world occupied by Mode in the TV series Ugly Betty (2006-09), Know in Peyton Reed's Down With Love (2003), Runway in David Frankel's The Devil Wears Prada (2006) and Sharps in Robert B. Weide's How to Lose Friends & Alienate People (2008). The fashion bible, however, is Vogue, which is to the fore in such documentaries as RJ Cutler's The September Issue (2008), Richard Press's Bill Cunningham in New York (2010), Lisa Immordino Vreeland's Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel (2011) and Love, Cecil (2017), Fabien Constant's Mademoiselle C (2013) and Katie Novak's The Gospel According to André (2017), as well as John McKay's We'll Take Manhattan (2012), which casts Aneurin Bernard as Swinging Sixties photographer David Bailey and Sacha Bailey as supermodel, Jean Shrimpton.
Fritz Lang's While the City Sleeps (1956) takes a peek into the mass media future, as reporter-turned-anchorman Dana Andrews looks on incredulously as new boss Vincent Price challenges the three divisions of his empire to track down the Lipstick Killer. Julie Christie waltzed off with the Academy Award and the BAFTA for Best Actress for her performance as a 60s It Girl in John Schlesinger's Darling (1965), which co-starred the BAFTA-winning Dirk Bogarde as a TV interviewer, Roland Curram as a gay press photographer and Laurence Harvey as a suave advertising executive.
The Souring of the American Dream
The ending of the Production Code that had gagged American film-makers since 1934 gave them new freedom of expression just as the country entered a period of domestic instability. Alongside the continuing struggle for Civil Rights, there were protests against the war in Vietnam and Alan J. Pakula reflected the growing sense of paranoia in The Parallax View (1974), an adaptation of a Loren Singer novel that starred Warren Beatty as a journalist investigating the conspiracy surrounding the assassination of a presidential candidate. But truth proved stranger than fiction when evidence linked a 1972 break-in at the offices of the Democratic National Committee with the Republican White House and President Richard Nixon was forced to resign.
Pakula charted the Washington Post inquiry into the scandal in All the President’s Men (1976), which cast Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. Neither was nominated for an Oscar, although Jason Robards won Best Supporting Actor for his performance as executive editor Ben Bradlee, who was played by Henderson Forsythe in Emile Ardolino's Chances Are (1989), Éric Soubelet in Jackie and Alfred Molina in Jason Reitman's The Front Runner (2018). He was also essayed by GD Spradlin in Andrew Fleming's Watergate spoof, Dick (1999), which also featured Bruce McCulloch and Will Ferrell as Bernstein and Woodward. More significantly, Bradlee was also depicted by Tom Hanks in Steven Spielberg's The Post (2018), which also stars an Oscar-nominated Meryl Streep as the paper's first female publisher debating the wisdom of running a story on the Pentagon Papers detailing US strategy in Vietnam.
Woodward has also been portrayed a few times on screen, with JT Walsh taking the role in Larry Preece's John Belushi biopic, Wired (1989), Julian Morris in Peter Landesman's Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House (2017) and by Spencer Garrett in The Front Runner. The Post's scoops made journalism cool and TV series like Lou Grant (1977-82) offered insights into the daily routine of a major American newspaper. However, Darren McGavin's performance as Chicago wire service reporter Carl Kolchak in The Night Stalker (1972) led to the commissioning of Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1974-75), in which McGavin's encounters with paranormal, monstrous and extraterrestrial entities proved a key influence on The X-Files (1993-2018).
Not Silenced Yet
As features as different as Peter Hyams's Capricorn One (1977), Michael Ritchie's The Island (1980) and Fletch (1985), Sydney Pollack's Absence of Malice (1981), Philip Borsos's The Mean Season (1985) and Richard Attenborough's Cry Freedom (1987) focused on reporters, no one could have predicted that this golden age of print journalism was also to prove its swan song. The first threat to newspapers came from 24-hour rolling news channels like the Cable News Network (CNN), which went live in 1980. Rival networks followed suit by launching their own dedicated news outlets. But the hammer blow came from the Internet, which has changed the face of just about every aspect of human existence since the mid-1990s, as it was mistakenly presumed that it was business as usual in pictures like Ron Howard's The Paper (1994), Taylor Hackford's Dolores Claiborne (1995), Barry Levinson's Wag the Dog (1997), Clint Eastwood's True Crime (1999) and Philip Noyce's The Quiet American (2002), which teamed Michael Caine and Brendan Fraser in the roles taken by Michael Redgrave and Audie Murphy in Joseph L. Mankiewicz's 1958 adaptation of Graham Greene's novel about a British newspaperman doubting the motives of an American economist is Cold War Saigon.
A hint of what was to come was provided by Roger Spottiswoode's Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), which sees Pierce Brosnan's James Bond take on a media mogul (reportedly based on Robert Maxwell) who is prepared to cause global conflict in order to increase the circulation of his newspapers and boost the ratings of his TV news shows. Drawing on HG Bissinger's Vanity Fair exposé, Billy Ray's Shattered Glass (2003) also presented the press in an unflattering light, as he chronicled the misdeeds of The New Republic's fraudulent news peddler, Stephen Glass (Hayden Christensen). Similarly, having played cartoonist Robert Graysmith helping San Francisco Chronicle journalist Paul Avery (Robert Downey, Jr.) track down a serial killer in David Fincher's Zodiac (2007), Jake Gyllenhaal exploits the seedier side of newsgathering, as he plays a petty thief who becomes a stringer selling sensationalist camcorder footage to KWLA 6 news editor René Russo in the debuting Dan Gilroy's Nightcrawler (2014).
The contrasting ways in which stories are broken can be seen in documentaries like Andrew Rossi's Page One: Inside The New York Times (2011) and Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 11/9 (2018). But the newsroom movie retains its validity, as films like Robert Redford's Lions For Lambs (2007), Rod Lurie's Nothing But the Truth (2008), Jon Stewart's Rosewater and Michael Cuesta's Kill the Messenger (both 2014) have striven to show, along with Jean-Marc Vallée's TV series, Sharp Objects (2018).
Journalists have also featured prominently in such diverse offerings as Lasse Hallström's The Shipping News (2001), Woody Allen's Scoop (2006), Joe Wright's The Soloist (2009) and Bryan Buckley's Pirates of Somalia (2017). Then, of course, there's investigative journalist and Millennium magazine owner Mikael Blomkvist, who was played by Michael Nyqvist in Niels Arden Oplev's Swedish adaptations of Stieg Larsson's Nordic Noir novels, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (all 2009). The role passed to Daniel Craig in David Fincher's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) and thence to Sverrir Gudnason for Fede Álvarez's The Girl in the Spider's Web (2018).
Moreover, the Academy Award for Best Picture went to Tom McCarthy's Spotlight (2015), which showcased how Boston Globe reporters Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Walter 'Robby' Robinson (Michael Keaton), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams), Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) and Ben Bradlee, Jr. (John Slattery) earned the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for exposing the sexual abuse scandal involving some of the city's Catholic priests.
Australian press baron Rupert Murdoch, who has been played by Barry Humphries in Alan Bennett's Selling Hitler (1991) and Ben Mendelsohn in Craig Lahiff's Black and White (2002), while he was also clearly the inspiration for the characters essayed by Kevin Kline in Fred Schepisi's Fierce Creatures (1997) and Michael Kitchen in Guy Jenkin's Hacks (2011). No doubt someone is already hard at work at turning the origins of The Huffington Post and Breitbart News into movies like David Fincher's Facebook study, The Social Network (2010).
Interested in more of brief history on screen? Check out A Brief History of Disney Heroines!