Scandal Sheet (1952 film)

Scandal Sheet

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Phil Karlson
Produced by Edward Small
Screenplay by Eugene Ling
James Poe
Ted Sherdeman
Based on The Dark Page
1944 novel
by Samuel Fuller
Starring Broderick Crawford
Donna Reed
John Derek
Music by George Duning
Cinematography Burnett Guffey
Edited by Jerome Thoms
Motion Picture Investors
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release dates
  • January 16, 1952 (1952-01-16) (United States)
Running time
82 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Scandal Sheet is a 1952 black-and-white film noir directed by Phil Karlson. The film is based on the novel The Dark Page by Samuel Fuller, who himself was a newspaper reporter before his career in film. The drama features Broderick Crawford, Donna Reed and John Derek.[1]


A newspaper man, Mark Chapman (Broderick Crawford), takes over an ailing New York daily newspaper, the fictional New York Express, and revives it as a scandal sheet by staging a number of publicity stunts. The man's wife, whom he left penniless years ago, resurfaces and threatens to blackmail him. He kills her, accidentally, but then tries to cover it up. Meanwhile, the paper's star reporter Steve McClearly (John Derek) begins investigating the unsolved murder. As McClearly, and feature writer Julie Allison (Donna Reed) dig deeper, the noose begins to tighten around Chapman's neck.

A former Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the Express, Charlie Barnes, who has become alcoholic, stumbles upon Chapman in the Bowery, who gives Barnes a cash handout. Accidentally included in the handout is a pawn shop receipt for the dead woman's suitcase. Barnes claims the suitcase and finds that Chapman is the murderer, and calls Allison and McCleary. McCleary thinks that Barnes is too drunk and is calling in a phony story, which angers Barnes and makes him threaten to take the story to a competitor, the fictional Daily Leader. Chapman hears about Barnes going to the Daily Leader. He accosts Barnes near the newspaper's headquarters and kills him. McCleary and Allison take a trip to Connecticut to find the judge who married the mystery woman and Chapman, brings the judge back to the Express, who identifies Chapman as the groom, but under a different name.[2]



Film rights to Sam Fuller's novel were sold for $15,000 to Howard Hawks during the war. After the war Fuller did a treatment and Sidney Buchman wrote a script, which Hawks then sold to Edward Small for $100,000.[3][4] John Payne was originally offered the lead,[5] then Dennis O'Keefe and Orson Welles were announced as stars.


Critical response

Film critic Bosley Crowther was lukewarm about the film, writing, "The ruthlessness of tabloid journalism, as seen through the coolly searching eyes of Hollywood scriptwriters (who naturally shudder with shock at such a thing), is given another demonstration in Columbia's Scandal Sheet, a run-of-the-press melodrama which came to the Paramount yesterday. But apart from a bit of tough discussion of the public's avid taste for thrills and chills and a few dubious hints at tabloid techniques, there is nothing very shocking in this film ... The moral of all this dismal nonsense, we would gather, is meant to be that corruption breeds corruption. The moral is okay. Enough said."[6]

Critic Dennis Schwartz called the drama a "hard-hitting film noir thriller" and liked the camera work. He wrote, "Burnett Guffey's splashy black-and-white photography is filled with New York City atmosphere and the whirlwind energy buzzing around a press room."[7]


The Academy Film Archive preserved Scandal Sheet in 1997.[8]


  1. Scandal Sheet at the American Film Institute Catalog.
  2. Orval Hopkins. "As a Newspaper Tale, This One's a Good Suspense Film", The Washington Post (1923-1954) [Washington, D.C], June 27, 1952, p. 34.
  3. Hedda Hopper: Anne Baxter Named 'Bitter Victory' Star Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif], September 21, 1948, p. 19.
  4. Hedda Hopper Looking at Hollywood. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif], June 26, 1948, p.8.
  5. Hedda Hopper. Looking at Hollywood, Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963) [Chicago, Illinois], May 21, 1948, p. A6.
  6. Crowther, Bosley. The New York Times, film review, January 17, 1952; accessed August 10, 2013.
  7. Schwartz, Dennis. Ozus' World Movie Reviews, film review, February 14, 2005; accessed August 10, 2013.
  8. "Preserved Projects". Academy Film Archive.
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