THE FINGER POINTS
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
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
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
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.