Five Star Final (1931)

Five Star Final (1931)
Five Star Final (1931)

Run time: 89 min
Rating: 7.5
Genres: Crime | Drama | Film-Noir
Director: Mervyn LeRoy
Writers: Louis Weitzenkorn, Byron Morgan
Stars: Edward G. Robinson, Marian Marsh, H.B. Warner
A gripping story of an unscrupulous newspaper reporter and his power-hungry editor.  Karloff and Robinson, terrific as always, make this one a must see!
Release Date: 26 September 1931 (USA)

4 responses to “Five Star Final (1931)”

  1. IMDBReviewer says:

    In the early 1930’s, seemingly, only Warner Brothers had the guts to film this type of raw entertainment. Seen today, "Five Star Final" seems to be ahead of its time! It is racy, daring, provocative and is also a rough and tough exposé of the newspaper racket and its unscrupulous tactics. Edward G. Robinson, Marian Marsh (her hysterical confrontation with the nasty tabloid personnel at the films finale is a real gem), H.B. Warner (the personification of dignity), Boris Karloff (callous), Aline MacMahon, Ona Munson and Frances Starr are all superb. "Five Star Final" is a film that is still enjoyable and delivers a wallop, even by today’s standards.

  2. rgkeenan says:

    A decent woman and her husband are driven to suicide by the jackals of the press. There is no satisfaction in the end, for the press is relentless in its exploitation of human suffering, wallowing in hypocritical sanctimony and drunk with power, due to its stranglehold on information and its corruption of the political process. The only satisfaction given us in "Five Star Final" is a rhetorical one and, mercifully, the survival of a few brave souls willing to pick up the debris of lives destroyed by the Gazette, the tabloid journal of the film.

    Edward G. Robinson plays a ruthless, yet conscience-ridden editor, who too late realizes that crusading journalism – investigative reporting we call it these days – is often just a pretext for pandering to the vulgar public’s taste for road kill. I like Robinson in this kind of role better than Robinson the gangster type. He has a brow that is far more affecting when tightly knit in anguish than in fierceness. And his last scene is a tour de force of cathartic fury, which director Mervin LeRoy frames effectively, so that the audience shares in the emotional release.

    Also not to be missed is Boris Karloff’s sleazy, resourceful hatchet man, who insinuates himself into private lives like a pickpocket. There are other fine performances, notably that of H. B. Warner, who is touching as a tormented victim of publicity. Another standout is Anthony Bushell, as the fiancé of Warner’s daughter. He could have played the usual pretty-boy lug, but instead brings sensitivity to an otherwise stock character.

    Viewers might be put off by some of the acting technique of this early (1931) talkie. Gestures tend to melodramatic here, due to most of the cast’s coming from silents, in which pantomime is important, or the stage, where one must project into back rows. But it’s easy to overlook this minor irritant.

    Everyone saw the news media’s apotheosis of itself in "All the President’s Men". For a balanced view of the media, they should see more films like "Five Star Final," a gem whose neglect no doubt delights the jackals of the press.

  3. IMDBReviewer says:

    A powerful, uncompromising early look at "Yellow Journalism" which made a great enough impact at the time to be counted among the year’s best films at the Academy Awards – to say nothing of the rush of similar pictures which followed in its wake, culminating in Howard Hawks’ masterpiece, HIS GIRL Friday (1940).

    Edward G. Robinson is re-united here with the director of LITTLE CAESAR (1930), the film that made him a star, and delivers another great performance which is sufficiently nuanced to anchor the somewhat melodramatic plot in reality. Supporting him, among many others, are Aline MacMahon as his long-suffering secretary who’s secretly in love with him and Boris Karloff in a marvelous turn as the most shamelessly hypocritical reporter on the newspaper’s payroll. The cynical, rapid-fire dialogue gives it an edge and an authenticity that’s almost impossible to recapture these days and, needless to say, became one of the key elements in this type of film.

    The film features a number of good scenes but the highlights would have to be: the split-screen technique introduced to shut out the former convict, who is now being hounded by "The Gazette", from having a conversation with either the owner of the paper or its news editor (Robinson); the lengthy and heart-breaking scene in which the female ex-convict’s husband (played by the ever-reliable H.B. Warner) bids farewell to their daughter and her soon-to-be husband without letting them in on the fact that the woman has committed suicide and that he intends to join her soon after; the hysterical tirade at the end by the daughter when she finally confronts the men who have destroyed her life, a brave tour-de-force moment for Marian Marsh (familiar to horror aficionados from SVENGALI [1931], THE MAD GENIUS [1931] and THE BLACK ROOM [1935]) who had so far only rather blandly served the romantic interest of the plot; the final shot of the picture, with the latest issue of "The Gazette" being swept into the gutter by street-cleaners along with the rest of the garbage, thus leaving no doubt whatsoever as to where the film-makers’ true sentiments lay.

  4. IMDBReviewer says:

    The muckraking editor of The Gazette revives an old murder case (with a FIVE STAR FINAL) to increase the paper’s circulation.

    Movies have long been fascinated with the fast-paced action of the journalistic newsroom and have mined stories about newspaper shenanigans for both comedies & dramas. Here, from First National Pictures, was one of the earliest talkies to have a real success in exploring the medium. The action is fast and the dialogue fits. The film goes further, however, reaching beyond the newspaper staff and focusing on a family who becomes the victim of untrammeled yellow journalism.

    Pugnacious Edward G. Robinson gives a vivid portrayal of the unscrupulous editor who slowly begins to develop a soul when he is confronted by the turmoil his decisions have on the lives of innocent folks. Seemingly incapable of giving a bad performance, Robinson fascinates as he chews the scenery with his full-throttle performance. The always sterling Aline MacMahon scores as his wise, levelheaded secretary who nurses a secret love for him. Their scenes together are riveting.

    In supporting roles, creepy Boris Karloff plays an alcoholic reporter without any morals whatsoever. Wisecracking Ona Munson has fun with her role of a floozy who becomes a girl reporter. Oscar Apfel is good as the paper’s spineless owner. Rat-faced George E. Stone is rather repulsive as the guy who sends out the goons to strong-arm newspaper vendors on the street.

    H. B. Warner & Frances Starr both shine as an innocent couple whose lives are made a misery by the rapacious Gazette. Playing their daughter, Marian Marsh has a terrific scene at the film’s climax when she confronts the three newspapermen who destroyed her home. Sturdy Anthony Bushell appears as her steadfast society boyfriend.

    Movie mavens will recognize little Frank Darien as an eager undertaker. And that’s blonde Polly Walters as the Gazette’s kooky-voiced telephone operator.

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