Cast & Crew
John Francis Dillon
One of Breckenridge Lee's first assignments as a reporter is to expose a newly opened gambling house. He refuses bribes to keep the story quiet and is severely beaten as a result. When he leaves the hospital, he plans to marry fellow reporter Marcia Collins, but his hospital and doctor bills combined with his low salary, make him think longingly of the bribes he turned down. Lee sets up an arrangement with gangster Louis Blanco, to inform his organization of city hall's plans. Blanco pays Lee well for his services and also provides him with tips for his column. Marcia grows suspicious of Lee's wealth and they quarrel over his refusal to explain the source of his money. Confident of his power, Lee decides to break away from Blanco to obtain a larger share of the graft. Learning that Number One, the head of the underworld, is planning to open a new gambling house, he tells Blanco that he will print the information because he believes the gang will not kill a reporter. He succeeds in obtaining a larger cut, but he is warned that if the story breaks he will be in trouble. Losing faith in Lee, Marcia reluctantly agrees to marry Charles "Breezy" Russell, another reporter, if he will stop drinking. Meanwhile, Lee decides to leave the city and go straight if Marcia will marry him immediately. She agrees and as Lee is getting ready, Breezy breaks the gambling story, hoping to impress Marcia and his editor. The next morning Breezy shows Marcia the newspaper with his story. When Lee sees it, he knows he is doomed. Despite Marcia's pleas, he leaves for the bank but is followed and killed. At his funeral, Lee is called a hero. Marcia, who knows the truth, keeps silent.
John Francis Dillon
The Finger Points
The headline that inspired The Finger Points concerns a crooked newspaperman at the heart of Al Capone's criminal empire. As Carlos Clarens recounts it in his book, Crime Movies (Norton, 1980), Alfred "Jake" Lingle, a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, was shot to death June 9, 1930, the day before he was to testify against Capone. Subsequent investigation revealed that Lingle had been on the take from the Capone mob, suppressing stories in exchange for a $60,000 a year supplement to his income supplied by Capone.
After these revelations, Zanuck handed the story over to two of his top writers, W.R. Burnett and John Monk Saunders. Burnett was the author of the novel Little Caesar and Saunders had been a reporter before his experiences flying in World War I led him to become an author. They provided the story that was given a final polish into screenplay form by Warner's staff writer Robert Lord.
The writers had two jobs: how to make a crooked reporter into a sympathetic character and how to alter the story enough to avoid lawsuits. In the final draft reporter Lingle became Breckenridge Lee, a newsman from down South who gets a job on a big-city paper in a crime-ridden city. His boss expects him to expose corruption without fail, but when he is beaten and hospitalized by gang members, his boss refuses to lend him a dime to pay his hospital bill. With no other choice, Lee is forced to accept the mob's graft money. Has he become corrupt or is he playing the gangsters to find out more about them?
For the cast, Warners chose Richard Barthelmess as the lead. Best known for his earnest American roles in the silent classics Way Down East (1920) and Tol'able David (1921), he became an emblem of the American down on his luck during the early 1930s. Fay Wray, still two years from being hauled up the Empire State building by a gigantic ape in King Kong (1933), was brought in as the love interest, probably at the insistence of her husband at the time, writer John Monk Saunders. To play the chief enforcer of the mob, Warner turned not to its large stable of villains, but instead imported MGM's current specialist in slick gangster roles, Clark Gable. The actor would mostly be stuck in such roles until 1934 when the gangster craze died out and hits like It Happened One Night (1934) and Manhattan Melodrama (1934) turned him into MGM's leading star.
Audiences in 1931 did not buy the convoluted reasons for the reporter hero's acceptance of graft money but The Finger Points now seems a fast-paced and immediate view of Capone's crime reign at a time when Chicago's gang lord was still running around murdering people at will.
Director/Producer: John Francis Dillon
Writer: Robert Lord, from a story by W.R. Burnett and John Monk Saunders
Cinematographer: Ernest Haller
Editor: LeRoy Stone
Art Director: Jack Okey
Cast: Richard Barthelmess (Breckenridge Lee), Fay Wray (Marcia Collins), Regis Toomey (Charlie Russell), Robert Elliott (Frank Carter), Clark Gable (Louis J. Blanco), Oscar Apfel (Ellis Wheeler).
BW-85 min. Closed captioning.
by Brian Cady
The Finger Points
Fay Wray (1907-2004)
She was born Vina Fay Wray, in Cardston, Alberta, Canada on September 15, 1907. Her family relocated to Arizona when she was still a toddler so her father could find employment. When her parents divorced, her mother sent her to Hollywood when Fay's eldest sister died in the influenza epidemic of 1918. The reasoning was that Southern California offered a healthier climate for the young, frail Wray.
She attended Hollywood High School, where she took some classes in drama. After she graduated, she applied to the Hal Roach studio and was given a six-month contract where she appeared in two-reel Westerns (25 minutes in length), and played opposite Stan Laurel in his pre-Oliver Hardy days.
She landed her first big role, as Mitzi Schrammell, in Erich von Stroheim's beautifully mounted silent The Wedding March (1928). It made Wray a star. She then starred in some excellent films: The Four Feathers (1929), the early Gary Cooper Western The Texan (1930), and one of Ronald Coleman's first starring roles The Unholy Garden (1931), all of which were big hits of the day.
For whatever reason, Wray soon found herself in a string of thrillers that made her one of the great screamers in Hollywood history. The titles say it all: Doctor X, The Most Dangerous Game (both 1932), Mystery of the Wax Museum, The Vampire Bat (both 1933) and, of course her most famous role, that of Ann Darrow, who tempts cinema's most famous ape in the unforgettable King Kong (also 1933).
Wray did prove herself quite capable in genre outside of the horror game, the best of which were Shanghai Madness with Spencer Tracy; The Bowery (both 1933), a tough pre-Hays Code drama opposite George Raft; and the brutal Viva Villa (1934), with Wallace Beery about the famed Mexican bandit. Yet curiously, the quality of her scripts began to tank, and she eventually found herself acting in such mediocre fare as Come Out of the Pantry (1935), and They Met in a Taxi (1936).
With her roles becoming increasingly routine, the last of which was the forgettable comedy Not a Ladies Man (1942), she decided to trade acting for domesticity and married Robert Riskin, who won two Best Screenplay Oscars® for the Frank Capra comedies It Happened One Night (1934) and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936). When Riskin died in 1955, Wray found herself working to keep busy and support her three children. She landed supporting parts for films like The Cobweb (1955), Hell on Frisco Bay (1956) and Tammy and the Bachelor (1957). She also found work in television on such popular programs as Perry Mason and Wagon Train before she retired from acting all together in the mid-'60s.
To her credit, Wray did remain reasonably active after her retirement. She published her autobiography, On The Other Hand in 1989 and was attending many film festivals that honored her contribution to film, most notably in January 2003, when, at 95 years of age, she accepted in person her "Legend in Film" Award at the Palm Beach International Film Festival. Wray is survived by a son, Robert Riskin Jr.; two daughters, Susan and Victoria; and two grandchildren.
by Michael T. Toole
Fay Wray (1907-2004)
The film is based on Chicago Tribune reporter Jake Lingle, who was shot and killed the day before he was to meet with federal agents in connection with Al Capone's finances. Lingle was on Capone's payroll.
Variety credits Noel Madison with the role of "Larry Hays." It is not known if he played another part in the completed film. Frank Lloyd is identified as the director in an early ad. Motion Picture Herald notes that the film was based on the killing of Chicago Tribune reporter Jake Lingle. Modern sources note that Lingle was shot the day before he was to meet federal agents investigating Al Capone's finances. He had been on Capone's payroll.
Released in United States 1931
Released in United States 1931