News Reels: The Printed Press On Film

July 14, 2011 | Alyson

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 The burgeoning scandal surrounding The Dirty Digger (was there ever a more appropriate nickname?) and his News Of The World  has done newspapers and the people who work for them no favours.

And it makes me miss my father who died earlier this year. He was an old-fashioned newspaperman who started as a cub reporter and finished his long career as an editor.  I wonder what he'd have said about the scandalous phone-hacking.  I have a feeling he'd be neither shocked nor surprised.  Perhaps he'd be saddened, but then he'd recall that it was a dogged Guardian reporter who uncovered it all. Hey, Superman was a reporter, too.

 So, in honour of my dad and his nervy, brave profession, I thought I'd list some of my (and his) favourite films about newspapers and the people who make them so readable.


The-front-page-poster1The Front Page 1974: Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon were an odd couple before they were The Odd Couple.  Two former reporters, Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur wrote the original Broadway comedy about a manipulative editor (Matthau) and his fast-talking reporter (Lemmon) who try to get the scoop on a runaway prisoner about to be hanged. The storyline's been re-worked many times to create successful films, including the next title on the list. TPL no longer owns this title.


His girl friday His Girl Friday 1940: a screwball comedy starring Rosalind Russell and Cary Grant and a whole bunch of  snappy back-and-forth dialogue. One of Howard Hawkes' best films. Based on the same play by Hecht and MacArthur, but Hawkes turned the character of Hildy into a woman.





 Why rock the boat Why Rock the Boat 1974: It's not just here for the CanCon quota, it's a wonderfully funny film about a naive young reporter at a Montreal paper in the 1940s.  My dad said it was the real thing, right down to the boozing.  Sadly, the library does not own it. But you can screen it at Toronto's Mediatheque and watch a trailer here.




Killing fields The Killing Fields 1984: Well, they can't all be comedies. This story really belongs to Dith Pran, a photojournalist who escaped Cambodia after the Khmer Rouge took power and ended up working for The New York Times. It was Dith Pran who gave Cambodia's killing fields their name.





Year_of_living_dangerously The Year of Living Dangerously 1982: An Australian journalist covers the turbulence of Sukarno's Indonesia. See Mel Gibson before he went potty, and ignore Sigourney Weaver's disappearing English accent. It's a lush and exotically beautiful film.




All-the-presidents-men All the President's Men 1976: Alan J. Pakula manages to fill this dramatization of the Washington Post's uncovering of the Nixon Watergate scandal with suspense even though we all know the outcome of the story.




Citizen kane Citizen Kane 1940: Often described as the greatest film ever made. Even if it isn't, it's not bad for a first feature film from then 25-year old director, Orson Wells. I love it for its deep and velvety images. In Monday's Toronto Star, Heather Mallick compared Murdoch to Charles Foster Kane, calling his desire to buy BSkyB, Rupert Murdoch's 'Rosebud.'                     


HotMetal Hot Metal 1986-1988: Not a film, but never mind. I don't know who might remember this television series, but I watched it almost 20 yeas ago on TVO. It was a sharply funny and cynical look at a tabloid paper in England starring Robert Hardy as both Twiggy Rathbone, a Murdochesque media magnate, and his conniving managing editor, Russell Spam.  Irreverent and spot on,  I bet it's barely aged a minute, given recent events.

Any others you'd include on a 'best of' list?