Slightly Dangerous: When a newspaper deludes itself and readers

MGM Theater of the Air didn’t get the original movie cast for its 1950 radio production of the screwball comedy Slightly Dangerous, but Celeste Holm made a charming Peggy Evans (or “Miss X”) — a lunch-counter waitress so bored with her life that she fakes suicide to erase her past before moving to New York. (Click the title to download an MP3 file if an audio player icon isn’t visible.)

While looking up at the tall buildings, she walks backward into a newspaper delivery truck — and into the headlines as an amnesia victim and suspected long-lost heiress. Peggy isn’t a journalist, but she finds the newspaper staff, scared of liability suits, to be more than helpful. It’s probably taking this film more seriously than it deserves, but there’s a lot to discuss here about deception, “construction of reality,” gullibility and more.

Here’s the IMDB page about the original 1943 film, Slightly Dangerous, with Lana Turner, Robert Young, and a slightly different accident blamed for Peggy’s amnesia. Reviewers at IMDB have been much happier with the film than Bosley Crowther was in his 1943 New York Times review of the movie.

Crowther never mentioned the role of the newspapers in what he considered a “labored, vapid” rags-to-ritches story. Perhaps from his lofty seat at the Times he couldn’t imagine a newspaper so gullible and ready to deceive both itself and its readers. Or maybe there really wasn’t enough of a story here to satisfy him for a feature film… but just enough for an hour of radio.

Here’s the Internet Archive old-time radio collection of MGM Theater episodes. Turner did star in a Lux Radio Theater version in 1943, with Victor Mature in Robert Young’s role, but it is missing from the Internet Archive collection of that series. (I did find a copy at OldRadioPrograms.us Lux Theater page.)

Back to the story: For “portrayal of the journalist in popular culture” students, it might be fun to compare the quality of the big city and small town newspapers in this story.

For philosophy and ethics students, there will be questions about personal honesty and integrity beyond those in the Society of Professional Journalists code.

About Bob Stepno

mild-mannered reporter who fell deeper into computers and the Web during three trips through graduate school in the 1980s and 1990s, then began teaching journalism, media studies and Web production, most recently as a faculty member at Radford University.
This entry was posted in adaptations, comedy, ethics, movies, newspapers, romance. Bookmark the permalink.

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