Slander (1957)

Film Review

SLANDER

Release Date: 18 January, 1957

Studio: MGM

Director: Roy Rowland

Starring: Van Johnson, Ann Blyth, Steve Cochran, Richard Eyer

Synopsis

Cochran has two interests, his mother and his magazine. His mother disapproves of the magazine in which he publishes scandalous stories about public figures. The magazine has been slowly losing readers and to increase circulation Cochran wants to print a sensational story about a public figure. One of his reporters has received a tip that Johnson has scandalous information about a famous and beloved movie star. Cochran intends to get the story from Johnson. Johnson, himself, is a puppeteer who has just gotten the lead on a children’s television series that is sponsored by a cereal company. Johnson, Blyth, his wife, and Eyer, their son, celebrate his success. Cochran invites Blyth to his office and threatens to print the story of Johnson’s arrest and imprisonment at age 19 if he does not tell the story about the movie star. Blyth urges Johnson to tell, but he refuses. She separates from Johnson. When the story is featured on the cover of the magazine, Johnson loses his position on the TV show. The other schoolchildren taunt Eyer about his criminal father, and rushing to confront them, he dashes in front of a car and is killed. Johnson and Blyth are devastated, and Johnson goes on a popular news show to tell his story and denounce the magazine. Cochran is delighted by the free publicity that his magazine is receiving. His mother, however, is anguished by the death of the child and her son’s heartless response. She puts an end to his unfeeling treatment of other people by shooting him.

Discussion

The drama contrasts good and evil. Johnson is a decent and hard working family man who has paid the penalty for a crime of his youth. Cochran is a cold and ruthless exploiter who is unconcerned by his part in the death of the child. The magazine is the agent and symbol of the unscrupulousness of Cochran. He pays for his wickedness.

The film is based on the television play A Public Figure (1956) starring James Daly, Mercedes McCambridge, and Shepperd Strudwick that was presented in the eighth season of the series Studio One in Hollywood (1948-1958).