Extry extry! Newsies just turned 30 and I feel older than Joseph Pulitzer!
Y’all, I can’t believe this film came out so long ago, and I really can’t believe we’ve never done a post about it! I was obsessed with Newsies in junior high and high school (and, okay, in college and adulthood and the NOW), so I am pleased as punch to offer up this highly scientific analysis of why, after all of these years, this musical remains the King of the World.
Before we step into the FYA Lab, we of course must grab our lab coats… and our cocktails!
The Official FYA Newsies Drinking Game
Take a drink when:
- There’s a close-up of a newspaper headline
- Two people share a spit handshake
- A teen is smoking (in a Disney film y’all!!!!)
- Santa Fe is mentioned (but not sung)
- The newsies jump and click their heels during a song
- There’s a brawl
- Teddy Roosevelt is mentioned
- Robert Duvall chews the scenery
- You get bored while Jack is hanging out with Sarah
- You get bored while Jack is scabbing for Pulitzer
Take two drinks when:
- Mush is shirtless
- The newsies thrust their pelvises while singing “good assassination”
- Jack dance-pantomimes riding a horse during “Santa Fe”
- The newsies cheers to “Our Man Denton”
- The newsies tear up the papes
Take a shot when:
- The movie starts, because cheeyahs to thoise accents!
- Spot says, “Never fear, Brooklyn is here!”
- Teddy Roosevelt shows up
Now, slip on your newsies cap and let’s hit the streets!
Seize the Cast
Christian Bale as Jack Kelly
Apparently Christian Bale signed up for Newsies when it was slated to be an historical drama, so he wasn’t happy when he suddenly had to sing and dance. Is he the best singer? No. Is he the best dancer? Not at all. But is he a young, hot, Christian Bale playing a swaggering hero nursing a secret pain? YES HE IS. Combine that with his bonkers accent and jaunty red kerchief, and holy cow, it’s a miracle, you’ve got the perfect early 90s dreamboat.
David Moscow as David Jacobs
I will always love David Moscow because he played young Tom Hanks in Big, which was referred to as an “old movie” in a YA book I recently read but that’s neither here nor there. In this movie, David plays David, an earnest guy who’s just trying to help his family make ends meet and then ends up being the backbone of the Newsies unionization.
Luke Edwards as Les Jacobs
It’s rare for a child actor in a 90s Disney movie to not be annoying, but Luke does a great job! He’s sweet and cute as David’s younger brother, who immediately worships Jack and drinks beer on his first day on the job (again, in a Disney movie!).
Max Casella as Racetrack Higgins
When Newsies came out, Max was already a familiar face thanks to playing Vinnie on Doogie Howser, M.D., and WOW, writing that out just made me feel a hundred years old. Max plays the wisecracking Racetrack, the most believable New Yorker of the bunch (and I use “believable” lightly), who happens to have a pretty severe gambling problem but it’s all good, y’all, because he’s funny!
Bill Pullman as Bryan Denton
Why is Bill Pullman in this movie? Who knows! But I’m happy about it! He plays an altruistic reporter and passionate crusader for the truth, but more importantly, he knows how to rock a bowtie.
Ann-Margret as Medda Larkson
And why is Ann-Margret in this movie? Don’t worry about it! Just enjoy her sultry, charming ways and try not to get weirded out by the fact that she cavorts with teenage boys.
Gabriel Damon as Spot Conlon
People always talk about how Devon Sawa in Casper (also co-starring Bill Pullman!) was their sexual awakening, but WHERE MY SPOT CONLON FREAKS AT? Y’all, the minute I saw those baby blues and heard that Brooklyn (?!) accent, I was a goner. And don’t even get me started on that fancy cane! And that floppy hair! Plus he’s got a mean slingshot game, which strikes fear in the hearts of his enemies. I would’ve died to snap those suspenders as a teen, if you catch my drift.
Robert Duvall as Joseph Pulitzer
I imagine Disney thought it was a real coup to get Oscar winner Robert Duvall to play Joseph Pulitzer, like he would bring gravitas and grit to the picture, but to speak on behalf of teen girls in 1992, all he actually brought was snooze and snoozzzzzzze. Look, we’re not here to watch old white dudes try to make more money, mmkay?!
And yes, I’m skipping some newsies, but I can’t type Crutchy without cringing, and look, we only have so much time in the lab so we need to prioritize!
Seize the Song
Thank you, Alan Menken, for writing so many songs that have been stuck in my head for the last 30 years. “Carrying the Banner!” “Seize the Day!” “The World Will Know!” “Santa Fe!” I thought about trying to rank them but then I realized, this mission, should I choose to accept it, would be impossible, so never mind! I will say, however, that “Once and For All” should’ve been titled “Once and For Meh.” And if you ever find yourself drunk with friends, wandering down a city street late at night, “Santa Fe” sounds great at the top of your lungs.
Seize the Chemistry
So, it just came to light that Ele Keats (who plays Sarah, Les and David’s sister, whom I haven’t mentioned because who cares) was actually dating Christian Bale during the movie, and they broke up right before they filmed their main scene together, and color me UNSURPRISED because these two have absolutely zero chemistry. Zilch. The only frisson I ever got from their relationship is the fact I share a name with Sarah, so whenever Jack says her name, I could easily pretend he was talking to me. Sa-woon!
The real fire in Newsies is obviously BOYS BOYS BOYS! But okay, before I go on, I must once again remind you that I fell in love with this movie when I was thirteen, so it’s not gross to talk about shirtless Mush or swaggering Spot or sexy Jack, and I’m sure there’s many a gay man my age who enjoyed the (unintentional?) vague homoerotic undertones. It’s all still very white, of course, and supremely Disney, but there’s a kind of sweet sexual magic to a film that seems cast entirely from the pages of Tiger Beat.
Seize the Corporate Overlords
I can’t say I recognized this as a 13-year-old, but when you consider the film’s take on labor unions and workers’ rights, Newsies is liberal AF. And it’s actually (kinda) historically accurate! I highly recommend listening to You’re Wrong About‘s two part series on the movie, which is well-researched and incredibly articulate and also super fun because Sarah’s an even bigger fangirl than I am.
Seize the Movie
Look, if you’ve never seen Newsies, and you watch it now, I can’t say that you’ll understand why, exactly, it has enchanted so many of us for so long. I’ve done my best through the power of science to present the FACTS of why this movie remains a cult favorite, but at the end of the day, there’s simply a je ne sais quoi derived from the Disney-gone-wild casting; the (honestly) inspiring true story; the bananas menagerie of accents; and the immensely catchy songs. It’s a mighty fine film, and I’m proud to carry the banner and make sure that THE WORLD WILL KNOW how much I love Newsies.
Are you a fan? Is the best song in the movie blatantly obvious to you? Does Spot Conlon hold a special place in your heart? Join me in the comments for a highly intellectual discussion!