The other excuse is that I’ve had a cold since Christmas Eve, although it didn’t keep me from 18 hours on the road for a family visit. But that’s a terrible excuse, which gets to the other good news: Doug Thompson is back at BlueRidgeMuse.com, having survived much more than a cold! (Scroll down to see my November item about his near-fatal motorcycle accident. Better yet, just go read his version.)
… or not. Some of the movies I’ve linked to here are decidedly not “Citizen Kane” or “All the President’s Men.”
But students in my “Portrayal of the Journalist in Film, Fiction & Popular Culture” class may be happy to know that YouTube, the Internet Archive, and other sources have trailers, clips and sometimes full-length feature films relevant to their final research projects on Newspaper Movies and related fictions — projects that are due in a couple of weeks after they return from Thanksgiving break.
Of course Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and the local video store can also rent films, but the number of resources available for free online is impressive.
I’ve been collecting links to films available online — not always great films, and certainly not an attempt at a “best” or “complete” list of films with journalists in the plot. For the most complete source I know, see Joe Saltzman’s Image of the Journalist in Popular Culture website and database.
For others, just do a Web search for “best newspaper movies” or “best journalism films” or a variation on that theme. You’ll find scores of newspaper columns, blogs and websites where reporters, editors, critics and fans have compiled their own lists. A few examples, some of which I’ve linked to elsewhere:
I’ve broken my collection of YouTube links by decade or part of a decade, to keep the screen-loading time manageable. (Some pages still may load very slowly.) They are all on the “Video” drop-down/fly-out menu at the top of the page, but here’s a shortcut: Newspaper Films. And here’s the full set, a mini-menu I’ve added to the top of each page:
Note: I don’t maintain any of the uploaded files at YouTube, Vimeo or archive.org. From time to time, those sites discover that some of the videos people post are still under copyright protection and take them down at the “rights” owner’s request. If I have linked to one of those posts, my “player” code will also cease functioning.
Alas, the journalist, “Henrietta Stackpole,” is not the lady of the title, and she doesn’t get much mention in Anthony Lane’s almost 5,000 word article, itself in response to a new book, Michael Gorra’s “Portrait of a Novel: Henry James and the Making of an American Masterpiece” (Liveright).
But Lane’s article may give students some ideas about writing about literature, as well as probably convincing them that Portrait of a Lady would be a lot to bite off as a two-week assignment in the middle of a broader course, even if it might be worth it just to meet Henrietta and ponder the life of a woman correspondent abroad 130 years ago.
They may be intrigued by Lane’s references to the journalist, at first comparing her to Isabel Archer, the title character:
“… her friend Henrietta Stackpole, an American reporter, who nourishes fewer illusions about European allure.”
… and, in a discussion of James’ Victorian sensibilities:
“When Henrietta heads off to see the Paris sights with a jovial bachelor named Bantling, and we hear that ‘they had breakfasted together, dined together, gone to the theatre together, supped together, really in a manner quite lived together,’ it is precisely in not knowing what they did together by night—whether they proceeded to feast in foodless ways upon each other—that one finds, as so often with James, a pleasurable ache of dissatisfaction.”
But if I catch any students turning a phrase like “feast in foodless ways upon each other,” now I’ll know where they stole it.
Lane also quotes Henrietta a trifle enigmatically:
“… consider Henrietta, the journalist in search of a topic, who admits to Isabel that ‘I should have delighted to do your uncle.’”
That tease (words do take on new shades of meaning over the years) may convince students that a 19th century novel might be a bit too risque for classroom discussion. But Henrietta is merely debating issues of privacy and publicity with Isabel, talking about painting word-pictures of people for her article, “Americans and Tudors.” Thanks to the searchable plain-text Project Gutenberg edition of the novel, here’s a more complete quote:
“And I should have delighted to do your uncle, who seems to me a much nobler type — the American faithful still. He’s a grand old man; I don’t see how he can object to my paying him honour.”
Alas, Henrietta was entirely written out of the one radio adaptation of Portrait of a Lady that I’ve found (by NBC University Theater), but here it is, if you want to hear an hour of Jamesian prose…
I also haven’t seen the 1968 TV series or the 1994 film adaptations to see how much attention they paid to Henrietta. Mary-Louise Parker — pre-”Weeds” and “West Wing” — played her in the 1994 Portrait of a Lady, opposite Nicole Kidman as Isabel, but those reportorial spectacles were enough to inspire me to put her picture on this page, along with a YouTube clip of the movie trailer.
Class assignment in the fall will be to decide which items on this list are true and/or important — and to make your own list, preferably thinking and talking more slowly than Sorkin characters. The more linear-minded may number their lists. I took the numbers off this one, and wish I could randomize it. The class: Portrayal of Journalists in Film, Fiction and Popular Culture.
Yes, I’ll probably edit this a few times before September.
A democracy needs robust, honest journalism.
Opinions are O.K. when you have the facts and say where you got them.
We’ve had enough of slogan-filled talking-head shouting-matches.
Every pretty blonde with a power-puff question is a sorority girl.
Sorority girls’ parents may sue if you’re not nice.
Someone spouting statistics in the middle of a panel discussion is probably making up 80 percent of them.
Don’t trust people in authority to tell you how important something is; even an Associated Press yellow alert may be posted by an intern who doesn’t have time to raise it to orange or red.
Being there as a loyal intern can result in good things.
Love counts, but complicates things.
Respect your parents, even when lying to them.
Respect your s.o.’s parents. Etc.
Do your best.
Demand the best from others.
Speak your mind.
Let business leaders speak their P.R. platitudes if they give you something honest at the same time.
Multi-millionaire geniuses and Peabody winners with battle scars can be condescending.
Indians don’t mind being stereotyped as “Punjab” or “the I.T. guy” if they are really bloggers and closet science geeks. If they are under 50, they probably never read a “Little Orphan Annie” comic strip anyway. (Was Punjab also in the musical, “Annie”? If so, see rule #1.)
Learn how to get people on the phone.
Learn how to use the hold button.
Figure it out.
Say condescending things about your audience, like “Speak truth to stupid,” but don’t really mean them.
Don’t mention Hildy Johnson, Mary Tyler Moore, Lou Grant, Murphy Brown, Network or Broadcast News.
If you want all the excitement of real reporting, such as watching journalists pore over stacks of library charge slips, see “All the President’s Men.”
Remember people’s names.
Remember significant statistics up to eight digits.
Pick your college roommate wisely, and stay in touch.
Pick your older sister wisely, and stay in touch.
Take that grade school build-a-volcano project seriously.
More than 70 years after “The Front Page,” the best journalists still talk tough and drink straight whiskey. Protein bars are for losers.
Theory worth testing: The angriest negative reviews of The Newsroom were written out of guilt by reviewers who think they should be doing serious journalism themselves instead of writing about HBO entertainment programming and wishing it were better. (See Murrow on, “merely wires and lights in a box.”)
Final random observation: Anyone so taken with Jeff Daniels as a news anchor that they want him to step out of the HBO set and move to CNN hasn’t seen “The Purple Rose of Cairo.”
The semester’s over, so now it’s time for the professor to hit the books…
OK, so perhaps I’ll also find time to tune up the banjo, guitar and ukulele, restring the old autoharp I bought a little while ago, and track down the old songbooks with “Newspapermen Meet Such Interesting People” and maybe “Jimmy Brown the Newsboy.”
But my reading list is already growing like mad, with everything from Appalachian murder ballads to a zombie apocalypse.
What do they all have in common?
Newspapers and journalism, of course. By August I’ll have expanded my list of possible readings (Books: The Truth with a Dragon Tattoo) for students enrolled in my fall course, “Portrayal of the Journalist in Film, Fiction and Popular Culture.”
I’ve already had interlibrary loan get me a microfilm copy of a rare “boy’s book” about a teenage news photographer, by Mildred Wirt Benson, creator of the Nancy Drew series. I’ve already read a couple of her Penny Parker books about a teenage girl reporter (Benson, a reporter, liked Penny better than Nancy), and I’m curious to see why the photographer series didn’t, er, develop.
The more adult items on my own summer reading list right now are Alchemy of Murder, The Devil Amongst the Lawyers, Anna Zenger and maybe Mira Grant’s “Newsflesh” series, although I’m not sure I want to be tempted into a zombie trilogy (Feed, Deadline, Countdown) — even one with that bloody RSS-feed icon on the right as one of its book covers. Come to think of it, I lost a chunk of last summer to a trilogy-plus-one that featured Nellie Bly and Sherlock Holmes on a trail of bloody murders with echoes of Dracula and Jack the Ripper.
For a dose of reality and inspiration, I’ve ordered real-life newspaper hero Philip Meyer’s autobiography, Paper Route.
I’m also intrigued by The Daily Edge pages and videos promoting Richard Hine’s Russell Wiley Is Out to Lunch, but I’d rather read about reporters solving crimes or chasing zombies than try to find a barrel of laughs over Dilbert-style business-consultant nitwits and clueless publishers destroying the newspaper business. (Actually, what alerted me to the book was when Hine followed me @bobstep on Twitter, and I noticed his profile line “I wrote a novel about zombie newspapers in the age of vampire social media.”)
This is the 52-minute Hollywood Radio Theater version of the often quoted, but hard to find, newspaper movie, Deadline USA. In the movie version, you had Humphrey Bogart, but Dan Dailey is a strong lead as the crusading editor in this 1953 radio broadcast about a newspaper fighting for its life against both the mob and the paper’s own board of directors.
(“Hollywood Radio Theater” was Lux Radio Theater minus the soap commercials, for re-broadcast over the Armed Forces Radio Service, which was the source of this set of broadcasts from 1953 stored at Archive.org, including the one my player launches.)
I’m posting this as a test of the audio player, the archive.org hosting site, and to see if WordPress includes the audio link in its RSS feed for this blog — which would make the feed a very low-budget “podcast.” In fact, it does appear to work. I was able to subscribe to this feed in iTunes using the “Subscribe to Podcast” item on its its “Advanced” menu.
I may start a regular “J-Heroes” podcast of old-time radio shows this way, once I check the Archive.org terms-of-service pages to make sure I wouldn’t be breaking any rules there. (If anyone reading this has experience in that area, please drop me a line at stepno.com or add a comment here.)
Yes, it’s a song about freedom of the press, I guess. But probably not one the Newspaper Guild ever used as a marching song. And not one that will get today’s students marching off to journalism careers, but still an intriguing artifact — sung by Nelson Eddy.
I haven’t seen the whole film, but IMDB’s plot summary explains that the hero of “Knickerbocker Holiday” is a journalist-printer cranking out broadsides attacking the government of Peter Stuyvesant in 17th century New Amsterdam.
This song isn’t from the original Broadway play, which had more songs by Kurt Weill, including the famous “September Song.” (Weill did not write this “Sing Out!”) The play featured as narrator the author Washington Irving, who actually had been a newspaper correspondent early in his career. However, journalism wasn’t a theme of the story. Instead, Irving was composing a history of New Amsterdam and describing the characters he would create to tell the tale.
That older version of “Knickerbocker Holiday” is available as a 1945 Theater Guild on the Air broadcast — available here as a 13.4MB MP3 from the series collection at Archive.org. The original 1938 yarn apparently had an anti-Roosevelt moral, continued gently in the radio broadcast: “Let’s keep the government small, and funny.”
The movie musical dropped Irving as the writer/narrator character and made his creation Brom Broeck a pamphleteer/journalist troublemaker. In the original, he was just a troublemaking prototypical American — a man who couldn’t take orders.
As a result of the rewrite, we get this freedom of the press singalong, as the printer escapes the stocks to pass out his pamphlets to the crowd.
“Sing out! Say your say! … A man’s no man who never can sing out… It’s your right!… Make your vow. The time is now. Sing out!… (spoken) Read those pamphlets…”
In any case, he sure gets those Quakers singing along… and in the end, he gets the girl, even if the older man gets the bigger hit song (and, for a doubly happy ending — at least in the radio version — the old gent does get another girl, or two).