Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Gene Evans, Mary Welch, Bela Kovacs, Herbert Heyes, Tina Pine, George O'Hanlon, J.M. Kerrigan, Forrest Taylor, Don Orlando, Neyle Morrow, Dick Elliott, Stuart Randall, Dee Pollock, Hal K. Dawson
Written by: Samuel Fuller
Directed by: Samuel Fuller
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 83
Date: 08/12/1952
IMDB

Park Row (1952)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Press in Peace

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Samuel Fuller financed Park Row out of his own pocket -- reportedly at a cost of about $200,000 -- and shot the film in 14 days. It of course lost money but remained the director's personal favorite and one of his masterpieces, along with The Steel Helmet (1951), Pickup on South Street (1953), Shock Corridor (1963), and The Big Red One (1980). Yet showings and video copies of it remained rare until MGM finally released it on DVD this month as part of its MOD series.

Fuller began his career as a hard crime newspaper reporter before his 20th birthday, and learned his punchy style of writing from that job. Set in the 1880s in New York City, Park Row is his love letter to the origins of that industry, and it includes many interesting historical details (such as the use of "thirty"). It's equal parts sentimental and scrappy. Some have even called it Fuller's own mini-Citizen Kane.

Phineas Mitchell (Gene Evans) works for The Star, under publisher Charity Hackett (Mary Welch), who wears fur coats and elaborate hats; when he complains about her brand of yellow journalism, he's fired and starts his own paper, The Globe. He recruits his reporters and typesetters from a bar and prints his first edition on butcher paper, which underlines Fuller's vision of the romantic, lowdown, streetwise vision of the newspaper business. Thus begins a circulation war between the two papers, set between the dirt streets and a statue of Benjamin Franklin.

I sometimes wonder if newspaper film critics love this film more than an average viewer would, but then again, anyone who enjoys Citizen Kane, His Girl Friday or All the President's Men will surely enjoy this too. MGM's DVD includes a trailer.

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