Deadline – U.S.A.
A newspaper is being sold, and the editor pushes a story to expose a gangster’s crimes, hoping to save the paper.
Thomas Rienzi (Martin Gabel) testifies before a senatorial committee. The Day reports that Rienzi gave $100,000 to a politician. The Day is being sold. Editor Ed Hutcheson (Humphrey Bogart) lets George Burrows (Warren Stevens) stay on the Rienzi story. Ed asks Margaret Garrison (Ethel Barrymore) to stop the sale to their competitor. Ed tells the employees that the paper is closing. At the wake they drink, and Ed says what people want in a newspaper.
Drunk Ed calls on his ex-wife Nora Hutcheson (Kim Hunter) and says he wants to marry her. She puts him to bed. Ed gets an early call and goes to George, who was beat up by Rienzi’s men.
Ed puts people on the Rienzi story and dictates an editorial for the late owner. Ed’s paper attacks Rienzi. Ed meets Nora for dinner, and she tells him that she is marrying her boss. Frank Allen (Ed Begley) calls Ed about a story exposing an advertiser, who tells Ed that the dead woman was involved with Rienzi. Ed holds the story. Nora’s fiancé asks Ed to let Nora alone.
Harry Thompson (Paul Stewart) asks Herman Schmidt (Joe De Santis) about Rienzi while Herman holds a gun on him. In court Margaret objects to the sale, but her daughters Alice and Katherine want to sell. Margaret says she will buy it.
In his car Rienzi tells Ed he wants to be his friend, threatens to sue him, and asks what he wants. In the office Ed offers Herman $1,000 cash and questions him about Rienzi. Herman tells how his sister was killed. Margaret tells Ed that Rienzi filed a libel suit. Three cops come in and arrest Herman, who recognizes Whitey. They fight, and Whitey shoots Herman, who falls onto a press.
Rienzi on the phone says he did not want violence and summons them. Ed praises Margaret. They discuss Nora and her late husband. Rienzi gives his men orders and depends on his lawyer. He says the judge will take the paper away from Ed or he will take Ed away.
In court Ed speaks for the paper, which he says is being murdered. Ed says competition and a free press are needed. The judge approves the sale. Ed calls Frank and goes to the office, where Mrs. Schmidt gives Ed her daughter’s diaries. In the last edition Rienzi is accused of murder. Rienzi calls Ed and warns him not to print that story, but Ed says it is being printed.
This drama shows how a good newspaper can provide an essential service to the general public by exposing crime and corruption that need to be stopped. The calling is so absorbing to a good editor that he has little time for a personal life.