Underworld Story (1950)

“Pretty soon a man won’t be able to sell his own mother.”

When Mike Reese (Dan Duryea) a shady reporter at a large city newspaper, loses his job, no one else will employ him. So Reese borrows money from a gangster to buy a half interest in a newspaper located in the small town of Lakeville. Catherine Harris (Gale Storm) owns the paper, and she had definite notions about how it should be run. Reese, however, sees the paper as just a means to leap to something bigger. When the daughter-in-law of a newspaper magnate is found murdered in Lakeville, Reese grabs the story and turns the tragedy into a media circus.

Directed by Cy Endfield Underworld Story is a great entry in Newspaper Noir. The film examines the ethical issues behind headlines–when is it appropriate to break a story, for example, and is it possible for the newspapers to convict someone in the press? Poverty combats racism, wealth, and influence in a battle to present the truth, and as Reese states: “without press coverage, you’re cooked.”

Herbert Marshall elegantly plays newspaper magnate E.J. Stanton, and Howard Da Silva plays the crude, loud-mouthed gangster Carl Durham most effectively. Dan Duryea plays the role of Mike Reese with his usual skill. Reese is the sort of selfish, amoral, opportunistic character who always lands on his feet. The weak spot in the film is the role of Catherine Harris. There’s no chemistry between Storm and Dan Duryea, and Catherine’s character is rather bland. Unfortunately, this weakens the film overall. Nonetheless, for noir fans, it’s a film to watch, and Underworld Story certainly doesn’t deserve to fade into the sunset.

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