The Law of Contact

Big News (September 7, 1929)

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Carole Lombard in Big News

Released on September 7, 1929: Steve Banks is a hard drinking, devil may care reporter that is accused of murdering his editor after uncovering a dope peddling gangster.

Directed by Gregory La Cava

The Actors: Robert Armstrong (Steve Banks), Carole Lombard (Margaret Banks), Louis Payne (Hensel), Wade Boteler (O'Neill), Charles Sellon (J.W. Addison), Sam Hardy (Joe Reno), Tom Kennedy (Officer Ryan), Warner Richmond (District Attorney's man Phelps), Helen Ainsworth (Vera, society editor), Herbert Clark (Pells), Gertrude Sutton (Helen), James Donlan (Deke), George 'Gabby' Hayes (reporter Hoffman), Vernon Steele (reporter), Clarence Wilson (Coroner), Fred Behrle (elevator man), Colin Chase (Birn), Robert Dudley (telegraph editor), Lew Ayres (copyboy), Lynton Brent (reporter), Richard Cramer (hood), Harry Semels (Reno henchman).

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If you are a fan of the original screwball blonde comic Carole Lombard, you will get to watch her in an early 'talkie' movie as a serious actor. Pop some white kernel popcorn drizzled with hot melted butter and get ready for a big city crime drama with Carole Lombard as the femme fatale heroine. Carole Lombard started acting in 1921, and is famous for creating the screwball comedy dumb-blonde role, but the first movie that I have found so far where she played a comic role is her 1936 hit "My Man Godfrey" where she co-starred with her ex-husband William Powell. In this movie she plays a serious part as the reporter / wife of our hero reporter Steve Banks.

This movie premiers on September 7, 1929, just a few days before the stock market crash and the beginning of the Great Depression. But that is in the future, and right now the U.S. is still enjoying the 'Roaring 20's' - a time of growth, plenty of money, plenty of jobs, and alcohol has been illegal for ten years. But that doesn't stop folks in the big city. There are plenty of 'Speak Easy' bars around, and because alcohol is illegal, they can charge exhorbitant amounts for their booze and make money hand over fist. Our crime story today features a husband and wife reporter duo, and a wealthy gangster-businessman who owns several restaurants and speak easy bars. As our movie opens we see a big city newspaper coming to life as reporters and editors make their way into the offices. Already there is a sleeping man, Steve Banks, drunk as a skunk. Steve is a hard drinking, fast talking, devil may care reporter that gets fired often, and doesn't fit in with the rest of society, but he also manages to bring home the big story.

This morning isn't a good one for Steve . . . his wife is a reporter for a rival newspaper, and she arrives at Steve's paper to find out where he's been all night. After a good arguement, she tells Steve that she has had enough, and she wants a divorce. Steve takes it better than most . . . he knows that he is not the devoted husband that most women would want, and he doesn't object to the divorce. Then he goes back into the office and gets fired again by the chief, and this time it looks like the boss means business. So off he goes to his favorite speak easy for a few drinks before heading out into his brave new world. The speak easy that he goes to is owned by Joe Reno, a big man about town. Joe owns several restaurants and speak easy bars, and is a big advertiser in the newspaper. Joe also heads a gang of dope peddlers, and Steve has been on his trail for a long time, but just hasn't been able to get the goods on him yet. While having a final drink in Joe's bar, he tells Joe that he got a confession from a small time criminal currently in jail that will nail Joe to the wall. Joe isn't worried until he learns that the criminal was released from jail that morning. He figures that Banks may have really gotten the confession, and so he arranges to have the criminal killed, and heads for the newspaper office to get the confession from the editor, or kill him.

The next part of the plot is very well written, and we are tempted to bite our nails as we watch the 'dance' around the editor's office. Joe Reno is talking to the advertising man, trying to get into the boss' office without anyone knowing, and in comes Banks, with two black eyes and the real confession that will put Reno in prison. Everyone sees Banks go into the boss' office and they argue, but finally the boss hires Banks back and offers him a big raise in return for the story. But somehow Reno gets into the office after Banks leaves and kills him and takes the confession. When the secretary finds the boss' dead body, everyone thinks that Banks killed him. Because of his drunken confrontational personality, no one has any trouble believing that he is the killer. Will Banks be able to clear himself this time? Will his wife take him back even if he can clear himself? Will Banks choose to hit a speak easy to drown his problems or go for the liver and onions that his wife promises is at home waiting for him? What would you do?