There are still Hollywood gems left to be discovered, especially among the ones that had never been released on home video before. While Humphrey Bogart fans like myself have known for awhile that Richard Brooks’ 1952 journalism movie Deadline-U.S.A. is a great film, it wasn’t available on home video at all until Kino released it as part of its Kino Lorber Studio Classics line this summer. Amazingly, despite starring one of the few Hollywood icons the general public still knows, the film was never released on DVD by 20th Century Fox. Before the Blu-ray, the only way I saw it was on a random showing I spotted on a HBO station a couple of years ago.
Brooks was a director who never quite knew the meaning of the world “subtle,” but with Bogart as his star, Deadline-U.S.A. retains an incredible realism. The movie feels even more relevant today as newspapers across the country fold or downsize. Personally, the film feels even darker to me, as someone who went to school for journalism. Deadline-U.S.A. is a documentary in a way, explaining how advertising and money made it impossible for some of the great papers of the country to operate. Considering that Brooks had some real experience in journalism, it’s no surprise that it’s one of his most realistic films.
There are two main plot threads crammed into this 87-minute film. On one hand, The Day editor Ed Hutcheson (Bogart) is trying to crack the story of racketeer Tomas Rienzi (Martin Gabel) while also juggling the sale of the newspaper. Margaret Garrison’s (Ethel Barrymore) husband has died and their daughters plan on selling it to a rival, in the same way Joseph Pulitzer’s sons sold the New York World to the Evening Telegram. On top of that, Ed is also trying to woo back his ex-wife, Nora (Kim Hunter).
The reality of journalism’s future aside, Deadline-U.S.A. shows how Brooks could unfold a story. It’s very modern, setting up all of these pieces before the audience truly figures out how Rienzi is connected to all of this. Despite the short running time, Brooks takes his time introducing threads.
Deadline-U.S.A. features one of Bogart’s great late-career performances, which he gave even as he knew his health was failing. Maybe he had a sense that “this could be the last one” and knew he had to give his all in each project. Between the Blu-ray release of this film and the Criterion edition of In A Lonely Place, more will learn that Bogart’s post-war career was just as fascinating as his stuff from the early ’40s. He not only knew how to play his characters, but also how to react to others and show the audience that he’s always the one in control.
Kino’s Blu-ray includes a trailer for this film and for a couple of other KLSC releases. Film noir czar Eddie Muller also recorded a must-listen commentary for this release. While some might be interested in droll commentaries, Muller’s is just as entertaining as the film, as he recounts why he feels a personal connection to it and why it is one of the best on its subject.
Deadline-U.S.A. does have some imperfections (this is a movie that would have been really helped out by a leading lady at the same age as Bogart), but it is far more relevant than most Hollywood journalism movies. Films like His Girl Friday are there to idealize a journalism world that no longer exists. Deadline-U.S.A. is here to prove that newspapers have always been in danger, long before the Internet drove in the final nail.
Thanks to Kino for providing this Blu-ray to review!