It all seems a little antique now -- newspapers and the power they wielded. It's probably difficult for anyone growing up now to grasp the fact that the radio and newspapers were virtually the only sources of news available to most people.
For a few cents you could buy a paper that not only presented you with current events but a crossword puzzle, the race results, tomorrow's weather, a political cartoon, an editorial about the latest geopolitical crisis or about the disrepair of the local sewer system, the exact times of sunrise and sunset, the names of ships entering the harbor, your horoscope, Lala Divoon being seen at 21 with handsome young Lance Aryan, and finally you could keep track of Dick Tracy and find out of Lil Abner got Mammy Yokum out of Dogpatch. So the significance of The Day in the daily life of ordinary people is hard to figure in an age when television itself is being replaced by the internet as a prime source of information.
"It takes talent to get the news, write it up, and back it up with research," editor Bogart tells the suits that control the money. "Back it up with research." Those were the days. Now any idiot can get on social media and print a rant about the hollow earth hypothesis and he can depend on certain of those among us to gobble it up. But the business that Bogart describes has its weaknesses too. The news may offend powerful gang figures like Rienzi (Martin Gabel) who owns judges and other high-echelon bureaucrats and can cause a lot of trouble, say, by murdering some of the paper's informants. ("I tole you I din't want no violence -- not yet anyways!")
Gabel's slapping Bogart across the face with a copy of The Day is small potatoes. Gabel has an egregious tendency to throw his corpses into the Hudson River clothed in nothing but a mink coat, or seeing to it that they tumble down into some kind of garbage disposal unit or horizontal milling machine in the press room.
All of this michigas irritates Bogart because at the same time he's coping with the mafia he's trying to save The Day from being acquired and disposed of by the competition. Also pressing on him is the fact that his wife, the infinitely appealing Kim Hunter, has divorced him and is about to marry her boss, an unworthy snooty dude wearing a permanent smirk of triumph.
The drama is alloyed with some comedic moments -- exchanges between Bogart and his elderly secretary, Miss Barndollar, who is compliant to a fault and entirely literal. And there are occasional wisecracks. Some goons posing as cops kill an informant. When the police show up, a detective snarls at one of the paper's editors, "Can't you tell a hoodlum from a real cop?" "In THIS town? (pause) Yes, sir."
Despite the most strenuous efforts of Bogart and his ally Ethel Barrymore, The Day comes to an end, but it's spirit lives on, inspired by a brave old immigrant lady who provides the evidence that sinks Rienzi. The brave old immigrant lady, here known by the cognomen of Mrs. Schmidt, is played by Kasia Orzazewski, born in Poland, who was Richard Conte's floor-scrubbing mother in "Call Northside 777." It's the kind of role any normal human being would want. You need an old immigrant lady? You call Kasia Orzazewski's agent. She didn't make that many movies -- a half dozen or so -- but for a couple of years she was the go-to brave old immigrant lady. She gets to provide the final encomium to the free press.
This cast, by the way, includes myriad supporting actors of note at the time, too many to list here. They play it in the classic style, delivering the goods like UPS drivers. The direction by Richard Brooks is the same, flawless, without inspiration, and politically correct in a reassuring way that makes one yearn for the years of confidence, faith, fortitude, and Mammy Yokum.