Cast & Crew
Early in their shift, in the city room of the Los Angeles edition of a syndicated newspaper, sarcastic, cigar-chomping night city editor Jim Bathgate scolds copy boy Earl Collins, who is a highly decorated Korean War veteran, for a lapse in judgment. While waiting for managing editor Sam Gatlin to return from his weekly pilgrimage to the graves of his first wife and son, the newspaper staff notes the dullness of the incoming stories and then entertain themselves with a betting pool on the outcome of the pregnancy of an Italian movie star. Various staffers fend off calls from a cheating reader who wants to be given the answers to the day's crossword puzzle. As a rainstorm is developing, Sam arrives and is waylaid by press agent and former employee Fred Kendall who wants Sam to print a picture of his current client and romantic interest, agricultural beauty queen Lucille Greghauser, on the newspaper's front page. After arranging for Lady Wilson, a highly regarded, forty-year veteran on his staff, to be given updated news reports of her grandson, an Air Force bomber pilot flying a speed run from Honolulu to New York, Sam meets with his senior staff to discuss which news topics to cover in the upcoming edition. There, he hears about the day's potential headline: a missing three-year-old girl, Dorry, who reportedly has fallen into a storm drain while trying to rescue her pet dog. The story churns up painful memories for Sam, whose own son and first wife were killed by a drunken driver. After the meeting, Peggy, Sam's second wife to whom he has been married three years, makes a rare visit to his office to inform him that the adoption agency has matched them with a little boy. Unable to bear children, Peggy wants the child very much, but Sam is now having second thoughts and his change in attitude causes Peggy to leave in tears. When Jan Price, a society girl whose wealthy father used his influence to get her a newspaper job, begs to be given a chance to prove herself, Sam and Jim send her to interview an alleged strangler who was captured by the police. After reading Jan's completed interview, Sam, noting her superlative work, assigns her to report on the search for Dorry, which has become more harrowing, as rescue teams have been searching rain-filled sewers for hours. Empathizing with the child's parents, Sam torments himself with memories and becomes more determined to resist adoption. Fred returns to show off the attributes of Lucille, and although the sight of the partially bare beauty queen temporarily distracts most of the males in the office, Sam, who is weighed down by other emotions, discovers he feels bored by her. From the weather bureau, Bathgate learns that heavy rain is expected to continue, which poses increasingly more danger to Dorry and the rescue teams as the water level in the storm drains rises several feet. Jan scoops other reporters by getting an interview with Dorry's parents. When she returns to the office, she reports that the girl's situation looks hopeless, despite the valiant attempts of many would-be rescuers. Peggy calls Sam, and tries again unsuccessfully to change his mind about the adoption. After Dorry's dog is found dead, Sam learns from a reporter on the scene that the chief of the Bureau of Public Works is planning to call off the search. Sam orders his onsite reporter to blackmail the chief into continuing the search by mentioning a "blonde secretary" and by saying that Sam will "go after" him in every possible way through his newspaper. Ben Quinn, a copyreader on the senior staff, shows Sam an Associated Press release reporting that Lady's grandson was killed when his plane exploded ten minutes from his destination. Sadly, Sam tells Lady about her grandson's death. When Lady wonders why she has been left behind when so many of her friends and loved ones are gone, Sam says that, despite all that has happened to him, he believes there is a higher power at work. Recalling the night his first wife and son were killed, Lady reminds Sam that he has been given a second chance and that he needs a youngster more than a child needs him. Later, Collins, who is on the telephone with a reporter at the scene, reports to the anxious staff that Dorry has been found but may be dead. The staff silently gathers as he relays the message that the search had been called off, but three men refused to give up and found the child unconscious between a drain pipe and an inspection ladder. When efforts to resuscitate Dorry are successful, the staff returns relieved to their work. After the order comes to "roll the presses," Peggy, who has gone behind Sam's back to complete the adoption formalities, brings the young boy, Billy, to the office. Refusing to see him, Sam admits that he would love Billy on sight and that he never again wants to worry about the welfare of a child. He says he is "too scared to be a father." However, when Billy walks in, looking for Peggy, Sam is instantly smitten and accepts him. The rest of the staff, alone or in groups, leaves for the night.
Donna Sue Needham
Richard R. Batcheller
Jack M. Briggs
Robert M. Leeds
The intent with -30- was to depict a single night-edition shift in the life of the city room at a metropolitan newspaper. The city is never named, but maps of Southern California on the walls indicate a Los Angeles setting. (Incidentally, the unorthodox title of the film, incomplete without the dashes, is newspaper copy-writing code for "the end.") At the start of the three-o'clock-to-midnight shift, city editor Jim Bathgate (William Conrad) is messily cleaning out his coffeepot over a wastepaper basket while chewing out Collins the copy boy (David Nelson). Old-timers in the large city room look on with a knowing smirk, as if they have seen Bathgate play out the scenario with a long succession of copy boys. Nighttime managing editor Sam Gatlin (Jack Webb) arrives late following his weekly visit to the graves of his late wife and child, killed a few years earlier by a drunk driver. Senior female reporter Lady Wilson (Louise Lorimer) asks Gatlin to keep tabs on the wire services for news of her grandson, who is part of an Air Force flight group out of Honolulu intending to set a speed record. Gatlin and his staff, including Hy Shapiro (Joe Flynn) and the sports editor (Howard McNear), discuss the top stories on what appears to be a slow news day. During the course of the shift, Peggy (Whitney Blake), Gatlin's new wife of three years, stops in to discuss the couple's impending adoption of a little boy (which Gatlin opposes), while at the same time a story heats up as a little girl has wandered into an open catch basin and may be dead or may be wandering lost in the city's vast storm drain.
The screenplay of -30-, by William Bowers, is earnest when dealing with Gatlin's home life or the lost little girl, but pushes the comedic angle in all other scenes concerning the newspaper staff. The comedy approach is further emphasized by Webb's direction as well as the rib-nudging music score by Ray Heindorf. In addition, several of the film's supporting players had already begun, or were starting, careers in popular TV sitcoms, including David Nelson (The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet), Joe Flynn (McHale's Navy), Richard Deacon (Leave It To Beaver and The Dick Van Dyke Show), and Howard McNear (The Andy Griffith Show). Bowers' dialogue is almost all of a piece and could be interchangeable between the characters; it drips with a cynical sarcasm, whether appropriate to the character or not. William Conrad's Bathgate leads the charge-- when asked if he called for a copy boy, he says, "Now why should I call for a boy when girls are so pretty?" Every other character in the city room echoes this same tone. When given a supposed comedy retort, Joe Flynn's Shapiro says, "and to think I've been feeling sorry for myself because working nights I've had to miss so may of those TV comedy shows." The endlessly arch dialogue wears thin after a short time and perhaps only Louise Lorimer as Lady Wilson rings true when she confronts Bathgate by saying, "You're pressing again, Jim - your humor's not only forced and reaching - it's not funny."
With -30-, Jack Webb also seems to be fashioning a "softer" character for himself following the by-the-book Sgt. Friday and the tough-as-nails gunnery sergeant he played in his previous feature, The D.I.. The adoption sub-plot feels contrived, and Gatlin is written as a compliment to William Conrad's Bathgate - as if they are two parts of the classic Webb persona; the rat-tat-tat dialogue and phony gruff exterior of Bathgate's character would seem tailor-made for Webb's talents.
Writing in the New York Times, critic Howard Thompson notes Jack Webb's previous feature films and says that "...unlike those others, [-30-] sorely lacks the pounding, graphic drive of Mr. Webb's previous directional efforts. Even worse, about 80 percent of the dialogue is a wearying exchange of stale wisecracking - the kind of sophomoric newspaper lingo that went out with prohibition." Thompson feels the movie only succeeds with the later scenes covering the search for the little girl: "Briefly, in these final-quarter scenes, with some blunt telephone exchanges, a rewrite battery complete with earphones and various department heads huddling tersely with Mr. Webb, The Banner does manage to suggest a real newspaper."
Jack Webb's follow-up film as producer-director-star would be The Last Time I Saw Archie (1961), co-starring Robert Mitchum.
Producer: Jack Webb
Director: Jack Webb
Screenplay: William Bowers
Cinematography: Edward Colman
Art Direction: Feild M. Gray, Gibson Holley
Music: Ray Heindorf
Film Editing: Robert M. Leeds
Cast: Jack Webb (Sam Gatlin), William Conrad (Jim Bathgate), David Nelson (Earl Collins), Whitney Blake (Peggy Gatlin), Louise Lorimer (Lady Wilson), James Bell (Ben Quinn), Nancy Valentine (Jan Price), Joe Flynn (Hy Shapiro), Richard Bakalyanv (Carl Thompson), Dick Whittinghill (Fred Kendall)
By John M. Miller
Producer-director-actor Jack Webb's trademark showing "Mark VII Limited" appears after the Warner Bros. logo and before the onscreen title card. Although the word, "Limited," is often abbreviated in the logo, in this instance the word is spelled out. The opening and closing onscreen cast credits differ in order, and several actors listed in the opening do not appear in the closing credits. The closing credits list character names.
Studio press sheets found in the copyright file and a cast and crew sheet found in the file for the film at the AMPAS Library state that the name of the character played by Louise Lorimer was "Bernice Valentine." However, in the film and in the onscreen credits the character is called "Lady Wilson." Although studio press notes reported that -30- marked the feature film debut of Nancy Valentine, who portrayed "Jan Price" in the film, the actress had appeared in many films between 1949 and 1953.
After the closing credits, a written statement reads: "-30-means THE END." As noted in studio production materials,-30-, which is sometimes referred to as a "30 dash," "is a time-honored journalism symbol denoting the end of the story." Although there are several theories as to the origination of the symbol, some sources state that it was created by telegraph operators, who used one "X" to denote the end of a sentence, "XX" to denote end of paragraph and "XXX" to mark the end of a story.
A subplot in the film involving a three-year-old girl who falls into a storm drain was probably inspired by the 1949 death of three-year-old Southern California girl Kathy Fiscus, who fell into a pipe sunk into an abandoned oil field and died before help could reach her. The effort to rescue her was one of the first of such tragedies to be televised live. For more information about her story, see the entries for two 1951 films, Ace in the Hole and The Well (above and below).
Even though a December 1959 American Cinematographer article stated that -30- was shot on a Warner Bros. sound stage, all Hollywood Reporter production charts reported that it was shot at Republic Studios. The American Cinematographer article reported that a single interior set, approximately 200 by 60 feet, was built to replicate the actual city room of the Los Angeles Examiner. As the film's story takes place during one night shift, approximately 3:00 p.m. to midnight, lighting was used "to create visually the progression of time from dusk to dawn."
Only two scenes occur outside the city room: a brief scene in which Webb as "Sam Gatlin" climbs the stairs to the city room and a longer sequence during which Sam looks out his office window to see his wife leaving a telephone booth across the street.
Several short, generally comedic subplots appear in the film, among them, an over-eager reporter giving an influential man and his wife a tour of the newspaper; a misunderstanding between "Jim Bathgate" and "Earl Collins" over the outcome of the betting pool; and several short sequences showcasing various staff members: a moody retouch artist, two copy boys, and a religion/real estate editor who wants to report on the weather and asks for the job title of "Editor of Heaven and Earth." According to the American Cinematographer article, Webb, who customarily completed principal photography of his films ahead of schedule, finished -30- within twelve of the eighteen days he had planned.
Released in United States 1959
Released in United States on Video September 21, 1994
A night in the life of a newspaper editor, grappling with his family problems, and his staff working the overnight shift is turned upside down when the incoming story of a young girl lost in the city's storm drains becomes the focal point of their prayers and attention.
Released in United States 1959
Released in United States on Video September 21, 1994