Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Phil Karlson|
|Produced by||Edward Small|
|Screenplay by||Eugene Ling|
|Based on||The Dark Page|
by Samuel Fuller
|Music by||George Duning|
|Edited by||Jerome Thoms|
Motion Picture Investors
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
Scandal Sheet is a 1952 black-and-white film noir directed by Phil Karlson. The film is based on the novel The Dark Page by Samuel Fuller, who himself was a newspaper reporter before his career in film. The drama features Broderick Crawford, Donna Reed and John Derek.
A newspaper man, Mark Chapman (Broderick Crawford), takes over an ailing New York daily newspaper, the New York Express and, by staging a number of publicity stunts, revives it as a scandal sheet. Chapman's wife, whom he years before deserted and left penniless, resurfaces and threatens to tell everyone who he is and what he has done to her, including driving her to attempt suicide. The two physically fight and he accidentally kills her, then tries to cover it up. From her purse, he retrieves money and a pawn shop receipt. When her body is discovered, the paper's star reporter, Steve McClearly (John Derek), begins investigating what has been determined to be a murder. As McClearly is joined by feature writer Julie Allison (Donna Reed), and they begin to dig deeper, the noose begins to tighten around Chapman's neck.
Chapman goes to the Bowery to redeem the pawn shop receipt. Before he can do so, Charlie Barnes, a former Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the Express who has become alcoholic, stumbles upon him. Chapman gives Barnes a cash handout; accidentally included with the money is the receipt. Barnes claims the item, which turns out to be the dead woman's suitcase, in which he finds proof that Chapman is the murderer. He telephones Allison and McCleary, but McCleary thinks that Barnes is too drunk and is calling in a phony story. This angers Barnes and he says he is going to take the story to a competitor, the Daily Leader. Chapman hears about Barnes going to the Daily Leader, waits for him near the newspaper's headquarters, then accosts and kills him. McCleary and Allison take a trip to Connecticut to find the judge who married the murdered woman and the man seen in profile in a photograph from the suitcase. They bring this judge back to the Express, who identifies Chapman as the groom, but under a different name.
Film rights to Sam Fuller's novel were sold for $15,000 to Howard Hawks during the war. After the war Fuller did a treatment and Sidney Buchman wrote a script, which Hawks then sold to Edward Small for $100,000.John Payne was originally offered the lead, then Dennis O'Keefe and Orson Welles were announced as stars.
Film critic Bosley Crowther was lukewarm about the film, writing, "The ruthlessness of tabloid journalism, as seen through the coolly searching eyes of Hollywood scriptwriters (who naturally shudder with shock at such a thing), is given another demonstration in Columbia's Scandal Sheet, a run-of-the-press melodrama which came to the Paramount yesterday. But apart from a bit of tough discussion of the public's avid taste for thrills and chills and a few dubious hints at tabloid techniques, there is nothing very shocking in this film ... The moral of all this dismal nonsense, we would gather, is meant to be that corruption breeds corruption. The moral is okay. Enough said."
Critic Dennis Schwartz called the drama a "hard-hitting film noir thriller" and liked the camera work. He wrote, "Burnett Guffey's splashy black-and-white photography is filled with New York City atmosphere and the whirlwind energy buzzing around a press room."