1884-ish. Fed up with the lack of ethics and deleterious effects on the public of New York's Star newspaper, pissed-off reporter Phinneas Mitchell (Gene Evans) takes a tiny sum of money, some generous donations, and some of the scrappiest newsmen on NYC's fabled Park Row and builds himself a goddamn NEWSPAPER. Mitchell's Globe dedicates itself to printing quality news, preferably at the expense of the Star, and no matter what Park Row throws at him (and it throws an awful lot), Mitchell just KEEPS. ON. COMING.
Written, produced, and directed by Samuel Fuller, who bankrolled the thing himself and later named it his favorite of his films. It is cliche to call a movie a love letter to anything, but PARK ROW declares its love for the fourth estate so explicitly that it'd make Aaron Sorkin blush. Fuller's reverence toward his subject rivals that of Sorkin (the scene in which the linotype machine is invented is endowed with the holiness that usually attends the birth of Christ on screen), but Fuller backs up his loving words with ACTION, much of which is so over-the-top and brutal that it may surprise contemporary action fans (indeed, a glorious unbroken shot that follows Mitchell along Park Row while he basically BEATS UP THE ENTIRE NEWSPAPER INDUSTRY anticipates the corridor fight in OLD BOY, and rivals it for righteous thrills). It's one of the most tactile movies about words I've ever seen; we grow to share these people's love for the painstakingly organized pieces of type they set, for the beer they drink, for the editions they print page by page. The press becomes the holiest congregation imaginable, and Fuller's saved a pew for each of us. Fuller's passion for his subject alone would be enough to win us over to his cause, even if his hero hadn't been so thrilling, his story so engaging, his world so exciting.