20 July 2013 | AlsExGal
William Powell as you've never seen him before...
... 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.