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Five Star Final

(1931 b 89')

En: 6 Ed: 7

Based on a play by Louis Weitzenkorn, a tabloid newspaper revives an old murder story and causes a family tragedy.

Gazette owner Hinchecliffe wants to increase the circulation. Ziggie Finstein suggests a taxi race contest, though editor Joseph Randall (Edward G. Robinson) comments it could kill a hundred people. Hinchecliffe wants a serial about Nancy Vorhees, who twenty years ago killed a man after he refused to marry her; she was acquitted because of her baby girl. Randall puts Isopod (Boris Karloff) on the story and hires Kitty to help. Randall's conscience has him washing his hands and drinking often. Nancy's daughter Jenny (Marian Marsh) is marrying Phil Weeks (Anthony Bushell), whose parents worry about the social register. Isopod pretends to be a minister to meet with Nancy (Frances Starr) and her husband Michael Townsend (H. B. Warner); he gets a photo of Jenny and the name of her fiancé, ignoring their requests not to let these be published. Nancy tells her daughter the minister only wanted to know if she wanted the word "obey" in the ceremony.

The five-star final edition has the wedding in headlines with photos of Nancy and Jenny. Phil's parents tell the Townsends they want to stop the wedding. Nancy calls the Gazette, but Hinchecliffe refuses to talk with her; she asks Randall not to run the story because her daughter knows nothing about the murder. It's too late, and she commits suicide. Her husband discovers her; but when the happy Phil and Jenny arrive, he pretends to talk with her and says he is going to join her. They leave for the church, and he commits suicide too. Kitty climbs in the window with a photographer and discovers the bodies. Suicide is the headline. Phil's parents tell Jenny he won't marry her, but Phil calls them cold snobs.

Hinchecliffe is pleased circulation is up 100,000, but Randall wants to drop the story. Isopod suggests paying Jenny for her mother's story. Jenny arrives and asks each of them why they killed her mother. Randall says it was for circulation. She pulls out a gun, but Phil rushes in and stops her. Phil says they will go on growing rich on filth. He threatens to kill them if they mention Jenny's name again. Randall calls Hinchecliffe a hypocrite and resigns, telling him to get a new head butcher.

This film reveals the cynicism and exploitation of the tabloid journalists, most of whom must drink to go on. Phil's parents represent the snobbish values that give scandals power. Phil and Jenny are young, innocent, and able to adapt; but the marriage Nancy had established is destroyed in two days by the revived publicity. Randall finally listens to his conscience and his secretary, while the owner's hypocrisy is exposed.

Copyright © 1999 by Sanderson Beck

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