Senator Was Indiscreet, The (1947)

Senator Was Indiscreet, The (1947)

“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:

  • Blackmail
  • Comedy
  • 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!”

Must See?
No, though it’s an interesting curio in film history, and worth watching at least once.


One thought on “Senator Was Indiscreet, The (1947)

  1. First viewing. Not must-see.

    A more or less forgotten film. It’s a mild political satire, but what it lacks in bite it gains in efficient pacing – so the time does fly with reasonably little effort. You may not find it all that memorable afterwards but chances are you won’t mind it much while you’re watching.

    By far, the film’s best bit is the running gag of the aide contacting those about to be exposed in the senator’s diary – that bit gets a lot of clever mileage; one can’t help wanting the rest of the film to reach its level of fun.

    I found myself taken with Raines’ particular liveliness in this film, and was tickled by Hans Conried as the waiter (giving us an acting lesson in how one can manage much even if one has few lines to say).

    Some of the screenplay’s humor is overplayed here and there (i.e., the senator is known for droning on during a speech and, indeed, a luncheon speech he gives is seemingly endless) but there is some genuine wit peppered in occasionally…i.e.:

    – “Would you be interested in the fact that I keep a diary?”

    – “Why should I?”

    – “I’ve kept it every day now for something like 35 years.”

    – “Well, that must make you just about the oldest high school girl in America.”

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