Monday, November 19, 2012

Park Row

Written and directed by Samuel Fuller, Park Row is the story of a newspaperman who creates his own newspaper that will tell the truth as he faces hostile competition from a more revered competitor. The film explores the world of journalism in the late 1880s where it goes through a series of changes prompting a journalist to do what he feels is right. Starring Gene Evans, Mary Welch, Bela Kovacs, and Herbert Heyes. Park Row is compelling drama from Samuel Fuller.

After being fired from The Star over his ideals for speaking out the truth instead of sensationalizing a story, Phineas Mitchell (Gene Evans) contemplates about forming his own newspaper that can feature stories that matter and give people a real reason too read the truth. While several other employees from The Star are fired for supporting Mitchell’s methods, they all want to help Mitchell with forming a paper that can compete with the star but there’s no money. An acquaintance in Charles A. Leach (Forrest Taylor) makes an offer that Mitchell couldn’t refuse as Leach owns a printing press while wanting Mitchell to be the lead editor for the paper. Mitchell accepts as he and his friends create The Globe where their first major story involves a man named Steve Brodie (George O’Hanlon) jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge and survives.

Brodie’s jump becomes a major headline in The Globe as it catches the attention of The Star and its young publisher Charity Hackett (Mary Welch) who realizes how well The Globe is doing on its first day. With The Globe also having a new machine in Linotype machine invented by Ottmar Mergenthaler (Bela Kovacs) as Hackett tries to recruit him. Instead, Mergenthaler becomes loyal to The Globe as the paper starts to create a fund to build a pedestal for the Statue of Liberty. After Hackett tries to make a proposition to Mitchell about a merger, he declines forcing Hackett to send her second-in-command Wiley (Hal K. Dawson) to deal with The Globe. What would happen would send The Globe in trouble over forged receipts and other things as it leads to all sorts trouble for Mitchell and the paper. It would be veteran journalist Josiah Davenport (Herbert Heyes) who would provide Mitchell the reasons to stick to his ideals as Mitchell would fight to do what is right for the world of journalism.

The film is essentially the story of a journalist who tries to fight for the right reasons to be a journalist as he forms his own newspaper as a way to combat the more sensational journalism of a more prestigious rival. It is a film about ideals where this man is someone who believes that newspaper have the right to tell the truth and mean something to people instead of doing something that embellishes the truth just to sell newspapers. Samuel Fuller’s screenplay is about a man with an idealist attitude about what he feels a newspaper should be but he’s facing a period in the late 1880s where there’s a lot of newspapers and they’re all competing with one another to see who can sell more. His opponent is a beautiful young publisher who is more concerned with selling newspapers at any cost where she eventually realizes how much this man is a major threat to her paper. There’s not much plot in the script as it is essentially about characters and ideas that drive a newspaper into being important and provide what people needed to read.

Fuller’s direction is quite engaging for the way he recreates 1880s New York City in Park Row where it is about this very crazy world where there’s a lot of newspapers and journalists often meet at a saloon. Fuller creates lots of dolly shots to capture the world where he always have the camera moving in this locations while using more hand-held cameras to capture the chaos that goes on in the newspaper. Fuller also uses some very interesting compositions to capture the drama and suspense that occurs where he would have scenes that would underplay the moment though there’s a few moments where Fuller will delve into melodrama that doesn’t really work. Still, Fuller is interested in how important the newspaper can be where he does give it a fitting ending to display its power. Overall, Fuller creates a truly captivating film about the world of journalism.

Cinematographer Jack Russell does excellent work with the black-and-white photography to create a mood for some scenes in the printing press at night to display Mitchell‘s mood. Editor Philip Cahn does terrific work with the editing to create an array of style from rhythmic buts to transitional dissolves and fade-outs to help move the story at a brisk pace. Production designer Theobold Holsopple and set decorator Ray Robinson do fantastic work with the set pieces to recreate 1880s New York City with its statues, printing press, and the saloon many of the characters socialize at.

Wardrobe supervisor Jack Miller does wonderful work with the period costumes of the time including the lavish dresses worn by Charity Hackett. Sound recorder Eddie Borchell does nice work with the sound to capture the intimacy of the saloon as well as the sparse chaos that occurs in the printing press. The film’s music by Paul Dunlap is superb for its orchestral-driven score that plays up the intensity of the drama with some bombast though there’s a few pieces that swells up the drama that doesn’t really work.

The film’s cast is great as it features a wonderful collective of actors that includes Dee Pollack as the paperboy Rusty, Don Orlando as the type-setter Mr. Angelo, Tina Pine as the barmaid Jenny, J.M. Kerrigan as her journalist father, Stuart Randall as Hackett’s editor Spiro, Forrest Taylor as Mitchell’s partner Charles A. Leach, Hal K. Dawson as Hackett’s second-in-command Wiley, and Herbert Heyes as the idealistic yet old-school journalist Josiah Davenport. Bela Kovacs is excellent as the Linotype inventor Ottmar Mergenthaler who is amazed by Mitchell’s determination as he becomes loyal to Mitchell. Mary Welch is terrific as the opportunistic publisher Charity Hackett who tries to deal with Mitchell’s paper only to realize that her tactics have her looking real bad in the world of journalism. Finally, there’s Gene Evans in a great performance as Phineas Mitchell as a man who has very old-school ideas about the newspaper but also new ideas that he feels could help the world of journalism as it’s definitely a very broad performance from Evans.

Park Row is a stellar and sublime film from Samuel Fuller that features remarkable performance from Fuller regular Gene Evans. The film is definitely an intriguing piece into the world of journalism as well as the ideals people hold to maintain its dignity. In the end, Park Row is a superb drama from Samuel Fuller.

Samuel Fuller Films: I Shot Jesse James - The Baron of Arizona - The Steel Helmet - Fixed Bayonets! - Pickup on South Street - (Hell and High Water) - House of Bamboo - (China Gate) - Run of the Arrow - Forty Guns - Verboten! - The Crimson Kimono - Underworld U.S.A. - Merrill’s Marauders - Shock Corridor - The Naked Kiss - (Shark!) - (Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street) - The Big Red One - White Dog - (Thieves After Dark) - (Street of No Return) - (The Madonna and the Dragon)

© thevoid99 2012


David said...

I just read a essay on Fuller today,which I think I should share it with you since you are having a Fuller marathon here,the link:

I just got my MOC version of PARK ROW today,will check it out and write about it on my blog.

thevoid99 said...

Now that I've seen seven of his films so far. I'm hoping to check out more. I really do like his work and will definitely get some of his films on Criterion very soon.