The Power of the Press (Frank Capra / U.S., 1928):

At once the camera makes itself at home with newsroom bustle, it opens on the choleric editor (Robert Edeson) slamming down the phone receiver and then dollies back to reveal a smoke-filled hangar of gesticulating snoops. The cub reporter (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.) is stuck with weather reports and obits, he might be Thoreauís journalistic philosopher (to whom "all news is gossip") offering prose and getting only red ink from the boss: "Iíll say this much about your stuff... Itís rotten!" Elections and murders are the stuff of surefire headlines, brought together in the scoop the protagonist literally bumps into; the political conspiracy that swiftly emerges involves one candidate (Edward Davis) with a daughter full of incriminating snapshots (Jobyna Ralston) and another (Philo McCullough) with a fur-swathed moll (Mildred Harris) stashed away "like the prisoner of Zenda." Frank Capraís tabloid comedy-mystery holds its own with the "mythical kingdom" of Hecht-MacArthur, complete with a rhythm of its own: Staccato gagwork breezes by as if timed to the iambic pentameter of clanking typewriters, and, when he feels like it, Capra slows things down to give you a micro-documentary on all the labor that goes into a "stop the presses!" cry. A whirlwind sketch in which the media swings voters this way and that like a pendulum and even assassins smile for the front page picture, with further reflections down the road (Meet John Doe, Blow-Up). With Wheeler Oakman, Dell Henderson, and Spottiswoode Aitken. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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