The Senator Was Indiscreet (1947) Poster

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Non stop laughs
JB-1226 May 2000
This film stands along with "Bringing Up Baby" as one of the most preposterous non Marx Brothers comedies ever filmed. Its plot seems to defy reality, but in looking at the political climate of this era it seems like more of a case of art imitating life.

This art is created hilariously by William Powell who as Senator Melvin G Ashton is the epitome of buffoonery yet due to his political party's shenanigans and the fact that he has kept a diary of those dastardly deeds finds himself as a candidate for President of the United States. When that diary is stolen, the efforts to retrieve it lead Powell from one embarrassing situation to another with non-stop laughs.

Peter Lind Hayes, not known for acting plays Powell's press agent and is very funny. Ella Raines, one of the most stunning women in films, plays a reporter and she's not only very funny but very beautiful. And there's a who's who of character actors led by Ray Collins, Allen Jenkins, Charles D. Brown and Milton Parsons who perform superbly.

George S Kaufman directed the film. He was long known as one of the leading playwrights of both comedy and drama. He won 2 Pulitzer Prizes. He wrote 2 Marx Brothers Films, as well as "The Man Who Came To Dinner" and "You Can't Take It With You". This was his only turn at directing a film. The pace he establishes is frenetic, with dialogue delivered in the Howard Hawks overlapping style.

Stay with this until the very last line. The ending is a pip. In fact the whole film is one
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Whither America
blanche-225 January 2006
I've been waiting to see the 1947 film "The Senator Was Indiscreet" for years - ever since walking by a TV and hearing Ray Collins utter the line: "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?" I finally got a copy of the film, and I wasn't disappointed.

"The Senator Was Indiscreet" concerns a senator, Melvin Ashton (William Powell), who announces that he is not, not, not a candidate for President - meaning, of course, that he is. He has several speeches that he recycles, "Whither America" being one. At one point, a neon sign announces: "Tonight: Senator Melvin Ashton: Whither America. Tomorrow: Dog Show." The film is filled with hundreds of little touches like that. Old, blustery, and a buffoon who gives four-hour speeches and proposes bills like having people write on tissue paper to lessen the weight of mailbags, the party doesn't want him. However, they can't get rid of him - he has a diary that he's kept for years. When it goes missing, all hell breaks loose. One man sits on a phone helping party members plan their escape, saying: "There is no extradition between those two countries...We have four people traveling to Siberia..."

William Powell, normally elegant and smiling despite the chaos around him, gets right into it here. He is a RIOT. He looks like Colonel Sanders in his white wig and mustache. His funniest scene (to me anyway) is when he is locked out of his hotel and winds up in the subway while wearing his pajamas and bathrobe. He grabs a broom and quickly sweeps while walking up the stairs, then drops the broom and starts running. Peter Lind Hayes plays the publicist who got him into this high-profile mess. A very versatile and good-looking man, Hayes not only acted but worked as a composer, later pairing in performance with his wife, Mary Healy. His girlfriend is played by Ella Raines. Raines never made it to superstar status despite her striking prettiness and good performances. However, she was in some marvelous films, and this is one of them. She is terrific as an ambitious reporter who refers to Ashton as Ashcan in her writings. One of her headlines reads: "Ashton Declares Opposed to Assassination." Hans Conreid is funny as a bitter Yugoslavian hotel worker, and Ray Collins is great as the frantic head of the party.

The denouement is hilarious, with a very special cameo at the end you won't want to miss. Highly recommended for its comedy and statements about politics and politicians - most of which still apply.
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A Great Societal Snapshot
scampello29 October 2003
This wonderful vehicle carried so many great character roles and made statements about how things run. Many ring true today. It provided a deliciously skeptical view of politics in general and the American idea that "any boy can can grow up to be President"! The rise of State Highway Divisor Melvin Ashton to the US Senate and the brink of the Presidency may explain how some of our more recent candidates have made it to stage center. My favorite running gag from this film was the characterization of the Bolshevik waiter by the wonderful Hans Conried. It is a snapshot of 1947 America with the impending threat of the Red witch hunt. His portrayal rings true with his bewildered observation of the American political process. It suggests that America was more than a match for Conried's "complete report een treepliket to the Kramleen by 5 PM". It is a DISCREET suggestion of the excess attention focused on the artistic community at the time by the guardians of our liberty. William Powell again comes through in a comedic role. The film's ending is a great piece of irony and social comment. He finally made it as the Big Kahuna, albeit on a slightly smaller stage!
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William Powell as you've never seen him before...
AlsExGal20 July 2013
... because usually William Powell played a wise dapper fellow. Here he is a bumbling fool, a Foghorn Leghorn like bag of wind who is almost unrecognizable dressed up like Colonel Sanders with white hair and beard. And the pity of it all is he is also a U.S. Senator. To prevent offense, his home state is never named, nor is the region of the country from which he hails ever named. For that matter, his political party is not named either. Senator Melvin G. Ashton (Powell) is facing reelection to the senate. He knows he'll lose, so it's either back to the private sector after 35 years in various political offices - in his youth he painted white lines down the middle of roads - or he can run for President. He chooses the latter purely because of the paycheck potential.

The senator's personal assistant (Peter Lind Hayes as Lew Gibson) has a reporter girlfriend (Ella Raines as Poppy), and Lew invites her to listen to the Senator's speech one night. The senator drones on for over two hours saying nothing and boring the audience to tears. Poppy walks out after arguing with Lew that she wants to expose Ashton as the bag of wind that he is.

The reason the head of the party (Ray Collins as Fred Houlihan) is tolerating Ashton's candidacy is that the senator has a diary in which he has written down the details of all of the party's dirty deals and is holding it over the party's head unless they at least let him try to win the nomination. But then the unspeakable happens - somebody steals the senator's diary and unless it is recovered not only the senator, but his entire political party is doomed.

This film is like a reverse video of "State of the Union" from the following year, where Spencer Tracy is a thoughtful man who threatens the party as a possible presidential candidate as he speaks for himself. Here Ashton is a buffoon without a thought in his head who would never speak anything meaningful to anyone. It is a rare breath of cynicism regarding America's political institutions just as the Cold War is ramping up - and did I mention it is hilarious?

Allen Jenkins has a great supporting role as a very mercenary private detective. Milton Parsons is the party operative who has the job of calling in the party "cleanup crew" with names that sound like they are all in the mafia. I'd describe the rest of the characters, but suffice it to say that nobody in this film seems to have any positive character traits and thus none of them are people you will find the least bit admirable.

The final scene is hilarious with even a dig at the safety of nuclear testing and a cameo that will surprise you and leave you laughing if you know anything about film history. Highly recommended.
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"If you can't beat 'em, bribe 'em!"
ZevII6 March 2006
I know this is going to sound preposterous, but try to imagine a politician who is completely incompetent. An idiot. A total buffoon. That is the story of Sen. Melvin G. Ashton, played by William Powell.

Ashton, planning for a career after being a senator, decides that the only other job he's qualified for is to become president. He seeks the job not just for himself, but for the benefit of all the relatives he has on his payroll. Through the movie, he quickly shows the wisdom he has picked up from his years in office with lines like, "If you can't beat 'em, bribe 'em!"

Ashton commences on a coast-to-coast tour to announce that he is NOT running for president and take some courageous stands on issues ("Ashton is against inflation, against deflation, for flation.") The villainess in the movie is a reporter played by the fetching Ella Raines, who vows to kill Ashton's campaign by quoting him accurately.

For some reason, the party leader doesn't want Ashton to be president. However, Ashton has kept a diary through the years that detail the shenanigans of other politicians and he's ready to use it as blackmail. The only problem is he loses the diary, and then the search is on to find it, by both party people that want to destroy it and others that want to publish it.

The people who will like this movie best are the ones that enjoy light comedies. I absolutely loved it. After seeing it, I'm sure you'll join Steven Colbert in asking, "Melvin G. Ashton: Great senator or greatest senator?"
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Do We Really Elect People Like That?
bkoganbing11 November 2007
As Will Rogers said he got a lot of his material from reading the Congressional Record. If Rogers were alive he'd have gotten several humorous monologues from William Powell as Senator Melvin Ashton, United States Senator from some unfortunate state and pompous windbag extraordinaire.

I'm reminded of former Senator Roman L. Hruska from Nebraska who in defending Richard Nixon's nomination of G. Harrold Carswell for the Supreme Court said that in his defense mediocre people also need representation on the Supreme Court. Or Senator Charles Curtis of Kansas who became Vice President under Herbert Hoover who went into partnership with a doctor who prescribed the extract from goat glands for his patients. Sad to say we do have a boob who gets through every now and then.

And Powell has decided that he's got so many relatives on the public payroll now that only the presidency will satisfy all the demands being made on him. He's decided to run for president with a cross country tour denying his ambition on every occasion to the dismay of party bosses like Ray Collins who is updating his role of Boss Jim Gettys from Citizen Kane.

Unfortunately this lummox decided to keep a diary which could sink the whole immediate world something like the expense account kept by that hood from Kansas City in Casino. Powell's publicist Peter Lind Hayes is mad to get it back thinking that investigative reporter Ella Raines might have it. Hayes knows what a boob he is, but also knows the accolades from the political manager types he'll get if he can put the boob over. That's an attitude that's fresh and alive today with many.

Bill Powell looked like he was having a ball in the part of Ashton. 1947 was the year Powell decided to surrender to age and began playing fatherly types. He was after all 55 years old. Had he not been nominated for Life With Father, Powell might well have gotten an Oscar nomination for Best Actor in this part.

One part of the film I'm afraid audiences might not get. As Powell contemplates that his political career might be finished they go through many jobs he could fill and it seems he just hasn't the qualifications for anything. One possibility might be as a sports 'czar' or commissioner of some professional sport as would have a colleague of Powell's just was made.

Albert B. 'Happy' Chandler who was a corn-pone politician of the highest order who was a former governor and then United States Senator from Kentucky became baseball's commissioner in 1945 succeeding Kenesaw M. Landis.

Landis who when he took the job was guaranteed a lifetime contract and ruled like a 'czar' of the major leagues. When he died the owners wanted a presentable front with some reputation and turned to Chandler. He actually surprised them all by overruling the whole lot of them and permitting the integration of major league baseball as Branch Rickey wanted. That show of independence cost him his job when his seven year contract was up and Chandler was succeeded by a group of nonentities that Melvin Ashton would have been superbly qualified to be among for the most part. Powell was just a tad ahead of his time.

Written by Charles MacArthur and directed by George S. Kaufman a pair of the best wits of the last century, The Senator Was Indiscreet is as fresh a political satire now as it was then. It's a short film with a laugh guaranteed every ten seconds.
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Politics and the 1948 Election
theowinthrop3 March 2005
Melvin Ashton is a U. S. Senator. He is also a blithering idiot, who feels that we should help the American postal worker by making their loads easier to lug. How? By hiring more workers and cutting down the average load that way? No. Everyone should write on tissue paper. It is lighter than current stationary.

Ashton is representative of the men (like Franklin Pierce and Warren Harding) who managed to get the nomination to the U.S. Presidency (and in those two disastrous cases, won election to that office) when they did not deserve such distinction. In this send-up of our political process, Ashton is facing an unnerving problem. He has risen to the U.S. Senate, and has only one of two places to go: either he is defeated in a reelection bid (not too hard to imagine) or he is nominated and elected President. If party head Ray Collins had his way Melvin would be allowed to gracefully bow out of the U.S. Senate (he could easily be replaced). But Ashton is made of sterner stuff than that. He has a diary, and it includes the story of every dirty political deal made by his party since he first entered office. If published it would send his party into a tale-spin. And Melvin is very willing to publish it...unless the party gives him the nomination.

"The Senator Was Indiscreet" was directed by George S. Kaufman. Recalling that he (with Moss Hart) created John Wintergreen and the immortal Vice President Alexander Throttlebottom in the musical "Of Thee I Sing" (and subsequently did a political spoof of FDR "I'd Rather Be Right") it is no surprise that Kaufman went back to this theme for the only film he ever directed. He did a good job with this one, which shows the shallowness of our political leadership and punches holes in the whole Presidential campaign system. Look at the brief series of vignettes where Melvin is shown making political speeches like, "Not inflation, not deflation, but good old American "Flation"." That makes sense, doesn't it? Or how Melvin, to show himself a capable engineer for the country, is shown taking over a modern super-train, which his incompetence wrecks (a headline suggests it was foreign agents).

I can go on with the jokes of this wonderful comedy. But I will only add that it comes close to showing its actual hand. Just which party is it? Most of us would say does it really matter if it is either the Democrats or the Republicans? Well one could say it does not matter, except there seems to be a hint it is the Republicans. Ashton keeps worrying about the leading opponent he has, whose name is never mentioned. It appears to be some other Senator that Collins and the other party leaders are fully willing to see as their standard bearer. At one point Collins politely tries to reason with Powell that he has to know what a total jerk he is and he could not possibly deserve the job. Powell shoots back, "Well, what makes you think HE does?" Collins looks at him incredulously ... like saying "Are you for real?"

My guess is that (unsaid as it is) Kaufman and the screenplay writers of 1947 were thinking of Senator Robert Taft, at that time one of the three front-runners for the Republican nomination in 1948. Taft did not get that nomination (he never got his party's nomination, which in retrospect was very unfair to the man known as "Mr. Republican"). Too starchy a person (and far too straight talking and honest), Taft did deserve an opportunity to run. And, yes, his political career (culminating in the labor law that still bears his name) showed how deserving he was. So Ray Collins incredulous stare had some real point to it.
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"The Gentleman is a Dope"
mark.waltz27 November 2011
Warning: Spoilers
So wrote Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II for their 1947 Broadway musical "Allegro". With different lyrics, the song would fit perfectly in this political spoof written by Charles MacArthur ("The Front Page") and directed by George S. Kaufman, the witty writer who spoofed politics, journalism and society in many of his brilliant Broadway plays. The dopey gentleman is none other than William Powell, so debonair the same year as Clarence Day Sr. in the film version of "Life With Father" and as Nick Charles in the last of "The Thin Man" movies. As Senator Melvin Ashton, he plays such a perfectly educated idiot (he's not for inflation or deflation, just flation, he declares in one speech) that he could never be accused to playing the same character or delivering the same performance. Unrecognizable in his Mark Twain hairstyle and whiskers, Powell is sheer perfection. Just watch as everybody around him quivers as he announces his intention to run for president. He is surrounded by creme-de-la-creme character performers who are too numerous to mention. In the year preceding Dewey and Truman, this was quite timely, and in a cynical post-war world, this was the perfect way to remind voters to be very careful of who gets into office, a fact that still resonates today. The ending scene has a huge surprise that will delight fans of his classic work at MGM in the 1930's and early 40's.
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"You can't go around quoting politicians accurately; that's dirty journalism, and you know it!"
ackstasis15 August 2008
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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Indiscreet bumbling
TheLittleSongbird30 September 2018
It is hard not to want see 'The Senator Was Indiscreet' with such an eye-catching title, William Powell in the lead, as someone who likes comedy and satire and a very interesting idea for a story. It could have gone the way of being an intriguing and very funny satire. It also could have gone the way of not being sharp or biting enough and being too silly and contrived.

'The Senator Was Indiscreet' luckily was the former. It is occasionally on the silly side, some parts were a bit of a stretch and the surprises are not always there, but a vast majority of the time it's very interesting, very clever and very funny. Really did enjoy 'The Senator Was Indiscreet' a lot, as one can already see, and it is a shame that it is as underseen and overlooked as it is.

One of its best assets is the cast. Powell has seldom been this tongue-in-cheek and he does a marvellous job here. Ella Raines is fetching and amusing while there are great supporting from Peter Lind Hayes and Allen Jenkins.

Also terrific was the script. It was smart, sharp and didn't hold back while not going over the top. It was unusual back then for a film to poke fun at politics and its institutions as directly and cynically as 'The Senator Was Indiscreet', and must have been a shock back then. The story was always absorbing and lifted by great chemistry within the cast, plenty of amusing moments (like with the tissue paper), a lively pace and also a few nice surprises along the way (especially a not so expected ending.

Visually, 'The Senator Was Indiscreet' looks good and it is a shame that George S. Kaufman didn't direct more films after, he does really well here and is at equal ease at the director's helm as he was as a writer/playwright.

Altogether, very enjoyable and sadly not without the credit it deserves. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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A great satire with non-stop laughter
SimonJack21 May 2016
Warning: Spoilers
From the opening prologue to a surprise scene at the end, this film is loaded with laughter. "The Senator Was Indiscreet" is one of the funniest movies of all time – and the zaniest political satire ever put on film. It pokes fun at an uncritical American public that so willingly buys the malarkey. It seems as timely today as it was in 1947.

The film isn't confined to politics. It pokes fun at many things in public life. Every scene is packed with satire or mockery of some sort. Every line makes us laugh at something. Besides politics, it spoofs business, labor, advertising, the news media, professional sports, foreign affairs, communism, and government in general.

Nunnally Johnson, one of Hollywood's wittiest talents, produced the film. George Kaufman directed it, bringing two decades of experience in making some of the great comedy films of Hollywood. The cast leads were particularly suited for their roles.

After watching William Powell as "United States Senator Melvin G. Ashton" from a key state, I couldn't imagine anyone else in the role. Powell's persona in the part is unique. He isn't a buffoon, although his ideas are ridiculous. He knows what's going on, yet he's so naïve. He's not mean, but he can be conniving. He speaks well, yet he seems so uninformed. He can be uppity, and he can be down to earth. And he's all of these to our delight. He's the perfect picture of a pompous windbag and dimwit.

Peter Lind Hayes is little remembered today as an actor, but he is perfect in the part of Lew Gibson. His advertising background and public relations experience give him his assured air of confidence. His demeanor is just right for the part. Ray Collins is very good as Fred Houlihan, the political party honcho who is the overseer behind the scenes. In real life his character most likely would be more domineering. Ella Raines is superb as "one of the most talented female New York reporters" – Poppy McNaughton.

All of the rest of the supporting cast are wonderful in their roles. Arleen Whelan is Valerie Shepherd, Allen Jenkins is Farrell, Hans Conried is the waiter. Whit Bissell is Oakes, and the Native Americans in the cast play Indians with some witty lines and scenes.

This movie is a treasured part of my film library of satire. It was deserving of Academy Award nominations and honors. But since the early years of WW II, no comedies were nominated for top Oscars until 1950. And, 1947 was a year with many outstanding films. The competition was so tough, that the feature film Oscars were split between a dozen movies. There might also have been some concern because, at the time, one political party had been in power in the U.S. for 15 years. Still, William Powell won the New York Film Critics Circle Award as best actor for 1947. This film is so jam-packed with humor, that I'll end my comments with some samples. See many more lines of hilarious dialog in the Quotes section of this IMDb film Web page.

Poppy, "I'm just going to quote him accurately, that's all." Lew, "That's unfair, Poppy. You can't go 'round quoting politicians accurately. That's dirty journalism and you know it."

Fred, "And another thing. What's the big idea of telling those reporters you're not a candidate for the nomination? Mel, "Because I'm not." Fred, "Then stop denying it. No member of the party has a right to deny that he's a candidate unless he is a candidate."

Lew, "Boss, I was in the advertising business once, so believe me. If you can sell the American public that one cigarette is different from another, that one tooth paste is better than another, you can sell them anything, even Mel Ashton."

Mel, "There's one thing you can't say about me, Fred. I have never put one man or one woman on the public payroll who was not my own blood kin .. or Mrs. Ashton's, anyway."

Mel, "Owning a nice little diary is like owning a nice little atom bomb. Even if you never do anything with it, it's a comfort just to know it's there. Good night."

Newspaper headline: "Ashton to Fight Tooth and Nail Against Being Made President."

Mel, speaking at the party convention, "The first plan in my platform is to get me in the White House. Two, Social Security -- $200 a week for every man, woman and child in this country, from the date of birth until the date of death, inclusive. Three – Veteran's Relief – Twice what any other candidate offers. Four – Old Age Insurance. No old age insurance. We must economize somewhere. But, at the age of 45, every American citizen who has ever paid an income tax shall have the entire amount that he has paid – every penny of it – refunded to him, with interest. Five – education. The United States government should send every man, woman and child in this country through Harvard."

Campaign rally banner, "Ashton is against inflation, against deflation, FOR flation."

Mel, speaking at a Labor Temple, "But why stop at a five-day week for seven days' pay? This is a rich country. Why not a three-day week and for eight days pay?" Then, the next scene at a Bankers Club, "The time has come for management to take a firm stand. Now, in the Ashton labor control bill, I propose an eight-day week for a two-day pay."

Fred, "Are you the house dick?" Farrell, "House officer. We're trying to get away from vulgarities."

Mel, "I wasn't going to jump. Just trying to get a little fresh air. Dumb flatfoot!" Ferrell, "I'm sorry, senator. We've lost so many guests that way, I guess I'm getting a little jump-minded."

Mel, "Where's that 28th floor waiter? That communist?"
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The Senator was a buffoon
AAdaSC8 January 2018
Senator William Powell (Ashton) wants to run for President but then his diary goes missing. This could spell the end of his political career as he has transcribed everything from the last 35 years or so. It includes all scandals and would be extremely damaging to his political party. So, it's up to spin-man Peter Lind Hayes (Lew) and his journalist girlfriend Ella Raines (Poppy) to retrieve this diary from wherever it has got to.

I wanted to like this film more than I did. I thought it had a good cast - Powell and Raines and let us not forget the great Whit Bissell. See if you can spot him? However, it is just all rather boring. There are a few amusing moments, eg, Powell's vote-winning policy of using tissue paper for letter writing so that postmen don't have to carry such a heavy load, and the ending throws up a twist in that Bob Hope/Bing Crosby style.

As a character, Powell's Senator seems totally fine for a President. He certainly has all the qualifications as spelt out for him by a magazine poll. The film was a disappointment, though, despite some funny dialogue on occasion.
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Three No Trumps
writers_reign18 October 2016
Warning: Spoilers
This brilliant political satire from 1947 has just been shown on British TV as the 2016 Presidential Election enters the stretch and Donald Trump makes William Powell's slightly corrupt Senator Ashton look like Forest Gump. Like all great movies it starts with a great script from Charles MacArthur which in turn gets great sure-footed direction from George S. Kaufman who wasn't above writing and directing satires on Broadway and even directing both plays and musicals but only once ventured behind the camera, it's possible he never directed another film because he knew he couldn't top this. Completing a winning triumvirate is William Powell, Mr. Urbanity personified but here deserting his debonair image completely and, as if that weren't enough there's Ray Collins reprising his Boss Jim Gettys with what could be left-over dialogue from Citizen Kane. A gem.
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Very funny and then some
hotangen23 July 2014
In the "good old days", in this case 1947, politicians were career opportunists and just as self serving and corrupt then as they are now. Happily, in the movies - unlike in real life - we can laugh at the trouble they get themselves into.

After 35 years of serving his state's constituents, senator Ashton wants to be president. And just what qualifications does he offer, asks his scoffing party leader? From a list "mama" found in a magazine, #3 is to have a dog. Ashton says, " I have a dog. I hate the hound. He's bit me 4 times, but I have one." This mild satire kept me laughing from beginning to end. Powell, as expected, is terrific, and Ray Collins stands out among the supporting characters. The "Senator" is not a classic comedy as is "My Man Godfrey", but it's not necessary or possible that every comedy hit a home run in order to be deemed worthy of our time.
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A Film Fan Divided by a Common Language
howardmorley21 April 2014
Oscar Wilde in The Canterville Ghost, 1887 wrote "We really have everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language".This quote is often attributed instead to George Bernard Shaw and misquoted as "England & America two countries divided by a common language".I will paraphrase the misquote by commenting on this film as a "two countries divided by a sense of humour".I noticed that all the user comments before mine were apparently penned by American resident users and I being British do not share the same humour as our transatlantic cousins through custom and upbringing.

Why you may ask did I watch this movie in the first place, especially when I have always found William Powell so witless and unfunny in his films?Well I am a great fan of the wonderful Ella Raines, for example read my separate critique of her in "The Web" (1947).One of the user comments on for the latter film put me on notice of the subject film which fortunately was on in its entirety.So I sat through this screenplay merely to see the lovely Ella again and she comes over as a "smart cookie" (if I can use that American expression).

Obviously I did not care for the film as being produced wholly for the American market and sense of humour however as the other users seem to be American residents I was generous and awarded it 5/10 if only to have another chance to gawp at the lovely Ella again.
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