Get me rewrite

Here's the scoop on media films

by Phil Rosenthal

Chicago Tribune (MCT)

26 June 2007


With Orson Welles’ take on media moguldom Citizen Kane again topping the American Film Institute’s list of the top 100 movies, it got me thinking about how many great movies there are ... about the media.

Here’s one media columnist’s pick of the best. Feel free to argue that -30-, The Story of G.I. Joe and Just One of the Guys belong. All lists are conversation starters. This is mine:

Citizen Kane—The line that keeps reverberating in my head is: “You’re right. I did lose a million dollars last year. I expect to lose a million dollars this year. I expect to lose a million dollars next year. You know, Mr. Thatcher, at the rate of a million dollars a year, I’ll have to close this (newspaper) in ... 60 years.” The film came out in 1941. You do the math.

All the President’s Men
The 1976 Robert Redford-Dustin Hoffman film that inspired a generation of budding journalists.

A Face in the Crowd
Andy Griffith, Patricia Neal and Walter Matthau star in this brilliant 1957 story of the rise and precipitous fall of a media megalomaniac from director Elia Kazan and writer Budd Schulberg.

Ace in the Hole
Director Billy Wilder’s oh-so-cynical 1951 tale of a former big-time newspaperman played by Kirk Douglas who stumbles across a big story in the middle of nowhere, then conspires to keep the media circus going no matter the cost.

His Girl Friday
Of all the variations on The Front Page, this 1940 Cary Grant-Rosalind Russell version directed by Howard Hawks is the best.

Screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky’s prophetic, profound 1976 satire of commercial TV.

Absence of Malice
When the press chews up subjects, the subjects sometimes bite back, as in this 1981 Paul Newman-Sally Field effort.

The Killing Fields
Not all reporters in movies lack a conscience, as Sam Waterston’s portrayal of Sydney Schanberg in this 1984 film about the fall of Cambodia shows.

Shattered Glass
The best thing to come out of Stephen Glass’ ethical lapses at The New Republic was this chilling 2003 movie.

Woman of the Year
Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn are spouses at the same paper in this 1942 George Stevens classic.

Foreign Correspondent
Alfred Hitchcock’s 1940 take on the genre stars Joel McRea as a metro reporter dispatched abroad who finds himself involved in international intrigue.

Sweet Smell of Success—Burt Lancaster plays a Walter Winchell-esque columnist in this 1957 film, who uses his power to crush his sister’s relationship with a musician.

Call Northside 777—James Stewart is a Chicago reporter who works to free an man wrongly imprisoned as a cop killer in this fact-based 1948 film.

The Parallax View—Warren Beatty is a reporter investigating events surrounding a U.S. senator’s assassination and discovers a vast conspiracy in this 1974 thriller.

Salvador—James Woods stars in Oliver Stone’s 1986 movie about an American journalist treading a fine line in covering the fighting between a military dictatorship and rebels.

Broadcast News—As Dan Rather complained about CBS News recently, I flashed back to the 1987 response of Rather-esque anchor Bill Rorich (Jack Nicholson) to budget slashing. “This is a brutal layoff,” he says, “and all because they couldn’t program Wednesday nights.” When the head of the news division says: “You can make it less brutal by knocking a million or so off your salary,” Rorich isn’t amused.

The Year of Living Dangerously—Mel Gibson covers an Indonesian coup in this 1982 film.

Deadline USA—Humphrey Bogart is editor of a paper about to be shut down who decides to make its final days worthwhile in this `52 movie.

It Happened One Night—Frank Capra’s 1934 romantic comedy has reporter Clark Gable trying to get a story out of helping socialite Claudette Colbert and falling in love.

The Paper—No sane paper would ever invite a libel suit by knowingly printing info it knows to be false, but every newspaper has a guy who would complain about his need for a special chair. A lot of details are way off but some are spot on in this 1994 film.

The next 10: The Philadelphia Story (1940), Wag the Dog (1997), Meet John Doe (1941), Star 80 (1983), The Insider (1999), Reds (1981), Medium Cool (1969), Between the Lines (1977), The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996) and Superman (1978).

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