25 January 2006 | blanche-2
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.