The Rum Diary, and 10 other movies featuring journalists
– by Regan Payne
In The Rum Diary, opening today, Johnny Depp returns to one of his favourite subjects: the journalist and author Hunter S. Thompson.
Thompson, who later in life described himself as a “senior citizen drug addict”, was a polarizing figure in his professional life, uncompromising in his views and unafraid to let them fly. Based on Thompson’s novel of the same name, The Rum Diary follows Paul Kemp, a freelance American journalist who discovers corruption, passion, and danger while visiting Puerto Rico in the 1950s.
Journalism, even in today’s world, still represents the ultimate search for truth – always a great fit for the movies. It seems like there’s always a place in the movies for cagey, fast-talking beat reporters and investigative types who can’t leave well enough alone, who turn over every stone despite threats and worse from big government, big corporations, and big dudes named Vinny.
Here are ten films featuring journalists, both real and fictitious.
10. The Philadelphia Story (1940) – Hepburn, Grant, and Stewart: it’s sort of the equivalent today of well, we simply don’t have these kinds of actors anymore. Based on a play by Phillip Barry, the movie stars Katharine Hepburn as Tracy, the daughter of a business tycoon, about to marry simply to forget her former husband, played by Cary Grant. Jimmy Stewart and Ruth Hussey play journalists sent from a New York tabloid to get the scoop.
9. Reds (1981) – Warren Beatty starred in, wrote, produced and directed the story of John Reed, an American journalist in Russia who is taken with Communist ideals and Diane Keaton.
8. Shattered Glass (2003) – The true story of how Stephen Glass rose through the ranks of journalism only to be exposed a complete fraud.
7. Nothing Saced (1937) – The magnificent Carole Lombard stars as Hazel who, after discovering she doesn’t have the terminal cancer she though she did, still takes up lowly reporter Wallace Cook’s (Frederic March) proposal to come to New York City and turn her story into the talk of the town.
6. Ace in the Hole (1951) – Billy Wilder may be my favourite filmmaker, and his take on a journalist’s exploitation of a story and small town in order to jumpstart his career is among Kirk Douglas’s best work as an actor.
5. All the President’s Men (1976) – Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman play Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in their quest to undercover the Watergate scandal of 1972.
4. The Insider (1999) – Michael Mann’s tale of Jeffrey Wigand, scientist and tobacco industry whistleblower, and the aftermath of his decision. Russell Crowe has never bettered his performance here.
3. His Girl Friday (1940) – Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell in Howard Hawks’ newspaper flick that may still hold the record for fastest dialogue delivery. The plot sees Grant trying to prevent his ex-wife, Russell, from remarrying.
2. La Dolce Vita (1960) – I am a sucker for Fellini’s cinema – the gorgeous black and white, the Nino Rota scores, the interesting casting choices (Fellini took great pains even casting interesting faces for background). La Dolce Vita is among his prettiest films. Marcello Mastroianni portrays what is considered the first onscreen paparazzo, and his struggle to find meaning in his life.
1. Sweet Smell of Success (1957) – Alexander Mackendrick, an underrated British filmmaker who made comedies as well as dramas, turned in a beauty here. Tony Curtis plays PR man Sidney Falco, manipulated by a powerful New York City columnist (played by Burt Lancaster) into destroying the latter’s sister’s new relationship.