“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.”
Dim-witted Senator Ashton (William Powell) angles for the presidency by using his diary as a source of blackmail material against his fellow politicians.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Ella Raines Films
- Hans Conried Films
- Political Corruption
- Satires and Spoofs
- William Powell Films
Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary notes, this amusing political satire by playwright George S. Kaufman (his lone directorial effort) doesn’t quite have the “frantic dialogue, idiosyncratic secondary characters, and political bite” it needs to be a classic screwball comedy a la Preston Sturges. Indeed, the wit is often heavy-handed, and several of the characters (i.e., the paranoid “Bolshevik waiter” who constantly accuses Senator Ashton of anti-communist prejudice) are played a bit too broadly. Nonetheless, the film benefits from a surprisingly satisfying ‘whodunit’ ending, and solid performances by the lead actors. In addition, it cleverly illustrates — to a satirical degree — the notion that competency isn’t necessarily a factor in getting elected to public office, and that corruption in politics is rampant. Given the current political climate in our country, these facts seem more relevant now than ever.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Ella Raines as the energetic young journalist who hopes to expose Ashton’s diary
- William Powell’s over-the-top performance as the buffoonish senator
- The humorous ongoing riff whereby a political aide takes hours to get in touch with every politician exposed in Powell’s diary
- Some zingy one-liners: “There’s an old saying in my state — if you can’t beat ’em, bribe ’em!”
No, though it’s an interesting curio in film history, and worth watching at least once.