Thursday, August 8, 2013

But it's not a newspaper movie

Tomorrow, August 9, TCM's Summer Under the Stars is going to be spending 24 hours with Steve McQueen. If you want something other than McQueen, you'll have to switch over to the Fox Movie Channel, which is running The Story on Page One at 9:00 AM. Despite the title, this is not a movie about the world of newspapers at all.

The movie starts off at the "office" of Los Angeles lawyer Victor Santini (Anthony Franciosa). This is one of those offices that's not in a nice building downtown, but what looks like a former residence converted into business space where businesses for the lower strata of of society have sprung up elsewhere along the road in a poorer part of Los Angeles. Combined withe Santini's sleeping on his couch, it all seems to imply that Sntini has fallen on hard times. And yet, Mrs. Brown (Katherine Squire) has decided to come to his office. Obviosuly, she needs help: her daughter Jo (Rita Hayworth) has been charged as an accessory to murder in the death of her husband! Santini isn't so sure he wants to take the case, especially since Mrs. Brown doesn't have that much money, but she eventually convinces him to investigate.

So, Santini goes to jail to visit with Jo, now the late Mrs. Morris. Her story isn't necessarily sympathetic. She married policeman Mike Morris (Alfred Ryder), and with her mother living with them, having a young daughter, and a husband who has become domineering, the relationship has turned sour. Jo, feeling trapped, sought companionship with accountant Larry Ellis (Gig Young). Mrs. Brown knows about the relationship, and is actually supportive of it! Jo, however, isn't so certain if she's doing the right thing, and for her it's almost an on again, off again affair. Especially when Larry's mother (Mildred Dunnock) comes to the Morris residence to visit Jo and tell her she knows about the relationship, and she certainly doesn't support it! Not long after this, Larry comes to see Jo at their house, Lt. Morris finds the two lovers, and in the ensuing scuffle, Morris gets shot and killed.

All of this is presented in such a way that we the viewers know that Larry is not guilty, but that the people in the world of the movie -- the district attorney and the jury -- could all reasonably believe that Larry actually pulled the trigger. It's also all presented in the first hour of the film, so the second half focuses on the trial. Santini proves himself to be a capable lawyer, although he's up against a powerful DA with all the resources of the government behind him. That, and Ellis' lawyer, Judge Carey (Raymond Greenleaf), who seems to be acting less in Larry Ellis' interests than those of his mother. Indeed, it's the relationship between Larry and his mother that eventually holds the key to the outcome of the trial....

The Story on Page One is another in a long line of movies that is competent if not earth-shatteringly great. Rita Hayworth was in her early 40s when she made this movie, and you can see why she's somebody a man would have wanted to marry years ago, but is no longer in love with, looking frumpy and meek. Gig Young is also good at portraying his hen-pecked character. Franciosa isn't bad at all, but his character is a trope, and more of an archetype than a realistic character. The screenplay and direction were both handled by Clifford Odets, who isn't quite as heavy-handed as he was when writing Golden Boy, The Big Knife, or Bigger Than Life.

As far as I am aware, The Story on Page One is not available on DVD. In addition to tomorrow's airing, it's scheduled for one more showing in early September.

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