Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Radio network UBC calls itself "The Voice of the People" and owner Reynolds wants Scott, his manager (Humphrey Bogart), to lighten up on his higher aspirations for programming (like operas) and go back to UBC's old muckraking style. They decide to air a radio serial based on a 15-year-old scandal involving Gloria Pembroke's murder of her husband. She was acquitted based on self-defense, but Reynolds thinks the whole unsavory stew will be a ratings grabber. Scott disagrees but is forced to go along with it. They discover that Pembroke is now Mrs. Carstairs, with a young daughter, Edith, about to get married to Malcolm, a rich young man, and they send writer named Leavenworth to their apartment to get some info. The Carstairs find out about the coming show and try to stop it—they’ve never told Edith about the case—but they mistake Leavenworth for a minister's assistant and spill all the beans about their current situation to him, leading to further unwanted publicity. Malcolm's parents demand that the Carstairs stop the wedding; instead, the Carstairs kill themselves. The grief-stricken Edith heads down to UBC headquarters with a gun to confront Reynolds and Scott.

This is a B-movie remake of 1931's FIVE STAR FINAL which featured Edward G. Robinson as the Bogart character. The earlier film, an Oscar nominee for best picture, was set at a newspaper but the two are essentially identical as far as plot, characters, and outcome. The first film is better, but this one, a half-hour shorter, isn't bad. It's fun to see a pre-superstar Bogart in a different kind of role; he's the main character though he doesn't get much more screen time than anyone else. He does simmering moral outrage fairly well—the character is against the radio serial and lets everyone know but isn't brave enough to take a strong stand until after the double suicide. Beverly Roberts, as a secretary who sides with Bogart, is given star billing but has little to do. The real acting honors here go to Helen MacKellar and Henry O'Neill as the Carstairs who go through a full range of emotions, from happiness at their daughter's upcoming wedding, to sadness that she might find out about her mother's past, to outrage, and finally to resignation that they can't stop UBC. Harry Hayden is also good as the slimy radio writer. The lovely Claire Dodd has a small part. This airs on TCM under its alternate title ONE FATAL HOUR. [TCM]

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