May 14, 2018  (Web Review)

The Finger Points

Warner, 85 min., not rated, DVD: $21.99

Reviewer rating: 2.5/4

The finger indeed points in this 1931 newspaper drama turned gangster film, and it points directly at Breckenridge “Breck” Lee (silent star Richard Barthelmess), an earnest, driven young reporter from Savannah, GA, who takes a job on the crime beat of a major Chicago newspaper. He wises up quick after the mob gives him a beating for his front page exposé and his paper refuses to pay his hospital expenses (more than a year’s wages). Breck partners with a wily mob fixer (Clark Gable, showing off the charisma that would soon make him a major star) in an extortion racket and he becomes rich and cynical in short order, but his ambitions lay the foundation of his undoing. While this anti-hero is eventually punished for his corruption, there is an underlying cynicism to the way that organized crime continues to prosper and how the papers twist the truth for the sake of headlines. The Finger Points is an interesting example of filmmaking in the early days of sound movies as directors struggled with both the technical challenges and the aesthetic demands of sound recording. Some of the scenes are snappy, energetic, and feature dynamic camerawork, but others with dialogue are stilted and awkward, as if director John Francis Dillon wanted space between each line to ensure the audience is able to hear everything clearly. Fay Wray costars as the fellow reporter Breck woos, and Regis Toomey is his colleague on the beat and friendly rival in love. A strong optional purchase. (S. Axmaker)