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  • Hard to believe this script was written in the early 1950s -- it sounds like it might be a pitch for some mismatch comedy of today. Neal is an environmental activist sent to Washington to help stop a bill that would allow drilling for natural gas in the habitat set aside by the government for the endangered California Condor. An evil oil company is sponsoring a bill in Washington that would allow them, and only them, to drill -- thus disrupting the Condor's delicate breeding patterns. She crashes a swank DC party to try to gain access to the Department of the Interior bureaucrat who's been ducking her, where she runs into a kindly retired Admiral (Gwenn, better known as Kris Kringle in "Miracle on 34th Street"), who is taken by her and agrees to introduce her to one of his many Washington pals, the sleazy but suave lobbyist lawyer played by Mature. What neither of them knows is that the Admiral is in fact an engraver at the Bureau of Printing and Engraving who's been forging party invitations for himself for years and has adopted the persona of a retired admiral. And Mature, infatuated with Neal, has to hide the fact that he's in fact the lobbyist hired by the gas company to get the special interest bill through Congress! Screwball complications ensue, of course, while Neal tries to get protection for the condors, Mature tries to seduce her without actually helping her against the interest of his client, and Gwenn finds his cover story unraveling the more he tries to help Neal, all under the comic theme of the whiff of corruption in government business.

    The acting is fine here, hardly true screwball, but with believable performances by all three principles. Neal isn't quite enough of a sex bomb to explain Mature's infatuation, and her natural intelligence and self-possession bely the fact she's supposed to be something of a naif around DC. Nevertheless her portrayal is earnest and just enough tongue in cheek. Mature himself is just creepy enough to be credible as a sleazoid lobbyist, although his B-list looks also don't suggest much chemistry with Neal. Gwenn is his usual sophisticated self, playing the double role of Washington insider and humble engraver.

    Modern sensibilities may be a bit perturbed by the comic use of the Condor's plight, but on the other hand it's a sober reminder of how little has changed that the plot would be just as plausible if remade today.

    Wait for this hilariously obscene line in the middle of the movie, which somehow slipped by the censors: "Unpack that 16" gun!"
  • I have to take issue with the review by Matt_Wall, which stated it was "hard to believe this script was written in the early 1950s." The plot is about gas companies vs. conservationists trying to save the California condor. Gas was first drilled for in 1821, and there have been conservationists since before Thoreau, so this was an old story by 1950. Furthermore, California's Audubon Society had been fighting to preserve the condor's habitat since the 1930s. So Mr. Wall seems to be among the disturbingly long list of people who assume nothing much of interest happened before they were alive to hear about it.

    What's more, this environmentally conscious movie is hardly a first for Hollywood. To name a very famous example, which this film resembles, "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" (1939) centered around the battle against dam-builders for the establishment of a national boys' camp.

    The script, credited to I.A.L. Diamond among others, has enough wit so that it hardly needed the screwball spin (or the accompanying silly musical score). Victor Mature at his oiliest is perfect to play the Washington lobbyist named Steve, though he's not exactly a light- footed comic actor. On the other hand, Edmund Gwenn and Patricia Neal bring their reliable gifts to their roles; both exude intelligence, dignity, and disarming honesty.

    The IMDb entry for "Memorable quotes" is empty, but there are more than a few good lines in this all-but-forgotten film:

    "No one has ever accused me of being unpatriotic. In fact, I was the first man in the House to speak out against the Japanese beetle."

    Congressman: "Is it your practice to distribute gifts to people in high places?" Lobbyist: "Only to those who accept them."

    "You know how it is in Washington. The more you deny something, the more everybody believes it."

    (Said of a widow) "That's quite an accomplishment, surviving a Southern congressman."

    Journalist: "You'd barbecue your grandmother on the Capitol steps for a buck." Lobbyist: "And you'd be right there with your little notebook taking down her last word."

    (Said of the lobbyist) "Steve hasn't an enemy in the world, but I like him anyway."
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Once upon a time, Edmund Gwenn had millions of fans. He deserved them too. He was a great actor -- and a great person! Just how highly Gwenn and his films were regarded can be gauged by 20th Century Fox's "Exhibitor's Campaign Book" for "Something for the Birds". An extremely elaborate affair of 24 newspaper-sized pages, this "book" features a three-color cover. Although Mature is the first-billed star, he is represented only by a small, passbook-sized, head-and-shoulders photo. Pat Neal does a bit better with a small but elegant, full-sized shot. Dominating the cover, however, is Edmund Gwenn. And if the size of his picture was not enough to draw the exhibitor's immediate attention, he even has a prominent tag line as well to the effect that "Mr. 880 Is Back...881 times phonier." Gwenn is also prominently featured in almost all the ad blocks. There are even small-sized blocks and a beautiful picture spread that feature Gwenn only, As for the movie itself, I wouldn't say it was the funniest movie I.A.L. Diamond ever wrote -- but it comes close. Its conservation theme was a rarity in 1952. If anything, the movie is even more relevant today. And it's directed by Robert "Sound of Music" Wise!
  • In "Something for the Birds" you get a history lesson on how government works...and it's not always a happy and nice lesson! Like "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington", it talks about the nastier aspects at times, as it follows a lobbyist and shows how deals get made. But, unlike the Capra movie, this one is all about romance and comedy and takes a lighter look at Congressional 'gifts'.

    The story begins with Anne (Patricia Neal) crashes a Washington party in order to try to influence people about the plight of the California Condor...a bird that is still on the brink of extinction today. Unfortunately, she meets two people who might not be the best to meet under the circumstances...the Admiral (Edmund Gwenn) and a professional lobbyist, Steve Bennett (Victor Mature). Why? Well, while the Admiral is sympathetic and even helps Anne in her campaign, he's NOT a real admiral and has been posing as one for years in order to attend all the best parties! And, with Steve, she has just started a friendship with a guy whose company is lobbying against saving the Condors! How does all this work out and will there be a happily ever after for everyone...including the Condors?

    Despite being highly idealistic (especially in regard to the 'Admiral' when his ruse is discovered), the film also does give insights into the sleazy world of lobbying. It also makes for a dandy well worth seeing and quite enjoyable.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Long before Texas had a governor named Ann Richards, there was Patricia Neal playing environmentalist Anne Richards, out to save the California Condor from extinction when their sanctuary was threatened by a fuel company drilling for gas. Tough Neal is bold enough to crash a politician's private gathering where she encounters retired Navy Admiral Edmund Gwenn (another one of his many "cute old man" parts) who takes her under his wing, yet seems to have some private motivations of his own that may or may not be on the up and up. Romance develops between the very determined Neal and powerful Victor Mature, and in another case of the type of plot commonly called "Capra-Corn", the stage is set for two people on opposite sides to come together and do what is right while love blossoms between them.

    There's a witty screenplay in this Robert Wise directed romantic comedy with political and environmental themes that makes the film more watchable than it could have been in lesser hands. The problem is that great dialog doesn't always mean a strong story, and here, the balancing act between romance, politics and environmentalism isn't always smooth. Perhaps the most amusing moments come from the bird imitator who is so good at his craft that he fools them as they walk through a park and listen to the various bird sounds, all of a sudden perplexed by one very rare to the area.
  • In some ways, this is a rather odd early 1950's movie regarding environmental concerns and big business lobbying. It's nice to Patricia Neal in a real romantic comedy. I'm not a van of Victor Mature, but he does well here. One of the main reasons for this movie is wonderful Edmund Gwenn, who made such a splash for 20th Century-Fox in "Miracle on 34th Street" and "Mister 880". He's wonderful here. Very nicely done comedy and quite a surprising find.