“Shangri-la, El Dorado, Sloppy Joe’s”

HAD LUNCH with a newsroom friend today and this film came up in conversation. It’s been quite some time since I saw it. The very first time was in college. I’ve seen it several times since and each time I’m left with such a complex set of feelings. Newspapers are something that I grew to love not something I felt I was destined to work in, so seeing this now has a different sort of feel to it. Below is one of my favorite scenes because of Jospeh Cotten.

Cotten is golden as Jedediah. With all that’s going on now in newspapers this is particularly poignant. Particularly the scene below. Too many versions of that one played out across the country and beyond of late.

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2 thoughts on ““Shangri-la, El Dorado, Sloppy Joe’s”

  1. that herman j. mankiewicz never gets enough credit for his writing, probably because welles, cotton, and the rest of the mercury players put such a baroque spin on everything they touched. between mank’s words and welles’ radio sense, you can practically watch this film with your eyes closed and know exactly what’s happening in the scene. (obviously the breakfast montage is out). close your eyes and re”watch” the fired scene. the narrative is clear. you can hear cotton approach, the pauses in the typing are perfectly times, the dialog adds punctuation…

    but thinking about “kane” and the relevance to newspapers today, i see what might be an uncomfortable parable. jed was about the truth and principle, kane was about giving the people what they wanted (or, as he put it “they’ll believe what i want them to believe”), so when jed couldn’t compromise his principle kane ditched him. put the internet or murdoch-like media in the kane position, put traditional newspaper journalism in jed’s place… it may not be a perfecy analogy, but there it is. newspapers compromised too much in the face of the media landscape, and when they refused to cave they were, in essence, fired by the people.

    wm randolph hearst, whom kane is modeled on, was no crusader for truth, and it was clear in 1941 that newspapers were at war with the power hungry and those who could frame the “truth.” one could argue that this point in journalistic history was long in the coming, and that newspapers put up a good fight at least through the early 80s.

    it’s hard for me to miss newspapers today when they are shells of what they used to be, and with the exception of the NYT in this part of the world, no better than print versions of shallow local “eyewitness” news broadcasts

    • boy you’re right about the firing scene.
      now this makes me want to watch the entire thing again.
      i remember very vividly the first time I saw it. and it’s effect. and you’re right, the writing has a lot to do with it — it’s luminous but it also has an aural afterimage.

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