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Rita Hayworth and her two co-stars The Story On Page One

Produced by The Company of Artists, Inc.,
Released by 20th Century-Fox (1960)

Producer: Jerry Wald
Director: Clifford Odets

Screenplay: Clifford Odets

Featuring:
Rita Hayworth as Jo Morris
Anthony Franciosa as Victor Santini
Gig Young as Larry Ellis
Mildred Dunnock as Mrs. Ellis
Hugh Griffith as Judge Edgar Neilsen
Sanford Meisner as Phil Stanley
Catherine Squire as Mrs. Brown

Black and White, 123 mins. running time


When Clifford Odets, one of America’s foremost playwrights, wrote the screenplay of The Story On Page One, he had Rita in mind for the lead role. He had been a fan of hers and thought she was a very good actress, so he was anxious to work with her. Rita was married to James Hill at the time, and he knew Rita had a talent for comedy that had not yet been shown to its full extent. He tried to convince Odets to turn the story into a comedy, and Odets actually entertained the idea for a time, but ultimately chose to keep it a dramatic story. In addition to writing the script, Odets also tried his hand at directing the film, something he had only done once before in his career. The film was shot at Fox studios and offered Rita one of her most dramatic roles to date.

The story on page one of newspapers everywhere is about a pair of lovers, Jo Morris (Rita Hayworth) and Larry Ellis (Gig Young) being held in jail for their suspected involvement in the death of the lady’s husband. Mrs. Hattie Brown (Katherine Squire), Jo’s mother, goes to speak to attorney Victor Santini (Anthony Franciosa), about defending her daughter in the upcoming trial, in which they’re going to try to pin a life sentence on her for a murder she did not commit. Santini initially refuses the case, saying Jo's case is hopeless, even if she is innocent (which he doubts). He is by no means the most reputable lawyer, but he is the best Mrs. Brown can afford. She persists and finally dissolves into tears. Santini relents and goes to see Jo in jail to get the story.

Jo tells Santini her story from the beginning. It all began one typical evening at the Morris residence. Jo’s husband, Mike (Alfred Ryder) was yelling at their daughter, Avis (Carol Seflinger), over something silly and Jo was trying to stop him. This led to another of their arguments, after which Mike left the house to go to his night job. Jo was left behind feeling worse than ever about their troubled marriage and her unhappy routine. Seeing her daughter distraught, Jo's mother, who lives with them, suggested she phone Larry Ellis. Ellis is a widower Jo had been seeing a while back. She had been happier with him than she’d ever been with Mike, but thinking of Avis and feeling ashamed, she called an end to the affair. But this night Jo felt particularly unhappy. She went to see him and they just talked like old friends at first, but soon rekindled the romance.

The next day, another force working against Jo and Larry, his mother (Mildred Dunnock), payed Jo a visit and warned her to stop seeing him or she would tell Mike. A few nights later, Larry showed up at the Morris’ house late at night. The two spoke in the kitchen. Mike was asleep. Larry knew his mother had gone to see her, so he made the trip from to Los Angeles from Sacramento to comfort Jo in case she was worried. He told her that he and a friend had cooked up "an alibi" to be told to his mother in case she called him in Sacramento while he was in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, Mike was awakened by the voices. He got his gun and intended to shoot Larry. A struggle ensued, the gun went off and Mike was shot. Jo thought she would be avoiding the scandal of having Larry at the scene of the crime by telling him to run away. Then she phoned the police and told them there had been a prowler in the house who shot Mike. This phony story and the "alibi" told to Larry’s mother, coupled with a recent insurance policy Mike had taken out, is what got them into trouble and made the accident appear to have been premeditated murder.

Jo and Larry are defended separately. Having learned the details of the story, Santini put together his defense and the trial begins. Many are questioned for the prosecuting side, such as the host of a party Jo and Mike attended the night of his death, and the man who had sold Mike his insurance policy. None of whom do damage to the defense, particularly the insurance man. The prosecutors hoped his testimony would show Jo was planning on collecting the insurance money, but in fact it showed that Jo was not remotely interested when the man spoke to Mike. Next Larry's friend Morrie (Leo Penn), who had helped him carry out the alibi for his mother, is brought to the witness stand. Questioned about why the alibi had been invented, Morrie explains that Larry was a afraid his mother would call him in Sacramento, and then realize he'd gone to see Jo. Soon Jo is brought to the witness stand. She is badgered and treated coarsely by the prosecutor (Sanford Meisner), who brings her to tears.

The next day, Larry is brought to the stand. The prosecutors question how he could have made the journey from Sacramento to Los Angeles for the sole purpose of telling Jo that she need not worry about his mother. They are trying to show that there had to be another reason for him to make the trip (such as to murder Mr. Morris). Larry swears he just wanted to see Jo, that he loved her. Later he’s questioned about how he could then leave the woman he loved alone to figure out what to do and what to tell the police -if they had not had a pre-arranged plan. Larry says he was panicked, that Jo had insisted he leave. Then, so he couldn’t be placed at the scene of the crime, and so the story about the prowler would hold water, he let his alibi work, said he was not in Los Angeles. The prosecution does a good job with their questioning of Larry. The defendants are in trouble.

Santini’s only hope is to reveal Larry’s mother as the domineering woman she is, in effect showing the true basis for the alibi. Finally, Mrs. Ellis is brought to the stand. Santini shows her true colors by bringing to light many events and circumstances in Larry’s past, such as the fact that she had hired a detective to spy on her son. Mrs. Ellis is the last witness. After her testimony, the attorneys give their closing arguments and the jury is sent out to decide the verdict.

During the hours of deliberation, the prosecution patiently waits, Jo’s mother becomes restless, and Larry finally gains enough backbone to tell off his mother and put a stop to her meddling in his life. Finally, the jury reaches a verdict. Both defendants are found "not guilty". All charges are dropped and they’re free. After the trial, neither Jo nor Larry is sure of the other's feelings. But as they leave the courtroom, they look into each other’s eyes and without a word, exit hand in hand.

When The Story On Page One was released, the press tore it to shreds. They criticized the writing, the casting and the acting, particularly that of the males in the cast. Yet Rita managed to emerge from the negative reviews unscathed. Playing a woman on trial for her life, she gave a heartfelt performance. The critics and public alike were finally realizing that Rita had more going for her than her obvious physical charms. Katherine Squire, who played Rita's mother, was also well reviewed. She gives a touching portrayal.


Rita Hayworth as Jo Morris, being questioned in a scene from 'The Story On Page One'
Rita has a rough time on the witness stand in The Story on Page One.


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