I do not host or maintain any of these online films myself; these pages just link to publicly available trailers, clips and full-length films at YouTube and Vimeo. If full-length films are posted without authorization, the links will be disabled after the service determines there is a problem.
Films from the 1940s continued the patterns of the 1930s with feisty “girl reporters” sparring with boyfriends (usually policemen or competing newsmen); crusading. entrepreneurial, sensational journalists, and “Robin Hood” style rascals with press cards. “His Girl Friday” is first on the list with most of those themes.
Added to the mix: Warnings about the rise of Fascism at home and abroad. Many echo America’s entry into World War II in December 1941; wartime films range from escapism to both subtle and explicit messages about American values — including the importance of a free press in a democracy, and the ability of powerful publishers to subvert those values.
His Girl Friday (1940)
Don’t tell anyone, but this is Hildy Johnson from “The Front Page” with a sex-change…
Alas, the YouTube poster whose copy of the film I’d linked here has had his or her account suspended because of complaints about copyright violations. Sony pictures is now offering a (presumably high quality) streaming copy for a fee over YouTube, but off-brand DVD companies and other sources have insisted for years that the widely reproduced film is in the public domain. For example, see https://archive.org/details/his_girl_friday
Also see my discussion of His Girl Friday at “Newspaper Heroes on the Air: Jheroes.com
Fun comparison with the careers of Walter and Hildy…
(Vocational Guidance Films: “Your Life’s Work” Series)
Babies for Sale (1940)
Glenn Ford starts out as a reporter investigating phony adoption agencies, and willing to give up his job rather than forsake the investigation. YouTube has the full film, it may be an unauthorized copy. See IMDB: Babies for Sale for more information and Turner Classic Movies: Babies for Sale if you have cable access.
The Green Hornet (1940 serial)
A young publisher decides that editorials aren’t enough in the fight against rackets. He needs a fast car, a mask and a gas-gun, but the newspaper’s reporters still come in handy.
The full Green Hornet serial is available at the Internet Archive as well as YouTube, and in digitally remastered DVDs through Amazon.com, including versions that edit down the 13 cliffhanger episodes into one feature-length film.
The Green Hornet began as a radio serial, and the movie serials closely followed earlier radio scripts. See and hear more about The Green Hornet at “Newspaper Heroes on the Air” jheroes.com
A Dispatch from Reuter’s (1940 trailer)
Edward G. Robinson, who had played a tabloid editor in “Five Star Final,” plays the innovative creator of the world’s most powerful news service. (The trailer was uploaded by a fan of Max Steiner, who wrote the movie’s score, but embedding has been disabled. Click-through to watch it at YouTube.)
Citizen Kane (1941, trailer)
Meet John Doe (1941)
(More versions of Meet John Doe at the Internet Archive)
Penny Serenade (1941)
See my discussion of Penny Serenade at “Newspaper Heroes on the Air” jheroes.com
Superman: The Mad Scientist (1941)
(First of the classic Dave Fleischer series Superman cartoons, voiced by the Superman radio series actors.)
Superman: The Mechanical Monsters (1941)
Keeper of the Flame (1942, clips)
“They didn’t call it Fascism, they called it Americanism…” a clip headlined Same As It Ever Was from NewHampshire Gazette on Vimeo. (Unlike the YouTube players, this Vimeo player may display as a white block until you click to start the film.)
A former war correspondent (Spencer Tracy), is back in the U.S. to talk to the widow (Katharine Hepburn) of a recently deceased charismatic leader and write an upbeat biography. Instead, he winds up with unsettling discoveries, including some about newspaper publishers, fascism, right-wing politics and propaganda to turn groups of Americans against each other and toward a megalomaniac dictator. Among the targets the Fascists singled out — disappointed former military officers who were business failures and wanted a return to glory, and disappointed media moguls:
“Here’s a list of newspaper editors who either sought to occupy public office or sought to dictate who should occupy public office — and when they failed felt the public was a great stupid beast…”
Thanks to the New Hampshire Gazette for putting this clip on Vimeo. The full film is for sale online through Amazon.com or WarnerArchive.com
Superman: Electric Earthquake (1942)
The Corpse vanishes (1942)
Trailer: “Police baffled! A public in terror! Nothing can stop this fiend on his hideous trail except a girl reporter…”
Full-length film (The Corpse Vanishes is also at Archive.org)
The Power of the Press (1943 – clip)
Samuel Fuller wrote the story, but hadn’t yet begun making his own films (See “Park Row,” 1952, and “Shock Corridor,” 1963). Lee Tracy plays a cynical, no-nonsense city editor in this tale of a power-mad editor-in-chief, a murdered publisher, and a good-hearted new owner who may be out of his depth.
Blood on the Sun (1945)
Foreign correspondent James Cagney uncovers Japanese plots before Pearl Harbor, and gets to demonstrate some judo moves along with his investigative reporting. New York Times review called it “strictly robust spy drama…” but warned about its (summer 1945) portrayals of the Japanese:
So we have here an entertaining movie in the time-honored Cagney groove—tough, hard-hitting and explosive, with just enough rudimentary suspense. But let’s not approve it too quickly; it treads too boldly upon critical ground. In the first place, it makes a pulpwood fiction out of a historic incident. And, more than that, it puts the Japs in the popular but highly deceptive “monkey” class. A true comprehension of our enemies and the sort of people with whom we’ll later have to cope is brusquely waylaid by a picture as glibly cocky as “Blood on the Sun.”
The Phantom of 42nd Street (1945)
(A drama critic reluctantly investigates a murder — not to be confused with the 1933 musical “42nd Street” or “The Phantom of the Opera,” 1925, 1943 or 2004! Some of them may be better movies, but I don’t think they have prominent journalist characters.)
The Story of G.I. Joe (1945)
The story is based on the kind of reporting that won war correspondent Ernie Pyle a Pulitzer Prize. He is played here by Burgess Meredith, covering young soldiers and their young lieutenant, Robert Mitchum, from Tunisia to Italy. For more on the real Ernie Pyle, see his legacy page at Indiana University. The film is posted on YouTube frequently, then taken down for copyright violation and posted again by someone else. However, both the 1945 film and the similarly titled PBS documentary “G.I. Joe: The Ernie Pyle Story” (1999) are both available on DVD. The Turner Classic Movies website has a The Story of G.I. Joe trailer and clips.
State Fair (1945)
The reporter is the one romancing the farmer’s daughter on the amusement park airplane ride toward the end of this YouTube clip, while the her brother serenades a red-haired showgirl on the dance floor. The reporter (Dana Andrews) doesn’t do much singing, but his side of the story does get more of the plot in this version than in the 1962 remake, where the farmer’s son’s romance took top billing. The reporter was even more of the story in the 1932 novel, its 1933 (non-singing) original film adaptation, and the radio versions of both the musical and non-musical stories.
Note: Unfortunately, some of the people who upload out-of-copyright films to YouTube also upload films that get challenged by rights-owners, which gets the uploader’s YouTube account blocked for all films. If a film you want to see no longer plays here, go to YouTube and search for its title. You may be surprised.