Nicholas Barber's the Watch List: Journalists on film
Sunday 13 October 2013
In The Fifth Estate (in cinemas now), Benedict Cumberbatch puts on a white wig and an Australian drawl to play Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks. The film dramatises his clashes, as an internet pioneer, with the more traditional working methods of newspaper journalists, who, of course, are highly trained and ethical professionals.
Or are they? In the golden age of Hollywood comedy, newspaper reporters usually plotted to scoop their rivals by getting someone very rich to fall in love with them. It’s a practice that seems most forgivable in two Frank Capra classics. The peerless It Happened One Night (1934) stars Claudette Colbert as a runaway heiress and Clark Gable as the silver-tongued reporter who elopes with her. In Mr Deeds Goes to Town (1936), Gary Cooper is the innocent who inherits $20m, and Jean Arthur is the journalist on the case.
Two decades later, Gregory Peck was putting the same moves on Audrey Hepburn’s princess in the delightful Roman Holiday (1953), but the Fifties’ most powerful depictions of the press were many shades darker. In Billy Wilder’s cynical and all-too relevant Ace in the Hole (1951), Kirk Douglas exacerbates a small-town crisis to improve the stories he’s filing. Even better is the acrid Sweet Smell of Success (1957), featuring a godlike Burt Lancaster as an all-powerful columnist and Tony Curtis as the desperate PR man who’ll do anything to win his favour.
As for the workings of newspaper offices themselves, they’re represented most accurately in Ron Howard’s smart comedy drama, The Paper (1994), starring a live-wire Michael Keaton. If someone can explain why Keaton isn’t in more films, it’ll be front-page news.
Music Why this music festival is still the place to spot the next big thing
Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Finland schools: Subjects scrapped and replaced with 'topics' as country reforms its education system
- 2 The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
- 3 Watch: Man takes selfie every mile of 2,600 mile hike, creates amazing timelapse video
- 4 The day I starred in Only Fools and Horses
- 5 Scientists have discovered a simple way to cook rice that dramatically cuts the calories
Jeremy Clarkson to host BBC's Have I Got News For You despite Top Gear exit
Kay Burley 'bias' against Ed Miliband prompts 130 complaints to Ofcom
A historian gave the most British look of despair when someone screwed up Richard III's birthday at his reburial
Zayn Malik already working on solo material, just days after quitting One Direction
James May hints Top Gear days are over following Jeremy Clarkson's BBC exit
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Revealed: Putin's army of pro-Kremlin bloggers
Germanwings plane crash: Co-pilot Andreas Lubitz wanted to 'do something people would remember him for'
The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew