THIS MAN IS NEWS. 1938. Barry Barnes, Valerie Hobson, Alistair Sim, John Warwick, Philip Leaven, Edward Loxy, Garry Marsh. Screenplay by Ranald MacDougal, Basil Deardon, and Allan MacKinnon. Directed by David MacDonald.

   In the last few weeks I have found a good half dozen of a list of films I have been seeking since William Everson came out with The Detective in Film, lo those many years ago, and this one has long been near the top of my list, so don’t expect too much critical reserve. I was to happy to finally see it.

   The film was a massive hit in England when it came out, a British Thin Man with Barry Barnes and Valerie Hobson their very own Nick and Nora, Simon and Pat Drake. In addition, it is a fast moving, smart mouthed, and well plotted mystery thriller filled with wise cracks and action, and more than ably abetted by the presence of Alistair Sim as Macgregor, a Scottish editor for a London paper, whose brogue is as thick as his temper is short and his skull bald.

   Sim could steal any film, and comes close a few times here, but Barnes and Hobson really do shine as Simon and Pat.

   When Simon skips his assignment to cover the release of Brown, an informer who is on the hit list for betraying his gang, Macgregor blows his lid and fires him (again, it’s a running gag). Returning home his wife Pat is a pal and takes it well, even to the point of breaking out the champagne and going on a toot.

   They could give Nick and Nora, the Norths, and Duluths a race in that department.

   In the course of the evening Simon has a bright idea and calls up Macgregor claiming he is outside of Brown’s hideout, which he followed him to the day before, where Brown has just been murdered, accompanied by Pat popping a champagne cork he explains as his having just been shot by the gang. He then hangs up, his revenge complete.

   The hangover the next day is complete too when he sees the false headlines. He’s the hero of the day, for the moment, especially when, to his relief, it turns out Brown really was murdered by the gang. But the cloud proves to be minus any silver lining when Inspector Hollis and Sgt. Bright (Edward Loxy and Garry Marsh) show up to arrest him.

   Seems he called in the murder ninety minutes before it happened.

   And he’s fired again.

   Until Brown’s relative is shot in Simon’s apartment just after Pat alibis him out of jail.

   He’s free, but someone is trying to kill him. There is an informer at the paper keeping the mob tipped off to Simon’s movement, and Simon can’t recall what he might have seen that is worth killing him for. Worse he’s stuck with Hollis and the none too bright Bright.

   Pat proves somewhat more active and capable than Nora Charles, and is nearly killed herself when she sets their apartment on fire to frighten off the two men waiting to kill Simon, and things get even more complex when it turns out the man Simon saw is the notorious ‘Harelip’ Murphy (Philip Leaven) who we have only seen from the nose down as the mastermind who enjoys white mice scampering from his pockets (someone read their Wilkie Collins, shades of Count Fosco).

   The thrills and spills are reminiscent of a radio serial despite this being an original screenplay, and no, it can’t compare with MGM and William Powell and Myrna Loy, but it is fast, smart, furious, and witty in the proper proportions and comes to a bang-up finale in the newsroom when Simon finally gets the killers, his job back, and his by-line — This Man is News.

   A sequel followed the next year, This Man in Paris. IMDb says it isn’t as good as the first, but I hope eventually to see for myself. Meanwhile This Man is News is available on YouTube in a decent print.

   It’s a fast-paced fun outing less dated than most, thanks to a clever script and a sure hand by the director, the screwball comedy mystery British style.

   Love it or hate it, you can’t say it ever drags.