D: Phil Rosen / 71m
Cast: Jean Parker, Wallace Ford, Jed Prouty, Suzanne Kaaren, Harland Tucker, Evalyn Knapp, Robert Frazer, Dorothy Lee, John Holland, Maxine Leslie, Paul Fix, Betty Compson, Matty Fain, Byron Foulger
When journalist Wally Williams (Ford) and his just-married-that-morning bride Alice (Parker) arrive in New York for their honeymoon, little does Alice know she’s about to find out just how committed her husband is to his job. Within seconds of arriving at the building where they’ll be staying, Alice sees a body fall from a nearby building. Rushing over to the scene, Wally purloins a piece of paper from the dead man’s hands then runs back to Alice is waiting, rushes into their building, commandeers the telephone and phones the news through to his editor at the Globe, Gordon MacEwan (Prouty). Soon, MacEwan is doing everything in his power to keep Wally on the story, and away from an increasingly isolated and fuming Alice. The piece of paper turns out to be a personal ad from the Globe. This leads Wally to another dead body, and a deepening mystery involving a pacifist organisation. All the while, Alice remains at a loose end in their honeymoon penthouse, except for visits from some of the other newspaper wives, including Angela (Kaaren). As Wally’s plans to spend time with Alice are either curtailed or he finds himself hijacked, he finds himself torn between wanting to spend time with her, and solving the mystery.
A Monogram picture – one of twenty-nine released in 1941 – Roar of the Press benefits from its two leads’ performances (though Parker is sorely underused throughout), and the kind of newsroom comedy made popular by His Girl Friday (1939). While the mystery itself is rather dull and only routinely presented – it doesn’t really take centre stage until the last twenty minutes – and the domestic issues are repeated a little too often, its the characters that make the movie, from MacEwan’s story-at-all-costs approach, to Mrs Mabel Leslie (coincidentally, Leslie)’s acid take on the reliability of newspaper men, to dodgy businessman ‘Sparrow’ McGraun (Fix) who proves to be a valuable friend to Wally, and to henpecked Eddie Tate (Foulger), a fellow newshound. These and other smooth characterisations provide the enjoyment the movie’s plot sadly lacks, and shows the cast picking up the slack with enviable ease. This is one of those B-movies where, by the end, everyone’s an old friend.
Rosen, who cut his teeth working successfully in silent movies, here does his best with some really slight material and keeps things as engaging as possible. His skill as a director isn’t tested here, and while some aspects of the movie are handled well, Roar of the Press always feels like an assembly line production where everyone was encouraged to knock off early but thankfully didn’t. The script, by Albert Duffy from an original story by Alfred Block, struggles to unite the two story lines – crime mystery and domestic drama – and the dialogue isn’t as snappy as it would like to be. The photography by Harry Neumann is proficient enough, but often settles for a standard medium-shot that doesn’t help the movie visually. For true movie buffs out there, there are also one-scene cameos for Dorothy Lee (regular foil to Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey) and Betty Compson, and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance by I. Stanford Jolley.
Rating: 5/10 – it often misses the mark (sometimes by a mile) but Roar of the Press gets by thanks to sterling work by its cast, and by having a director who can (mostly) elevate poor material; if you’re a fan of Ford or Parker then by all means track it down, otherwise this is one trip to the newsroom that can be missed.
NOTE: Currently, there’s no trailer for Roar of the Press.