Saturday, March 17, 2012

Tonight's Movie: -30- (1959)

I purchased -30-, Jack Webb's paean to the newspaper business, as a little Christmas gift for myself in a Warner Archive sale last December, and I finally caught up with it tonight. It's an absolutely gorgeous remastered black and white print.

-30- tells the story of a single shift with the night crew at a Los Angeles newspaper. The script, truth be told, isn't all that good, jerking around in a rather clunky and predictable fashion, punctuated with moments which vary from strange to overwrought to quite special.

The film has a sort of awkwardness to it, as a bunch of interesting actors careen around the newsroom at the mercy of the dialogue they've been given. And yet, despite this failing -- and at times because of it -- I found this film thoroughly enjoyable. 96 minutes flew by, and I was glad I'd spent the time with Webb and Company.

I admit that I just can't resist the lure of Jack Webb and his style. I grew up on ADAM-12, EMERGENCY!, and the later version of DRAGNET costarring Harry Morgan. I also get a kick out of the young, skinny Webb as the criminalist in HE WALKED BY NIGHT (1948), as Nancy Olson's beau in SUNSET BOULEVARD (1950), and as an officer in the comedy YOU'RE IN THE NAVY NOW (1951). Webb produced and directed -30- in addition to playing the lead role as the managing night editor.

One of the things the film does a good job capturing is the magic of a brand-new paper, filled with "new news," in the days before the 24-hour news cycle and instant access to news. As we move ever further from the time when relatively few people had access to breaking news and were responsible for feeding it to the public, I think the movie and its depiction of a certain era in time will become even more appreciated.

The film is also of interest as it shows professional women in the newsroom in an era when it wasn't as common as it is today. Sure, Rosalind Russell was a reporter way back in HIS GIRL FRIDAY (1940), but the characters played by Louise Lorimer and Nancy Valentine were still fairly rare for the era depicted. It was likewise refreshing that the only thing which had initially held Valentine's character back professionally was her background, not her gender, and the male editors are happy to see her prove herself and move up in the ranks.

The cast includes Whitney Blake as Webb's wife; a bit of trivia is that in real life, Blake was the mother of actress Meredith Baxter (FAMILY TIES). William Conrad plays Webb's crochety second-in-command, with James Bell, David Nelson, Joe Flynn, Richard Deacon, Jonathon Hole, and Richard Bakalyan among the staff.

I may have found William Bowers' screenplay lacking -- though it does have its moments -- but Bowers did a lot of good work over the course of his career. His credits included a favorite Yvonne DeCarlo Western, the cute and funny THE GAL WHO TOOK THE WEST (1949), and one of my favorite Dick Powell movies, the witty CRY DANGER (1951). Bowers had a real knack for humor; he also wrote the script for my favorite James Garner movie, the very funny SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL SHERIFF! (1969). Other credits included Deanna Durbin's SOMETHING IN THE WIND (1947) and Gregory Peck's THE GUNFIGHTER (1950).

The widescreen cinematography was by Edward Coleman, who also filmed many Disney movies, including MARY POPPINS (1964).

-30- was previously released on VHS. It's a Warner Bros. film which has also been shown on Turner Classic Movies.

As I mentioned at the outset, the print quality is outstanding. This Warner Archive release is particularly recommended for fans of Jack Webb and movies about the newspaper business. I liked it, and I'll be watching it again in the future.


Blogger Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

Like this movie, and Jack Webb, very much. And this post.

5:22 AM  
Blogger barrylane said...

I think your views are right on with the exception of women in a newspaper office. Dozens of examples not just His Girl Friday. Too many to mention.

8:19 AM  
Blogger Caftan Woman said...

I'm a big Webb fan as well, and I find -30- most enjoyable for the time it represents and the character actors involved. I feel so bad for Conrad missing out on that bet. Nowadays, folks are still anxious to hear news about things like "the Italian actresses baby".

9:43 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thank you all for your kind comments! Nice to hear from other Jack Webb fans. :)

Caftan Woman, you're right, while on the one hand things have changed a great deal, in other ways nothing's changed at all!

Barrylane, I'm sure you're correct that there are other examples of women in newspaper offices. I can think of another example myself tonight, WHILE THE CITY SLEEPS, and while it's not set in a newsroom, Claudette Colbert was a reporter in ARISE, MY LOVE. The point I was trying to make (perhaps not very well, grin) is that women staffers were still far outnumbered by men in this era, and I liked seeing the couple of women in this newsroom respected and treated as professionals on a par with their male peers. It made the viewer feel as though within a few years more women would be employed in that mythical newsroom. :)

Best wishes,

10:10 PM  
Blogger barrylane said...

I think that sounds good, Laura.

6:35 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

As if on cue, here's an obituary for pioneering L.A. Times reporter Dorothy Townsend. There's an accompanying photo of the Times team which won the Pulitzer in 1966 for covering the Watts riots; Townsend is the lone woman in a sea of roughly three dozen men.

Best wishes,

9:18 AM  

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