The Last Edition takes place within the busy working environment of the San Francisco Chronicle. The film’s star Ralph Lewis plays Tom McDonald the Assistant Chief of Printing at the newspaper. Tom and his son Ray (played by Ray Hallor), a lawyer in the district attorney’s office, fall victim to a bootlegger’s plot which threatens to ruin them and the paper itself. Passed over for promotion because of his age, Tom, a man who declares himself dedicated to “truth, love and duty”, is distraught when he discovers that the Chronicle intends to print a story implicating Ray in a bribery scandal. Resolving to halt the presses, Ray is knocked out in a brawl and framed for a fire that breaks out at the printing plant. It remains for Tom’s daughter Polly (Francis Teague) and her love interest Clarence Walker (Rex Lease), a journalist at the Chronicle, to clear their names and reveal the truth. The film builds to an exciting climax as the fates of the McDonalds and the Chronicle hang in the balance.
The film was shot on location in 1925 at the Chronicle‘s press plant and in a number of locations around San Francisco. Directed by Emory Johnson, himself a San Franciscan, from a screenplay written by his mother Emilie, The Last Edition demonstrates Johnson’s enduring interest in bringing dramatic stories focused on ordinary workers to the screen. In addition to the professional cast the film features many of the Chronicle‘s actual employees as extras. The Last Edition therefore serves not only as an absorbing drama in its own right, but as a valuable document of working practices of the time, not to mention San Francisco itself.
A scene from the film, showing the inside of the Chronicle building
Released the same year, the film met with enthusiastic press around the country. In addition to the positive reception of the actors performances, Johnson’s use of the real working environment of the Chronicle was viewed as contributing significantly to The Last Edition’s engaging atmosphere. Billed as a “vital, human, gripping melodrama” the film enjoyed a successful run throughout the United States and Europe.
Press clippings for The Last Edition from (left) Photoplay (December 1925) and (right) Mount Vernon, New York’s Daily Argus (29th December 1925)