Thursday, December 29, 2016

Headline (1943)

Headline is a 1943 British crime film set against the backdrop of a big city news room. 

David Farrar is “Brookie” Brooks, ace crime reporter for The Sun. He’s under pressure from his news editor, the hardbitten L.B. Ellington (John Stuart), since Dell (a rather young-looking William Hartnell) of The Daily Record seems to keep beating him to scoops. Now a juicy murder story seems to offer Brookie the chance to steal a march on his rival but Brookie uncovers a piece of evidence that puts him in a difficult dilemma.

We know who the murderer is right from the start, and right from the start we also know that the Mystery Woman spotted at the scene of the crime is Ellington’s wife Margaret (Antoinette Cellier) so this is a suspense film rather than a mystery film.

The audience knows what is going on but most of the major characters don’t. For Brookie it’s just another story and at first it seems like Dell is going to come out on top yet again but Dell makes a fatal error. Arthur Jones (Richard Goolden) is a scatter-brained eccentric who likes to play at being an amateur sleuth. Every time a murder is committed he has a theory that will solve the case, but of course none of his theories actually work. Dell decides to play a bit of a joke on his rival by suggesting that Jones take his latest theory to Brookie at The Sun. This is a mistake because this time Jones really does have the solution.

While Brookie and Dell are frantically trying to out-scoop each other they’re not neglecting their love lives. Brookie’s girlfriend is Sun newspaperwoman Anne (Anne Crawford) but their romance faces one major obstacle - Brookie is already married, to his job, and he thinks it would be unfair to ask any woman to marry a reporter.

The romance angle and the rivalry between Brookie and Dell are treated in a breezy light-hearted manner and both these elements provide a certain amount of comic relief (comic relief being something William Hartnell was often called on to provide in his early film career).

There is however a more serious side to this movie and the suspense story is pretty effective with a nice twist at the end. There’s also a surprisingly serious and subtle treatment of newspaper ethics and it takes a slightly jaundiced view of the newspaper game.

David Farrar does the brash pushy reporter thing well and still manages to be a reasonably sympathetic character. William Hartnell (best remembered of course as the first Doctor Who) is delightfully unscrupulous and doesn’t overdo the comedic moments. Anne Crawford is charming and likeable. Antoinette Cellier is quite good also - Margaret Ellington is not exactly a femme fatale but there are perhaps hints of the femme fatale to her character. And she has the right touch of glamour.

John Harlow’s career as a director was far from glittering but he does a solid enough job here and there are one or two fairly atmospheric moments.

The script is very competent and the balance of humour, romance and suspense is just about right.

Network’s Region 2 DVD is typical of this company’s releases - there’s virtually nothing in the way of extras but the transfer is good and the price is reasonable.

Headline is basically a B-movie and it’s really rather lightweight but the well-executed and suspenseful ending makes it worthwhile and as a bonus the climactic action scene takes place on a train. You just can’t go wrong with train thrillers. On the whole this is an entertaining little movie, especially if you enjoy newspaper crime thrillers. Highly recommended. 

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