Portland Exposé

Portland Exposé is a 1957 American film noir directed by Harold Schuster and starring Edward Binns and Carolyn Craig.[3] The plot follows a tavern owner in Portland, Oregon, who is involved in a struggle for power between two gangs attempting to control the unions.[4] The film was inspired by crime boss Jim Elkins and The McClellan Committee's investigation into Portland's underground criminal ventures in the 1940s and 1950s, which were the subject of an extensive article published in Life magazine in March 1957.[5]

Portland Exposé
Portland Exposé poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byHarold Schuster
Produced byLindsley Parsons
Screenplay byJack DeWitt
Based on"Portland Exposé"
by Bernard Victor Dryer
Music byPaul Dunlap
CinematographyCarl Berger
Edited byMaurice Wright
Distributed byAllied Artists
Release date
  • August 11, 1957 (1957-08-11)[1]
Running time
72 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States

The film was distributed theatrically by Allied Artists in August 1957, though it was banned by local agencies from being screened within a 30-mile (48 km) radius of Portland.


In 1940s Portland, Oregon, tavern proprietor George Madison resides with his wife Clara and their two children, teenage Ruth and young Jimmy. Pressured by salesman Spud Lennox, George agrees to place pinball machines in his business.

Meanwhile, syndicate thugs Larry and Joe are attempting to start a gang war by pitting rival pinball and gambling operations against each other. Under the supervision of their boss, Phillip Jacman, they report the names of various businesses housing the pinball machines, and Jacman orders them to pressure George into installing their machines into his tavern. The syndicate selects George's business as a target. Larry and Joe confront George at his tavern, and bully him into agreeing to put their machines in his business. George agrees to do so, and divide the profits in half.

The installation of the syndicate's rival machines results in an increase in George's business, but Clara disapproves of the gambling connected to them. George agrees to covertly arrange a police raid at the tavern to eliminate the syndicate's presence; however, the raid is botched when police find nothing incriminating in the building. George meets with Portland's former crime boss, who warns him that the new syndicate will expand their enterprise to include drug trafficking and prostitution.

Later, Ruth goes on a date with her boyfriend Benny, but he leaves her when she refuses to have sex with him. Outside the tavern, Ruth is accosted by Joe, who has been stalking her; Joe attempts to rape her, but George interferes when he hears her screams. George overpowers Joe and holds him at gunpoint, but ultimately lets him free. Later, Larry executes Joe at Jacman's instruction. Shortly before Clara is to leave to her mother's home in Corvallis with Ruth and Jimmy, Benny visits and apologizes to Ruth. Meanwhile, trade union leader Alfred Grey begins investigating the syndicate. George is formally initiated into the syndicate after proving his loyalty, and uses his insider position to provide Alfred with information to bring them down. George wears a wiretap in an attempt to record damning evidence incriminating the syndicate.

One night, Clara phones George to tell him Ruth is returning home to attend a fraternity party with Benny. A worried Clara decides to leave Jimmy with her mother and return to the city to find Ruth and George. While George attends the syndicate's party for a madame who has recently arrived in Portland to operate a high-end escort agency, a prostitute there named Iris discovers George is wearing a wire, and informs the syndicate. Immediately, several men are sent to George's house to find any tapes he may have recorded, and stumble upon Ruth, whom they kidnap.

George is abducted from the party and taken to the syndicate's headquarters in a secluded warehouse. When he refuses to provide information, the syndicate beat him mercilessly before threatening to blind Ruth with acid. George claims to have buried the tapes in the woods, prompting the thugs to untie him so he can lead them to their location; when they do so, George flees with Ruth through the warehouse. The two are ultimately saved by the unionists, led by Grey, who fight off the syndicate, allowing Ruth and George to escape to safety.



Filming of Portland Exposé took place in Portland and Gresham, Oregon.[1][6]


Allied Artists released Portland Exposé in the United States on August 11, 1957,[1] though approximately 20 cities in the Pacific Northwest pulled the film from their screening schedules, and it was banned within a 30-mile (48 km)-radius of Portland, where it had been scheduled to premiere on August 14.[7][8] An agent who canceled the Portland premiere stated that his primary reason was that approximately 40 individuals involved in the crimes the film was based on had threatened to sue should the film be shown there.[8]

The film continued to screen throughout the country, opening in New York City on September 26, 1957.[9]

Critical responseEdit

Dorothy Masters of the New York Daily News noted that the film "has more integrity than most of its genre," and praised the direction and cinematography.[10] Myles Standish of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch was less impressed by the film, deeming it "one of those quickie sensations which exposes nothing except the producer is hot after a fast buck... it is a trite B melodramatic crime plot, people obscured by actors."[11]

A review published in The New York Times questioned the film's validity, noting: "At the end of Portland Expose, which arrived at Loew's State yesterday, there is a pretentious and cloying reference to the United States Senate investigation earlier this year into corrupt labor practices in the Pacific Northwest. Whatever the real situation may have been in Portland, Ore., an observer cannot help wondering whether it possibly could have borne such a striking resemblance to standard crime melodrama as Portland Expose would have us believe."[12]

Home mediaEdit

The film was released on DVD as a double feature with They Were So Young (1954) by VCI in 2006, as volume 1 of their "Forgotten Noir" series.[13] VCI reissued the film on DVD as a standalone release in 2011.[14]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c "Portland Exposé". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Los Angeles, California: American Film Institute. Archived from the original on November 5, 2019.
  2. ^ "Portland Expose". British Board of Film Classification. Archived from the original on February 13, 2020.
  3. ^ Mohan, Marc (June 10, 2013). "Tonight in Film: "Elemental," "Portland Expose," and more". The Oregonian Live. Retrieved April 29, 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ Grieveson, Lee; Esther Sonnet (2005). Mob Culture: Hidden Histories of the American Gangster Film. Rutgers University Press. p. 79. ISBN 978-0813535579.
  5. ^ Ellis, Janey. "Portland's Dirty Little Secret: How Vice and Corruption Held the Rose City In Its Clutches" (PDF). Oregon History.
  6. ^ "Filmed in Oregon 1908-2015" (PDF). Oregon Film Council. Oregon State Library. Archived (PDF) from the original on April 3, 2019.
  7. ^ "'Portland Expose' Film Not To Be Shown In NW". The News-Review. Roseburg, Oregon. Associated Press. August 7, 1957. p. 1 – via Newspapers.com.
  8. ^ a b "Booker Cancels 'Portland Expose'". The Register-Guard. Eugene, Oregon. Associated Press. August 4, 1957. p. 13 – via Newspapers.com.
  9. ^ "Preview at State". New York Daily News. New York City, New York. September 24, 1957. p. 44 – via Newspapers.com.
  10. ^ Masters, Dorothy (September 27, 1957). "Union Fights the Hoodlums". New York Daily News. New York City, New York. p. 53 – via Newspapers.com.
  11. ^ Standish, Myles (September 12, 1957). "At the Movies". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. St. Louis, Missouri. p. 67 – via Newspapers.com.
  12. ^ "'Portland Expose' Arrives at Loew's State; The Cast". The New York Times. New York City, New York. September 27, 1957. Archived from the original on February 13, 2020.
  13. ^ "Forgotten Noir, Vol. 1 (Portland Expose / They Were So Young)". Amazon. Archived from the original on February 13, 2020.
  14. ^ "Portland Expose DVD". Amazon. Archived from the original on February 13, 2020.

External linksEdit