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The Senator Was Indiscreet (1947)

Approved | | Comedy | 1948 (UK)
A bumbling, long-winded and crooked Southern senator, considered by some as a dark horse for the Presidency, panics his party when his tell-all diary is stolen.


George S. Kaufman


Charles MacArthur (screenplay), Edwin Lanham (story)
1 win. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
William Powell ... Senator Melvin G. Ashton
Ella Raines ... Poppy McNaughton
Peter Lind Hayes ... Lew Gibson
Arleen Whelan ... Valerie Shepherd
Ray Collins ... Houlihan
Allen Jenkins ... Farrell
Charles D. Brown Charles D. Brown ... Dinty
Hans Conried ... Waiter
Whit Bissell ... Oakes
Milton Parsons ... You Know Who
Francis Pierlot Francis Pierlot ... Frank
Oliver Blake ... Indian
Chief Thundercloud ... Indian (as Chief Thunder Cloud)
Chief Yowlachie ... Indian
Iron Eyes Cody ... Indian


Dim-witted blowhard, Melvin G. Ashton, is a US Senator who wants to be President. He hires Lew Gibson, a talented PR man who gets Ashton in newsreels and on the front page, never thinking he'll win. But Ashton has a secret weapon: a diary documenting every shady deal his party's made for 35 years. With the diary, he blackmails the party leaders to support his candidacy, and he's on his way to the nomination. An unseen political enemy is after the diary, using the young and lovely Valerie Shepherd to get into the Senator's room. Plus, Lew's fiancée, reporter Poppy McNaughton thinks she can get her hands on it, too, and stop Ashton. Will the otherwise unemployable dope become President? Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis




Approved | See all certifications »






Release Date:

1948 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

De senator was indiscreet See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Inter-John Productions See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Peter Lind Hayes receives an 'and introducing' credit. See more »


(around 6 min) A vase of flowers is on the table. We cut to close-up of Senator Ashton. When we cut back, the vase of flowers is on the floor. See more »


Senator Melvin G. Ashton: The McCoy-Keith-Ashton bill is designed for the protection of man's most faithful servant - the letter carrier.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits prologue: Dedication: To every politician who has ever jeopardized a baby's health with unsanitary kisses, who has ever delivered a three - hour Fourth of July oration about himself and George Washington, who has ever promised peace, prosperity and triple movie features in exchange for a vote, this picture is not too humbly dedicated. See more »

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User Reviews

"You can't go around quoting politicians accurately; that's dirty journalism, and you know it!"
15 August 2008 | by ackstasisSee all my reviews

It seems that politicians – or, perhaps more accurately, our perception of politicians – have changed very little in the sixty years since this film was released. Not only are they deceitful, power-hungry fast-talkers, but, most worryingly of all, they're not all that bright, either. George S. Kaufman's 'The Senator Was Indiscreet (1947)' is the earliest American political satire that I can recall seeing – though earlier examples almost certainly exist – and the film traipses many of the paths that would be echoed in subsequent films such as Hal Ashby's 'Being There (1979)' and Barry Levinson's 'Wag the Dog (1997).' At the forefront of these films is the complete trivialisation of the political system, portraying politicians either as dim-witted blow-hards or as ruthless power-grabbing tacticians, sometimes both. William Powell's Melvin G. Ashton falls into the former category, a white-haired Senator with more than a few loose screws upstairs. Nevertheless, he possess one vital item of leverage, a diary detailing every nasty political scam of the last thirty-five years, and so his influence is limitless.

William Powell, recently free from the 'Thin Man' series (1934-1947), is perfect as the IQ-challenged Senator with big ambitions. When he's not proposing absurd new regulations – for example, that all Americans should write letters on tissue paper to ease the burden on mail-men – Ashton is publicly and vigorously denying that he will run for Presidential Candidacy. In political terms, this means that he will run for Presidential Candidacy. Party colleague Houlihan (Ray Collins) attempts to talk Ashton out of his ambitions, almost convincing him to enter into a football career, but his persuasion is ultimately fruitless, especially considering the important historical document that Ashton has in his possession. When the coveted diary unexpectedly goes missing, every politician currently in office is thrown into chaos, and personal secretary Lew Gibson (Peter Lind Hayes) is sent to retrieve it, with journalist girlfriend Poppy McNaughton (Ella Raines) snapping at his heels. Even if all this doesn't seem your thing, wait around for the ending, which reveals a pleasant surprise.

'The Senator Was Indiscreet' was adapted from a screenplay by Charles MacArthur {co-author of "The Front Page"}, and the sole film directed by George S. Kaufman, a prominent playwright. There are several classic lines of dialogue ("Don't you think it's time you cut out the part where you laugh at the idea of the U.S. going to war against Japan?"), but the story unfolds fairly predictably. This, of course, doesn't necessarily negate the film's entertainment value, but I'd have liked a more daring degree of satire. The comedy style itself has its roots in the likes of 'His Girl Friday (1940),' but the jokes are more conservative, the laughs are scarcer, and the characters do not speak with the hilariously-frantic overlapping dialogue of Howard Hawks' film. Nevertheless, the lighthearted jibes at politicians are enjoyable, and it's not much of a stretch for the audience to believe that a clueless half-wit like Senator Melvin Ashton might potentially find himself at the doorstep of the White House. Indeed, recent history has shown us that he could even have gone further.

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