"State of Play," the enthralling thriller my Daily News colleague Gary Thompson calls "this week's dying newspaper movie" (as opposed to "The Soloist," next week's dying newspaper movie), stars rumpled Russell Crowe as the shaggy face of mainstream media, smooth Rachel McAdams as the young face of the blogosphere and commanding Helen Mirren as their editor, who hopes by teaming the vet and the apprentice on an investigative story, she can infuse blogger blood into her ailing broadsheet.
Kevin Macdonald's adaptation of the 2003 BBC miniseries is a lot of fun, and for newshounds and newshens, also a lot sad. Alluding to the dismal prognosis of daily journalism, another colleague, Todd McCarthy of Variety, begins his review wondering whether it will be the last movie to feature the physical printing and shipping of a big-city newspaper.
Newspapers occupy a beloved place in the heart of moviemakers, possibly because so many journalists went on to become screenwriters and directors. John Huston dabbled in newspapering; his mother, crime reporter Rhea Gore, inspired the 1933 journo-thriller "I Cover the Waterfront," starring Claudette Colbert as the fearless reporter. The most celebrated reporters-turned-directors were Richard Brooks -- the Philadelphia-born scribe whose "Deadline USA" (1952) with Humphrey Bogart is seasoned with his personal experiences as a reporter at the Philadelphia Record -- and Sam Fuller. Fuller's "Park Row" (1952) chronicles the New York newspapers wars of the 1880s and his "Shock Corridor" (1963) is about a newsman who commits himself to a psychiatric institution so he can write about the famous figures there.
Newspaper people love newspaper movies. I can't limit myself to five favorites, but if I did, one of them would be Lois Weber's "How Men Propose," a 1912 comedy about a woman who collects wedding proposals -- and then writes an article about how to get men to pop the question. I'm extremely fond of "The Front Page" (1931) with Adolphe Menjou and Pat O'Brien as the bickering reporter and editor and its gender-switching remake, "His Girl Friday" (1940) with the fast-talking Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell. Love "Woman of the Year" (1942), the one with Katharine Hepburn as the political columnist who falls for sportswriter Spencer Tracy, which inspired "Designing Woman" (1957), with Lauren Bacall as a fashion designer who falls for sportswriter Gregory Peck. (Peck likewise plays the reporter who protects the identity of runaway princess Audrey Hepburn in 1953's "Roman Holiday.")