Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Blink and You Miss It: Headlines of 1939.

In ancient times, a trick resorted to by cinema to illustrate the passage of time, or the advancing of a series of events, was to show close-ups of newspaper front pages – atop which the progression of items or plot points would appear as the paper’s main headline.

These “newspapers” were never actual newspapers, but clever mock-ups created to illustrate time's passage in a sort of visual shorthand.

Viewers would glance at the screen, the main “headline” would make its point, and both film and audience would move on.

Even THE SIMPSONS uses this old chestnut - quite often!

But, more recently, thanks to DVD clarity and freeze-frame, I’ve looked below the headlines to see what else was going on. Sometimes the “other stories” are planted for laughs, as in THIS VERY EARLY BUGS BUNNY CARTOON. And, sometimes, they look as if they were clipped wholesale from the newspapers of the day, and inset to fill the remaining space… space that original theatre audiences (or later TV audiences) never had the time to look at.

Here are a bunch of them transcribed from the 1939 Humphrey Bogart Warner Bros. gangster film “King of the Underworld”.

Our actual “Looong DVD Review” ™ of this film is coming soon. (It's HERE now!) These headlines are not gags, but an odd collection of what was likely "then-current events", that are just fun to consider…

“Two Men Seized: Body was Put in Burlap Bag”

“Nation Warned Against Trend to Machinery”

“Dope Convict’s Parole Rocks Party Circles”

“36 Mexican Rebels Killed by Soldiers”

“2 Die in Gun Fight at Door of Palace”

“Cabinet Crisis Causes Return”

“Praises Work; Makes Charges on I.R.T. Claim” (…This is a NYC Subway reference.)

“Lightning Bolt Kills Two; Hurts Several Others”

“Daring Aviators Begin First Hop on Round-The-World Jaunt”

“Urges City Pay Bills of Subway in Bonds” (…More NYC Subway news?)

“War on Kidnapping by Federal Forces”

“Kidnappers Shoot Victim who Fights”

“Progressives Halt Confirmation Move” (…Obstructionist Progressives??? Who’d have ever imagined!)

“Officers in 8 States Seek Mystery Plane”

Whew! That’s a LOTTA newspapers! But, there was a LOTTA PLOT in that great little film! With a Running Time of a mere 01:06:42, I’d guess they had to advance the plot rather quickly… giving us a look into the “Headlines of 1939”.

Blink and You Miss It!

Let's hope Bogie misses, too!


joecab said...

At least Warner Bros. cartoons were smart enough to know we'd have newspapers around until at least 2000 A.D.: remember those headlines in "The Old Grey Hare" from The Daily Rocket? "Smellevison Replaces Television! Carl Stalling sez, 'It will never work'!"

Joe Torcivia said...

Joe C:

To paraphrase one of your own recent comments from this post…


…“What’s a newspaper!” :-)

Good catch on “The Old Grey Hare”! I didn’t think of that when considering made-up, gag newspapers in Warner cartoons.

But, sometimes, they didn’t gag it up when they should have, as I observed when writing about the 1958 Elmer Fudd cartoon “A Mutt in a Rut” – from my 2011 Foghorn Leghorn DVD post:


“This cartoon is notable in several ways. It is surely one of Arthur Q. Bryan’s last turns as Elmer Fudd. In addition to Bryan and (of course) Mel Blanc, Daws Butler speaks ONE LINE as a TV announcer. If one were to freeze-frame on the newspaper Fudd reads, there are stories of violent California rain storms and narcotics! And there is an on-camera shooting death of a grizzly bear!”

Narcotics? Really? How’d THAT get by? Good thing they didn’t have freeze-frame back then!