“I think you can always get people interested in the crucifixion of a woman.”
Hoping to boost circulation of his newspaper, editor Joseph Randall (Edward G. Robinson) begins a series of “Where is she now?” articles on a woman named Nancy Voorhees (Frances Starr), who shot her lover 20 years earlier. Nancy’s happiness over the impending wedding of her grown daughter (Marian Marsh) to a kind society boy (Anthony Bushell), as well as her own loving marriage to Michael (H.B. Warner), is immediately threatened by this resurgence of interest in her long-buried past.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Boris Karloff Films
- Downward Spiral
- Edward G. Robinson Films
- Mervyn LeRoy Films
- Play Adaptations
Five Star Final was one in a cycle of newspaper-themed films made in Hollywood during the early 1930s, the most famous of which was The Front Page (1931). Based on a play by former editor Louis Weitzenkorn, Five Star is unabashedly critical of muckraking journalistic practices, clearly positing greedy newspaper owners as callous, mercenary, and willing to do nearly anything to boost circulation. In a way, not much has changed since then: we’re still a tabloid-happy society, and notorious individuals are never entirely free from the prowling feelers of The Media. While Five Star deals with an enduring dilemma, however, the story itself comes across as stilted and somewhat dated. It’s unlikely that a notorious “murderess” such as Nancy Voorhees would be able to successfully hide her past from everyone around her, and even less likely that she and her husband would react the way they do once she’s “found out”. In addition, the “baddies” of the film (including Robinson’s bosses, and Bushell’s parents) play their parts far too broadly, lacking any nuance whatsoever. The best scenes in the film are those between Robinson (wonderful as always) and his knowing secretary, Aline MacMahon — but these are relatively few and far between. Also notable is Boris Karloff in (naturally) a creepy turn as an unscrupulous investigative journalist. On the whole, however, Five Star Final hasn’t aged well enough to recommend as must-see viewing.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Edward G. Robinson as Randall (Peary nominates Robinson for an Alternate Oscar as best actor of the year)
- Aline MacMahon as Randall’s secretary
- Boris Karloff as “Reverend Isopod”
No. Despite its historical importance as a best-picture Oscar nominee, this ultimately isn’t must-see viewing.