1931 First National

Directed by John Francis Dillon.
Screenplay by Robert Lord,
based on a story by John Monk Saunders and W.R. Burnett. 
Dialogue by John Monk Saunders.
Photography by Ernest HaIler.
Editor: Leroy Stone.
Release date: April 11, 1931.
Running time: 90 minutes.

CAST: Richard Barthelmess, Fay Wray, Regis Toomey, Robert Elliott, Clark Gable, Oscar Apfel, Robert Gleckler, Noel Madison, Mickey Bennett.


A green Southern boy, Breckenridge Lee (Richard Barthelmess), takes on a job as a reporter with a big-time newspaper. New to the big city, he is the only one on the paper's staff who takes a gangland story suppression order seriously. Within a very short time, he is transposed into a hard-boiled newshound, not only familiar with the inner circles of gangdom, but dictating from his $35 -a-week reportorial desk thousands of dollars for suppressing news of its activities.

Marcia Collins (Pay Wray), who works on the same paper develops romantic interest in him. When she learns of his grafting, she pleads with him to free himself from the underworld. His intentions are good but he cannot turn his back on the money.

When the gangland leader, Louis Blanco (Clark Cable), orders two men killed, he also orders Lee to suppress the story. But things go wrong and the story is published. Blanco believes he has been double-crossed because his gang is implicated. That night as he leaves the office building, Lee is mowed down by machine guns as the fulfillment of the finger having been pointed at him by the gang leader.


Film Daily: As a gangster-newspaper talker it doesn't hold much. Where Barthelmess stands well and where the gangster fever is in high, plus the phase of the reporter who runs the underworld of the town, this picture should do well. In other spots it calls for support .. . Regis Toomey is excellent as a fellow reporter unaware of Barthelmess' activities and who admires him as his idea!, while Clark Gable again scores with his fine voice and magnetic personality.

Variety: The leading characterization must have been a tough one for the writers. Even when the reporter goes bad the script attempts to keep him clean, if not of hand at least of heart. This permits a sob-sister angle. Fay Wray interprets this assignment, constantly remonstrating with the lad to get out of the blood money class A breezy and booze-loving reporter, also enamored of Barthelmess girl, is excellently interpreted by Regis Toomey. Story takes the conventional twist by having him get the gangster yarn which cleans up the local situation, but not before he is p aid in full with machine gun bullets by the gangland czar, portrayed characteristically by Clark Gable.

Movie Mirror: Based on a true story, a new reporter is beat up by gangsters for getting them raided and then collects for not exposing their activities.

Breckenridge Lee (Richard Barthelmess) has a letter from a Savannah editor and gets a job on Chicago's Press. Marcia Collins (Fay Wray) and Breezy (Regis Toomey) help him get started. The paper reports a gang war and declares a crusade. Lee investigates the Sphinx Club and asks Larry Hayes (Robert Gleckler) about the casino opening. Lee gets only $35 a week, and Louie Blanco (Clark Gable) offers him $2,000 to forget. Breezy and Lee call on Marcia. Breezy and she warn Lee about Hayes. Lee's story is on the front page. Police raid the place and arrest Hayes, who threatens Lee. On the street Lee is beat up by two men. Marcia visits Lee at the hospital, and he asks her to marry.

Lee is welcomed back to the Press and looks at his medical bills. He asks city editor Carter (Robert Elliott) if the paper could help with the bills or give him a raise or an advance; but Carter says no. Lee goes to see Louie and shows him his next assignment. Louie makes a call and gets $20,000, giving Lee $5,000 of it and forming a partnership whereby Lee will hold back stories unless the gangsters don't pay. At a bank Marcia sees Lee put cash in a safe deposit box. Lee calls on Marcia and asks what is the matter. She says he has changed; she knows what he is doing and says it's wrong. Lee says he won't turn back, and Marcia tells him to go. Louie calls on Lee, because he collected from Gervaso. Lee says Louie took extra on the Clancey deal, and he won't let Louie push him around anymore. Lee needs a story on Waverly, and Louie warns him. Lee gives Louie his split after he evened it up. Marcia has coffee with Breezy, and he asks her to marry. She says no, because he doesn't try. Breezy offers to work harder.

Louie tells Lee to see #1 and takes him to him. Lee is to told to lay off on Waverly. Lee asks for $100,000 and gets it. Breezy tells Carter about Waverly and writes the story. Lee calls on Marcia and apologizes, saying he works against the racketeers, terrorizing them, and making them pay. Marcia says they'll get him and asks him to quit. If he goes away, she will marry him. They plan to leave and kiss. Carter likes Breezy's story and stops the presses to put it on the front page. In the morning Breezy finds Lee at Marcia's and learns they are getting married. Breezy shows Lee the Waverly exposé and leaves. Lee answers the phone, and a voice says the finger is on him. Marcia is scared. Lee leaves for the bank and is shot on the street. The paper calls Lee a martyr. Breezy says they couldn't buy him, and Marcia says it is a pity.

This drama reveals how violent gangsters could be during Prohibition to keep their rackets going. Lee believes they wouldn't kill a reporter; but after becoming a racketeer himself he finds out otherwise.

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