erik lundegaard

Saturday March 02, 2019

What's Your Establishing 1938 Newspaper Headline? 1938 Has Its Answer

More on “Angels with Dirty Faces,” which I rewatched last weekend. This has to do with our two-part intro to the lower east side.

The first time Rocky and Jerry are kids, and director Michael Curtiz and DP Sol Polito's give us a sweeping shot of the neighborhood: beginning with a man reading a newspaper on a fire escape and slowly panning left to take in the women with their laundry and then all of it. It's supposed to give a sense of the world Rocky and Jerry come from.

It's an establishing shot in two ways, place and time, and the time is provided by the newspaper headline. Here's how they let us know it's 1920:

Harding Nominated: Angels with Dirty Faces

As for the second headline? The movie was filmed in 1938 and released in late 1938, and it's supposed to be contemporary. So they needed a newspaper headline reflecting that. What would you choose? It's gotta be either 1937 or early 1938. Kristalnacht is out—that's late ‘38. Orson Welles’ “War of the Worlds,” too. From a vantage point 80 years later, I would‘ve gone with the Anschluss: Hitler taking over Austria, which was a prelude to WWII, and which happened in March. But maybe that didn’t sit with the summer locale. Or with the Hays office that did its best not to rankle the Germans. 

This is what they chose:

Flier Circles World: Angels with Dirty Faces

You‘re like, “What?” It’s almost a non-event now but apparently it was a big deal then. More interesting is who the unnamed “Flyer” was: Howard Hughes. Did he go unnamed here because he was a rival to Warners? The last movie he produced before this, “Scarface” in 1932 for United Artists, was as close to a 1930s Warner Bros. picture as there was. Did they not want to give him credit?

Anyway, I found all that interesting. 

One wonders what future movies will use as establishing shots—particularly as physical newspapers disappear. YouTube videos? iPhones versions? My great fear is we won't care enough. Chronology, he dead, Mr. Kurtz.

Posted at 02:14 PM on Saturday March 02, 2019 in category Movies  
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Twitter: @ErikLundegaard