The San Francisco Call, February 1, 1910. Ha! It’s like a vaudevillian pre-make of Georges Clouzot’s The Wages of Fear. Who plays the souse with the red sticks? Fatty Arbuckle? Harold Lloyd? Heck, it hardly even matters: with material this boffo, you could cast Calvin Coolidge and people would still be rolling in the aisles.
It’s striking, the freedom that newspapers used to have to make fun of stuff, even when the story involved danger and possible loss of life. It’s very different from the separation of powers built into our current media regime: Today news outlets would be obliged to report this story straight, leaving the late night talk show hosts to mine its comedic potential. And people wonder why daily newspapers are in in free fall.