Thursday, March 19, 2020
Big News (1929)
Steve Banks is a talented but lazy newspaperman, who's let his love for the bottle and his inflated ego to get the better of him, and is in danger of losing his job. Now that even his wife Margie wants him out of her life, he decides to try and get his act together, and uncover a vast criminal conspiracy with links to top ranking officials. Just a shame it's so = that everyone still thinks he's a crazy drunk...
Big News is an early talkie with a couple of big stars at the helm, even if Hollywood didn't know it yet. Coming from 1929, it's gotta be one of the earliest sound films (or films at all/period) to be about the subject of a smart-alec reporter making trouble and catching killers, and while in most ways it doesn't re-invent the wheel (not that there was much of a wheel to begin with yet!), it's a perfect;y serviceable tale, with some interesting twists and turns as the story goes on.
Since we're introduced to the baddies right away means there's not really a mystery, which is a shame since it could've been fun working out which of these = is guilty, but it does mean that we have a whole movie to get to know them, and see their plans in action. The murder itself doesn't happen until 10 minutes before the end, which in any other movie could be annoying, but here it feels more like the culmination of the plot, so it's ok. A bit of a downer that Steve's boss buys it though! The grumpy guss had just given him his job back, at a raise! Now who's gonna believe Steve??
Steve is a pretty likeable main character. He gets his moments of cattiness, but these are always interlaced/fused with wit, so you can never hate him when he spouts such devastating insults as 'flapdoodle', wrinkled old squash', and 'dried up alligator'!
Where Big News impresses is in the treatment of his main character, and the portrayal of him as flawed, with his drinking being an actual problem. The film goes beyond showing the guy just drinking for laughs, but more as a serious affliction that's holding back his life.
Margie is quite a well-rounded character, despite her limited screentime, showing a woman who still loves/cares deeply/dearly for her husband, but can;t just sit around anymore while he drinks himself stupid and = his work Again, quite a thoughtful character for a movie from 1929, in pretty typical journalist fare!
The villains are an alright bunch. The fact that we see them from the beginning gives us more time to get to know them, but there's not really that much to know. They're just pretty generic thugs. The main one, Joe Reno, is the best, but he's basically just evil. A little affably, but not very detailed.
The supporting cast at Steve's newspaper are pretty fun. Larger lady Vera was a laugh riot oftentimes! The boss J.W. Addison is grumpy, but in a reasonable way, and has his funny moments too. It's a shame he gets killed! The police are alright, though investigating officer Ryan (not O'Ryan!) is pretty much just pissed off all the time.
The acting here is quite good! In early talkies, the actors were sometimes still getting their bearings with sound, and delivered awkward performances. Here though everyone works well. Robert Armstrong is a fun lead, while Carole Lombard is decent, both with comedy and drama, even if she doesn't really get to flex in her short screentime. Sam Hardy is alright as the villain, and it's always nice seeing him onscreen, especially with Armstrong!
Likewise, the direction isn't that creaky or anything either. We get some good shots, and locations. This doesn't just feel like a stage play on wheels or anything, and the performers are always moving around dynamically enough.
Big News isn't a classic or anything, but it is a decent film, and it's cool seeing actors like these getting a start in their earlier careers...