Cast & Crew
J. M. Kerrigan
In New York City in 1886, reporter Phineas Mitchell joins his fellow newspapermen at a local bar. While Steve Brodie, husband of the bartender, Jenny O'Rourke, plans to earn publicity for the bar by jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge, Phineas fumes over the success of his paper, The Star , in orchestrating the execution of an innocent man in order to increase circulation. After he posts a plaque on the man's grave denouncing the paper, Star publisher Charity Hackett confronts Phineas. He condemns her and when the other workers support him, they are all fired. Printer Charles A. Leach overhears Phineas fantasize out loud about the kind of honest, moral paper he would run, and offers the budding editor the use of his press and offices. Within hours, Phineas hires all of his friends and writes the story of Steve's successful jump off the bridge. The men, along with young apprentice Rusty, work all night sorting type, and then are forced to use butcher paper in order to print The Globe by morning. Its exciting copy and high ideals are an instant hit, and the next morning, Charity visits the offices to check out her new competitor. Phineas flirts with her as she tries to gather information about him, but she is undaunted until later that afternoon, when Phineas' huge parade for Steve proves that he already wields power in the neighborhood. Soon after, Phineas' star reporter, the elderly Josiah Davenport, proposes a story about the Statue of Liberty, a gift from the people of France, which now needs another $100,000 in order to be completed. The Globe champions this patriotic effort, offering to print the name of anyone who gives money to the "Liberty Fund." Meanwhile, Phineas' friend, inventor Ottmar Mergenthaler, struggles to create the first linotype machine. Charity attempts to woo him to The Star , but Mergenthaler informs her that he will only work for a great, moral paper. Over the next days, the Globe office begins to grow, and while the eager Rusty learns the secrets of the industry from his experienced co-workers, Phineas introduces innovations such as individual newsstands and bylines. When he discovers that Charity plans to denounce the Statue of Liberty as a ruse to allow the French to borrow money from the U.S., he rebuts her attack in an earlier edition and wins the fight. Secretly, however, Phineas is falling in love with Charity's beauty and strength, and when she visits that night and proposes a merger, he kisses her but refuses her offer. She stalks out and launches a plan to cut off his supplies of ink and paper. She dispatches her business manager, Riley, with the plan, and Riley hires goons who destroy the newsstands and, in an attack on the Globe paper truck, run over Rusty's legs. Phineas tracks and beats up the goons, and declares to Charity that she has started a war, causing her to weep. Soon after, Phineas is ordered by the government to return all profits from forged Liberty Fund receipts. When he finally captures one of the shyster fund "salesmen," the man names Riley as his employer. That night, Davenport writes the story of the fraudulent receipts but the press is attacked and the story stolen. Among the office ruins, Phineas finds the now-deceased Davenport's self-written obituary, which states that he has waited to die until he found a man of high ideals to save the press. Encouraged by Davenport's faith in Phineas, the staff works all night on Mergenthaler's newly perfected linotype machine to put the paper out. As the sun rises and they print the first issue, however, the office is once again attacked and the press destroyed. Despondent, Phineas drinks himself to sleep. When he awakes, his staff shows him the paper they have printed, identical to the old one. They bring forward Charity, who explains that Riley took her order too far and has been fired. She informs Phineas that she read Davenport's obituary and, inspired, killed her paper to give life to The Globe . He embraces her, and months later, the Statue of Liberty is raised thanks to the efforts of Phineas' paper.
J. M. Kerrigan
Hal K. Dawson
Roscoe S. Cline
Earl Crain Sr.
Sherman A. Harris
Earl S. Hays
Jack D. Solomon
Park Row - Sam Fuller's PARK ROW on DVD
It's easy to see why this was one of Fuller's favorites of his own films and is also a favorite of many of his fans. Certainly it's Fuller's most personal work. It's a period newspaper noir, set in 1886 and chronicling the formation of a new (fictional) paper on lower Manhattan's famed Park Row, and the warfare that develops between it and a rival paper. Along the way, various current events of the day are cleverly worked into the plot, including Steve Brodie's jump from the Brooklyn Bridge, the invention of the linotype machine, and references to the new Statue of Liberty, which has been received from France in pieces but has yet to be assembled on Bedloe's Island (as it was then known). Most of all, Fuller's own personal passion for newspapers and freedom of the press and fair play imbues almost every frame of Park Row. Since Fuller was a former newspaperman himself, Park Row represents a perfect match of subject and artist.
Fuller, of course, was also famously a combat veteran of WWII, and his forceful, blunt approach with the camera made virtually all of his movies "war movies" -- whether or not they were set in actual combat. Park Row is no exception. Words and ideas replace guns and ammunition. Gene Evans tears through the film like a focused soldier determined to fulfill his mission, and Fuller finds visual ways to get his audience to feel this energy. This ranges from breathtaking, long tracking shots through New York streets as we follow along Evans, to simple dialogue scenes in a room, which Fuller makes forceful and dynamic through staging that has Evans lurch into the extreme foreground of the frame as he makes a verbal point. Fuller was a master of making the most of limited circumstances and also of translating into visual terms the powerful emotions of his yarns.
In the film, Evans plays Phineas Mitchell, a newly unemployed newspaperman who dreams of starting his own paper and running it with integrity -- "without the support of any political machine." An investor with a steam press likes Mitchell and gives him seed money to start just such a paper, which Mitchell christens The Globe. In short order Mitchell assembles a small staff, gets some butcher paper for his first issues, arranges for a horse-drawn wagon to deliver the paper, and manufactures his first headline-grabbing story by giving up the bridge-jumping Steve Brodie to the police and starting a drive -- in print -- to have him freed. This gets him attention not only from readers but from Charity Hackett, editor of The Star, and she doesn't take kindly to her circulation being affected by young upstarts. A war breaks out between the two papers even as the two editors find a mutual attraction developing between them personally. In true Fuller style, however, there's no question that the cigar-chomping Mitchell will choose his paper over romance any day of the week.
Eventually Mitchell starts a fund drive to raise money for the creation of a pedestal for the Statue of Liberty, which has been sent over from France but is resting in pieces on display around the city. (This is in fact exactly what happened in the 1880s after France sent the statue over.) Mitchell decrees that every donor of any amount of money, no matter how small, will get his or her name published in the Globe. This, too, is drawn from fact, though in reality it was Joseph Pulitzer who spearheaded the pedestal drive, getting micro-donations from readers of his New York World (most less than a dollar), and publishing the names of all donors. Names like Joseph Pulitzer and Horace Greeley, by the way, are uttered in Park Row with awe and reverence. Fuller absolutely cherished these crusading, patriotic newspapermen of the time.
Fuller later wrote in his memoir that when Darryl Zanuck expressed interest in making Park Row as a 'Scope Technicolor musical, Fuller decided to finance the film with $200,00 of his own money and make it "a personal gift to American journalism."
Standouts among the rest of the cast include Mary Welch as Charity Hackett. This was stage actress Welch's first and only feature film; she died during childbirth a few years later, at age 36. Longtime silent and talkie actor Herbert Heyes wonderfully plays Josiah Davenport, the elderly, wise reporter who ends up writing his own obituary, which Mitchell reads in a memorable scene that contains some of Fuller's most heartfelt, poignant writing. And Bela Kovacs plays Ottmar Mergenthaler, the inventor of the linotype machine, something Fuller recreates in this picture. Mergenthaler really was living in the U.S. in 1886 when he invented the device.
Park Row was more than Fuller's gift to American journalism. It remains an extraordinary gift to all moviegoers and is highly recommended.
To order Park Row, go to TCM Shopping.
by Jeremy Arnold
Park Row - Sam Fuller's PARK ROW on DVD
Park Row could have turned out to be nothing like Fuller's plans, if he hadn't taken the reins himself. Fuller had been under contract for a few years to 20th Century Fox and recently completed two very successful war stories for the studio, The Steel Helmet (1951) and Fixed Bayonets (1951). Studio boss Darryl F. Zanuck wanted Fuller to overhaul his script from the top down, starting with the title. The studio once had a major hit with a period adventure/romance about the Great Fire In Old Chicago (1937) and wanted Fuller to call his picture "In Old New York." And to the young director's horror, Zanuck was demanding it be turned into a musical with Dan Dailey and Mitzi Gaynor. Determined to do it his own way, Fuller sunk every penny he had - a considerable amount earned from the war flicks - into an independent production so he could call all the shots. Most of the money went for the set, which Fuller insisted show the street exactly as it was in 1886. Against the protests of his designers, he called for reproductions of the buildings on Park Row to be four stories high, even though the top floors would likely never even be seen on camera. "But I had to see it all," Fuller said. "I had to know everything was there, exact in every detail."
Fuller's passionate attention extended to the plot, the story of a dedicated journalist who manages to set up his own paper, one that will be free of corruption and report the truth. The venture is an instant success but attracts increasing opposition from one of the bigger papers and its heiress owner. Although he fancies the young woman, the newsman resists her attempts to either drive him out of business or have his paper merge with her company. He perseveres in his mission and holds onto his ideals; eventually, she comes to see it his way. Besides showing the daily details of running a paper, Fuller also filled the film with wider historical interest, such as the groundbreaking invention of the Linotype machine and the erection of the Statue of Liberty. For a Fuller film, the story and its lead character, newsman Phineas Mitchell, are remarkably noble and idealistic, showing little of the filmmaker's typical dark cynicism and moral ambiguity, opting instead for an utterly reverent view of the profession. But it is clearly a Fuller film, not only in the passion he brings to the material but in his frenetically physical directorial style.
Fuller did his best to make his gamble pay off. He opened Park Row in a big way at Graumann's Chinese Theater in Los Angeles, and it was a critical success. But he lost everything except the "cigar money" he put aside. Without any known stars to lure audiences, the public stayed away. As the heiress, Mary Welch appeared for the first and only time on film. She died six years later at the age of 36. The best-known cast member, in the role of Mitchell, was Gene Evans, with five-years of bit parts and a couple of featured roles in Fuller's war films to his credit. Evans, who spent most of his later career on television, made two more films with Fuller, and later stated that the director made a number of technical innovations on Park Row (which was shot in only a couple of weeks), including his use of the crab dolly, an elaborate, hydraulically operated wheeled platform that allows a combination of camera movements in any direction.
Fuller liked long takes, and his actors sometimes had to learn ten pages of dialogue for one shot. "He would lay out these long scenes, and move the camera around and move in and move back and move all around you, and just go on shooting until he ran out of film," Evans told Lee Server for the book Sam Fuller: Film Is a Battleground (McFarland & Co., 1995). The actor also said Park Row was the hardest picture he ever worked on. He related a story about Fuller talking him through a fight scene the director wanted to film in one long take from beginning to end. At one point Fuller told Evans to "roll underneath the wagon and fight over to the other side." What wagon, Evans wondered; the wagon that's going to be coming down the street, Fuller replied. "That Sammy, you had to be careful with him or you could get hurt," Evans said.
Producer/Director: Samuel Fuller
Screenplay: Samuel Fuller
Cinematography: John L. Russell
Editing: Philip Cahn
Production Design: Theobold Holsopple
Original Music: Paul Dunlap
Cast: Gene Evans (Phineas Mitchell), Mary Welch (Charity Hackett), Bela Kovacs (Ottmar Mergenthaler), Herbert Heyes (Josiah Davenport), Tina Pine (Jenny O'Rourke), George O'Hanlon (Steve Brodie).
by Rob Nixon
A written foreword runs over a montage of newspaper mastheads, stating: "These are the names of 1,772 daily newspapers in the United States. One of them is the paper you read. All of them are the stars of this story. Dedicated to American journalism." An offscreen narrator then declares over the opening credits that Park Row, in Manhattan, is the most important street for printing and was made famous by such inventors as Johannes Gutenberg, who created moveable type, and Benjamin Franklin. The film depicts several real-life occurrences, including Steve Brodie's leap from the Brooklyn Bridge, the American effort to raise enough money to complete the Statue of Liberty, and Ottmar Mergenthaler's invention of the linotype machine.
Samuel Fuller's credit reads "Written, produced and directed by Samuel Fuller." Fuller wrote the story based on his own experiences in the newspaper world, which began at the age of 14, when he worked as a copy boy. A January 1952 Los Angeles Times item reports that Fuller solicited the stories of anyone who was present when the Statue of Liberty was raised and, according to a Hollywood Reporter news item, he searched New York City for shooting locations with cobblestone streets and buildings that had remained unchanged since the late 1800s. A February 1952 Los Angeles Daily News article reported that the printing press used in the film was constructed specially for the production from the original 1878 plans. To promote the film, Fuller asked over 1,700 newspapers to donate their mastheads for use in the opening sequence, and then sent 16mm prints of the finished picture to every newspaper in America. Despite his efforts, however, the film was a financial failure and bankrupted Samuel Fuller Productions, which completed only one project.
Although the Daily Variety review reports that the film includes a footnote stating that "90% of Park Row is based on fact," that footnote was not in the viewed print. Sound engineer Earl Crain, Sr.'s surname is misspelled "Craine" in the onscreen credits. Hollywood Reporter news items include Dorothy Sarnoff in the cast and modern sources add Charles Horvath (Wiley's goon) and Monk Eastman, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. In addition, a Hollywood Reporter news item lists the actor who plays "Steve Brodie" as George Hamilton rather than as George O'Hanlon. Mary Welch made her feature-film debut in Park Row. Film Daily reported in June 1954 that the Walter E. Heller Co. sued Samuel Fuller and others involved in the production for the use of the title "Park Row," but the disposition of the suit is not known.
Released in United States 1952
Released in United States 1998
Released in United States July 1991
Shown at Avignon/New York Film Festival (Fuller Tribute) in New York City (French Institute) April 24 - May 3, 1998.
Released in United States 1952
Released in United States 1998 (Shown at Avignon/New York Film Festival (Fuller Tribute) in New York City (French Institute) April 24 - May 3, 1998.)
Released in United States July 1991 (Shown in New York City (Film Forum: Sam Fuller Retrospective) July 19 & 20, 1991.)