Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday, 1940.
The newspaperman – the cliché is that anyone working for a paper is a rogue and a joker, a cross between hero and raconteur, and possibly drunk at that. It’s the kind of character made famous by The Front Page (1931) and His Girl Friday (1940), and usually played by someone as charming and suave, as Adolph Menjou or Cary Grant.
Indeed, it’s these kinds of films that shaped the idea we still have of what reporters and journalists do and act like, a type that seemed to spring to existence right after the Depression (although they were around much earlier than that), always acted slightly uncomfortable in a white collar and determined to put his or her bosses in their place. It’s no accident The Front Page (the source material for His Girl Friday) was written by two former newspapermen, Ben Hecht and Charles McArthur, who went to Hollywood and gilded their own reputations, finding the money easy and the competition “idiots.”
In light of Spotlight’s six Oscar nominations – and the winners being announced at the Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday, Feb. 28 – we talked to Joe Saltzman, co-author (with Matthew C. Ehrlich) of the new book Heroes and Scoundrels: The Image of the Journalist in Popular Culture(University of Illinois Press). [Ed. note: Spotlight won the Best Picture Oscar.]
Saltzman is a professor of journalism and communication at USC Annenberg, and he maintains the comprehensive Image of the Journalist in Popular Culture (IJPC) research database www.ijpc.org (more than 87,000 entries and counting). Saltzman previously had a long, award-filled career in newspaper reporting and editing, broadcast journalism and documentary filmmaking. Roger Leatherwood interviews him for EatDrinkFilms.
Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958) starts with a disembodied close-up of a woman’s face that moves up to her eye, while Bernard Herrmann’s score begins its moody and compulsive circular rising-and-falling motif – immediately haunting and troubled.
Jonathan R. Eller’s new biography Ray Bradbury Unbound (University of Illinois Press, 2015) is really only the second half of the story. It follows the famous fantasy/science fiction writer’s career from 1953, after the publication of Fahrenheit 45, until his death almost 50 years later, in 2012. Continue reading →
The Western is the oldest genre in the movies, first appearing in 1903 with The Great Train Robbery. When the villain pointed his gun at the audience and started shooting, it was an assault that had people screaming, fainting or running for the exits. Continue reading →