Sunday, August 14, 2011

Tonight's Movie: Headline Shooter (1933)

HEADLINE SHOOTER is a fast-paced 61-minute pre-Code about the adventures of a newsreel cameraman and the woman he loves, a reporter.

HEADLINE SHOOTER doesn't have the world's greatest script, but it's got an interesting cast and it moves along quickly. William Gargan plays Bill Allen, the newsreel cameraman, with Frances Dee as Jane Mallory, gal reporter. Allen and Mallory meet covering the Long Beach Earthquake, which occurred the year this film was made; this is the only film which comes to mind which uses the L.B. quake as a key event. I'd love to know if there are more.

Jane is leery of romance with Allen, since her dad was a reporter and she knows it's a rough life. Jane is all set to marry a genial banker from back home (Ralph Bellamy), but keeps pursuing "just one more story," and being kidnapped by gangsters also interferes with her plans...

This seems to be the weekend for seeing "trial runs" for better-known performances; yesterday I watched Anne Baxter in GUEST IN THE HOUSE (1944), in which she plays an early incarnation of a manipulative character similar to the one she played in the ALL ABOUT EVE (1950). In HEADLINE SHOOTER, Ralph Bellamy previews the exact same type of role he would play in the classic newspaper film HIS GIRL FRIDAY (1940), where he tries to woo Rosalind Russell away from the newspaper and Cary Grant.

The Long Beach Earthquake sequence is really interesting, apparently using real newsreel footage of the quake and its resulting damage. My family has deep roots in Long Beach -- my children were the third generation born in the city -- and my maternal great-grandfather's butcher shop was destroyed in the quake. The story goes that my great-grandfather ran out one door, my grandfather ran out another, and the store collapsed between them.

I've seen many still photos of earthquake damage, but it was fascinating watching the newsreel footage, not to mention the characters reacting to aftershocks. I found there's quite a bit of earthquake footage online, including this Pathe newsreel available on YouTube.

The film also quickly goes into issues which still resonate today, such as media manipulation of stories and the public's "right to know."

The supporting cast of HEADLINE SHOOTER includes Robert Benchley doing radio play by play on a beauty pageant; the very idea of a beauty pageant having any entertainment value over the radio is amusing, all the more so with Benchley calling it.

Director Gregory Ratoff has an acting role in the film, and the cast also includes Betty Furness, Jack LaRue, Hobart Cavanaugh, Wallace Ford, Franklin Pangborn, Dorothy Burgess, and June Brewster.

This film was directed by Otto Brower. The cinematography was by Nicholas Musuraca, later known for film noir titles such as OUT OF THE PAST (1947), as well as many other classics.

HEADLINE SHOOTER is an RKO film which doesn't appear to have ever been released on DVD or VHS, but it can be seen on Turner Classic Movies. TCM just showed the film this morning as part of the Summer Under the Stars tribute to Ralph Bellamy.


Blogger SimpleGifts said...

Hi, Laura - My husband grew up in Long Beach but had never seen any footage of the earthquake so he was fascinated to watch HEADLINE SHOOTER. His mother was a teenager in 1933 and getting ready for a date when the quake hit. She was taking a shower and the outside wall collapsed exposing her to the elements but fortunately she was unharmed! (Love the still of Gargan nuzzling Dee - don't recall that scene in the film!) Jane

9:06 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

What an amazing story, Jane -- your husband's mom must have felt she was in the midst of a completely surreal experience!!

Very fun to hear that your husband also has LB roots! Would be neat to discover if there are any further connections. :)

Best wishes,

9:55 PM  
Blogger Jim Lane said...

The LB earthquake also figures prominently, although not centrally, in Ask the Dust with Colin Farrell and Salma Hayek -- an interesting misfire, worth seeing more for its intentions than for its achievement. And, if memory serves, the earthquake is well handled on a very limited budget.

1:10 PM  
Blogger MovieFreak said...

I recorded Headline Shooter and just watched it last night. I really liked it if it was out on DVD I would totally buy it. I adore Frances Dee and I thought she was really good in it as the tough girl reporter and she didn't even bat an eye as she was being save haha. great write up :)

4:36 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks so much for sharing that very interesting info, Jim. It's rather surprising how little the LB quake seems to have been used by filmmakers.

Glad you enjoyed it too, Movie Freak! A fun film. :)

Best wishes,

10:45 PM  

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