Deadline-U.S.A. (1952): Richard Brooks’ Powerful Newspaper Melodrama, Starring Humphrey Bogart, Ethel Barrymore, Kim Hunter

From Our Vaults

Richard Brooks wrote and directed Deadline-U.S.A., a noir crime film and one of the most powerful features about the inner operations and intrigues of a major newspaper in the 1950s.

Deadline – U.S.A.

Theatrical poster

The movie stars Humphrey Bogart, who gives one of his stronger performances, and Ethel Barrymore and Kim Hunter in supporting roles.

The aptly titled melodrama tells the story of an obsessively crusading newspaper editor, who exposes a gangster’s crimes while also trying to keep the paper from going out of business.

There’s also a domestic melodrama concerning the editor’s efforts to reconcile with his ex-wife and salvage their marriage.

Ed Hutcheson is the crusading managing editor of a large metropolitan newspaper, The Day. He is loyal to publisher Margaret Garrison, widow of the paper’s founder, but she is about to sell the newspaper, which will cease its operation.

Hutcheson assigns his reporters to work on the murder case of a young woman and the involvement of racketeer Tomas Rienzi, which could be a circulation builder and thus keep the paper in business.

The reporters discover that the dead girl, Bessie Schmidt, had been Rienzi’s mistress, and that her brother Herman had illegal business dealings.

Hutcheson gets to Herman with an opportunity to safely tell his story, but Rienzi’s thugs, disguised as cops, take him away, resulting in Herman’s death.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Garrison’s daughters, majority stockholders Kitty and Alice, refuse to budge, causing a judge to permit The Day to be sold.

However, Bessie’s elderly mother, Mrs. Schmidt, turns up in Hutcheson’s office with her daughter’s diary and $200,000 in cash, implicating Rienzi in his illegal activities.

In the powerful ending, the presses roll, while Hutcheson ignores the gangster’s threats. The very last scene, with Bogart in a phone booth, is particularly compelling.

The newspaper, called The Day, is loosely based upon the old New York Sun, which closed in 1950. The original Sun newspaper was edited by Benjamin Day, making the 1952 film’s newspaper name (not to be confused with the real-life New London, Connecticut newspaper of the same name).

A biography of Brooks by Douglass K. Daniel, cites the 1931 death of the New York World newspaper as the basis for the film, including the decision by the sons of Joseph Pulitzer to sell the paper rather than run it themselves. The World was sold to Scripps Howard, which merged it with their New York Telegram to form the New York World-Telegram. Twenty-one years later, Scripps-Howard also acquired the New York Sun to form the World-Telegram and The Sun.

The film’s DVD and Blu-ray appeared in 2016.

James Dean (uncredited) could be seen in a brief scene as a copyboy.

Humphrey Bogart as Ed Hutcheson
Ethel Barrymore as Margaret Garrison
Kim Hunter as Nora Hutcheson
Ed Begley as Frank Allen
Warren Stevens as George Burrows
Paul Stewart as Harry Thompson
Martin Gabel as Tomas Rienzi
Joseph De Santis as Herman Schmidt
Joyce MacKenzie as Katherine “Kitty” Garrison Geary
Audrey Christie as Mrs. Willebrandt
Fay Baker as Alice Garrison Courtney
Jim Backus as Jim Cleary


Carleton Young as Crane, Garrison’s daughters’ lawyer
Selmer Jackson as Williams
Fay Roope as Judge McKay
Parley Baer as Headwaiter
John Doucette as Hal
Florence Shirley as Miss Barndollar
Kasia Orzazewski as Mrs. Schmidt
Raymond Greenleaf as Lawrence White
Tom Powers as Andrew Wharton
Thomas Browne Henry as Fenway
Phillip Terry as Lewis Schaefer, Nora’s fiancé
Joseph Sawyer as Whitey Franks
Lawrence Dobkin as Larry Hansen, Rienzi’s lawyer
Alex Gerry as Prentiss
Clancy Cooper as Police Captain Finlay
Willis Bouchey as Henry
Joseph Crehan as White’s City Editor
James Dean as Copyboy
Norman Leavitt as Newsroom reporter


Directed, written by Richard Brooks
Written by Richard Brooks
Produced by Sol C. Siegel
Cinematography Milton R. Krasner
Edited by William B. Murphy
Music by Cyril J. Mockridge
Color process Black and white

Production and distribution: 20th Century Fox

Release date: March 14, 1952 (NY); April 25, 1952 (LA)

Running time: 87 minutes
Box office $1.25 million (US rentals)