Scandal Sheet (1952): Phil Karlson’s Film Noir, Starring Broderick Crawford

Phil Karlson directed Scandal Sheet, a film noir about the ruthlessness of tabloid papers.  It is based on the novel The Dark Page by Samuel Fuller, who worked as a newspaper reporter before he embarked on a screen career.

Broderick Crawford plays ambitious newspaper man Mark Chapman, who takes over a the New York Express and revitalizes it by staging some publicity stunts.

Chapman’s wife Charlotte Grant (Rosemary DeCamp), whom he had deserted and left penniless, reappears and threatens to tell everyone who he really is and how he had almost driven her to suicide. The two physically fight and he accidentally kills her, then covers it up.

He retrieves from her purse money and a pawn shop receipt. When her body is discovered, the paper’s star reporter, Steve McClearly (John Derek), begins investigating the murder.  McClearly is joined by feature writer Julie Allison (Donna Reed), to whom he’s attracted.

Chapman goes to the Bowery to redeem the pawn shop receipt, and on his way, he stumbles upon Charlie Barnes, a former reporter for the Express who has become alcoholic. Chapman gives Barnes a cash handout; accidentally included with the money is the receipt. Barnes claims the item, which turns out to be the dead woman’s suitcase, in which he finds proof that Chapman is the murderer.

He calls Allison and McCleary, but McCleary thinks that Barnes is too drunk.  Barnes threatens to take the story to a competitor, the Daily Leader, which leads to his getting killed by Chapman.

McCleary and Allison take a trip to Connecticut to find the judge who had married the murdered woman, and the man seen in profile in a photograph from the suitcase. They bring this judge back to the Express, who identifies Chapman as the groom, but under a different name.