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Film / The Finger Points

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The Finger Points is a 1931 film directed by John Francis Dillon.

Breckenridge Lee (Richard Barthelmess) is a reporter from Savannah, Georgia. At the start of the movie he arrives in Chicago and gets a job at a big-time Chicago paper, "The Press". The Press has dedicated itself to rooting out the crime and corruption then engulfing the city. Breck gets a tip about an illegal casino. He writes a story which enrages the Chicago Outfit, and the mob gets revenge by sending two goons to give Breck a brutal beating.

Breck emerges from a lengthy hospital stay flat broke, and unable to pay his hospital bills. Disillusioned, he goes to the mob and offers his services. Soon he's on the Chicago Outfit's payroll, killing stories and tipping the mob off to potential trouble. Breck makes a lot of money, but he starts to get too greedy.

Fay Wray plays Marcia, another reporter at The Press, who falls in love with Breck and is bitterly disappointed when she finds out he's on the take. None other than Clark Gable plays Louis Blanco, the gangster who puts Breck on the payroll. Gable was just hitting the big time in 1931, one year before he became a superstar with Red Dust.


  • The Don: "Number One", The Faceless head of organized crime in Chicago. Obviously based on Al Capone.
  • Downer Ending: Breck is killed by the mob, leaving Marcia brokenhearted.
  • Foreshadowing: As Louis outlines how the mob wants Breck to kill stories, Breck wonders what will happen if another reporter gets the story. That's what happens in the end, as Breezy gets the story that Number One paid Breck $100,000 to bury, and the mob kills Breck in retribution.
  • The Faceless: "Number One" is only seen from behind.
  • Jerkass: Carter the newspaper editor is quite the asshole, refusing to help Breck after Breck gets beaten to within an inch of his life on account of a story he wrote.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: Angry at the newspaper for not helping him with his hospital bills, Breck goes on the take for the mob.
  • Naïve Newcomer: Breck is a country rube when he shows up in Chicago, having little appreciation of the danger of the Chicago mob. He learns.
  • Roman à Clef: Based on the story of Jake Lingle, a reporter who was on Al Capone's payroll and was shot dead in the street in 1930, one day before he was supposed to be interviewed by law enforcement.
  • Spinning Paper: Newspapers routinely appear onscreen with plot-relevant headlines.
  • Verbal Irony: Marcia knows the truth, but everyone else at the paper thinks that Breck is a martyr, killed by the Outfit to stop him from running a story. As Breezy says of his friend that "He was the kind of guy that money couldn't touch," Marcia nods silently, and keeps the real truth to herself.
  • Visual Title Drop: After Breck succeeds in extorting a $100,000 payoff from Number One, the gangster boss says Breck knows what will happen if the story runs. This is accompanied by an extreme closeup of a finger pointing at the camera, as Number One points at Breck.
  • You Are Number 6: Number One is only referred to as Number One, even in the newspaper.