"Awright, Maxie, spill it. See that city down there? Rienzi's out there waitin' for you. Now spill it or I'll toss you out there to him."
"T'row me out dere? To Rienzi? Don't do dat, Sam, I'll talk. Just gimme a slug o' whiskey, tha's all. Just one slug."
"Okay, baby, get this down. Joe tear out pate one. Charlie, get a picture of this mug. Play it big."
And Maxie spilled out the whole dirty story--the story that could send Rienzi to the chair, the story that could stave off the sale of The Day, the story that could make Sam the greatest newspaper editor the city had seen since old Pop Garrison died. But did Maxie live to sign that statement? Or did Rienzi's boys get to him? Did Sam get his story anyhow? Or was the paper sold out from under him? And did Rienzi get the chair?
For the answers to these and other exciting questions, see Deadline, U.S.A. See a mug get crushed between the rollers of a big city press. See Rienzi, the rat, suck the city's blood, unchecked and unnoticed save by one two-fisted managing editor.
It's Bogart, seeking out the sin and corruption of the big city and fighting alone for a free press, free love, a free hand, and free money. Charlie Olnut is gone. The Bogart of Knock on Any Door, and The Enforcer is back.
The other characters are just background. Kim Hunter as Sam's divorced wife does bring a new and welcome interpretation to a hackneyed role. But Ethel Barrymore as the old lady who fights to keep the paper from falling under the financial axe is the same kind, old, quiet, wise, power-behind-the-power as she was in her last dozen pictures. Hollywood has no one else who fits the same description. Members of the paper's staff were meticulously drawn to fit a pattern that directors have carefully designed over the years.
But Bogart, sneering, slugging, and scotching, uses them all like he uses a chaser--as little as possible after a stiff drink. It's strictly a fan picture. But the power of the press comes through. Rienzi gets his. But then, so do Maxie and Sam. The only one who seems to come out on top is Ethel Barrymore, and after all, she is needed for that new movie on Lucky Luciano.