The Senator Was Indiscreet (1948)

81-82 or 88 mins | Comedy | January 1948

Director:

George S. Kaufman

Cinematographer:

William C. Mellor

Editor:

Sherman A. Rose

Production Designers:

Bernard Herzbrun, Boris Leven

Production Company:

Inter-John, Inc.
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HISTORY

The film opens with the following written foreword: "Dedication: To every politician who has ever jeopardized a baby's health with unsanitary kisses, who has ever delivered a three-hour Fourth of July oration about himself and George Washington, who has ever promised peace, prosperity and triple movie features in exchange for a vote, this picture is not too humbly dedicated." Set decorator Ken Swartz's name was misspelled in the credits as "Schwartz." The Senator Was Indiscreet was the only motion picture ever directed by noted Broadway playwright-director George S. Kaufman. According to modern sources, Kaufman was so leery of the technical aspects of filmmaking, associate producer Gene Fowler, Jr. was put in charge of the mechanical portion of the production. Fowler said in interviews that he would give the "action" and "cut" directions, and that Kaufman did not even look at the actors as they performed, preferring to direct with his ears, rather than his eyes. According to HR news items, Kaufman also planned to co-write the screenplay with Charles MacArthur, but only MacArthur received an onscreen writing credit. Myrna Loy, William Powell's co-star in numerous M-G-M films, including The Thin Man series, made an uncredited cameo appearence at the end of the film, as "Mrs. Melvin G. Ashton." This was the last film in which they appeared together. Powell received the 1947 New York Film Critics' award for Best Actor for his performances in this film and Warner Bros. Life with Father (See Entry).
       According to the film's pressbook, portions of the film were shot on location in New York City. The film company spent one ... More Less

The film opens with the following written foreword: "Dedication: To every politician who has ever jeopardized a baby's health with unsanitary kisses, who has ever delivered a three-hour Fourth of July oration about himself and George Washington, who has ever promised peace, prosperity and triple movie features in exchange for a vote, this picture is not too humbly dedicated." Set decorator Ken Swartz's name was misspelled in the credits as "Schwartz." The Senator Was Indiscreet was the only motion picture ever directed by noted Broadway playwright-director George S. Kaufman. According to modern sources, Kaufman was so leery of the technical aspects of filmmaking, associate producer Gene Fowler, Jr. was put in charge of the mechanical portion of the production. Fowler said in interviews that he would give the "action" and "cut" directions, and that Kaufman did not even look at the actors as they performed, preferring to direct with his ears, rather than his eyes. According to HR news items, Kaufman also planned to co-write the screenplay with Charles MacArthur, but only MacArthur received an onscreen writing credit. Myrna Loy, William Powell's co-star in numerous M-G-M films, including The Thin Man series, made an uncredited cameo appearence at the end of the film, as "Mrs. Melvin G. Ashton." This was the last film in which they appeared together. Powell received the 1947 New York Film Critics' award for Best Actor for his performances in this film and Warner Bros. Life with Father (See Entry).
       According to the film's pressbook, portions of the film were shot on location in New York City. The film company spent one week shooting at New York's Grand Central Station, where they were allowed to film only between the hours of one and six o'clock in the morning. Technical advisor Nina Lunn was a Washington, D.C. debutante and the granddaughter of Senator Wallace H. White of Maine. HR production charts include Hester Sondergaard in the cast, but her appearance in the released film has not been confirmed.
       According to information contained in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, a final shooting script for The Senator Was Indiscreet dated 13 May 1947, was rejected by the Breen Office for its "characterization of a United States Senator in such a derogatory and ridiculous manner." On 10 Jun 1947, Universal representatives argued with the Breen Office that the picture could be made in such a way as not to be "derogatory to the dignity of the United States Senate." On 20 Jun 1947, Joseph I. Breen met personally with Universal representatives, where he tried once again to convince the studio to "scrap" the film or change the character of Ashton from a United States Senator to a state governor. The Breen Office finally approved the project when William Gordon, director of public relations at Universal, agreed to personally check the script for any problems. HR and NYT news items reported that Bank of America foreclosed on the picture in 1953, along with nine other independently produced films released by Universal between 1946 and 1948, after Inter-John and the other producers failed to repay their loans. Modern sources also state that The Senator Was Indiscreet was declared "traitorous and un-American" by noted anti-communist Senator Joseph McCarthy. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
20 Dec 1947.
---
Film Daily
11 Dec 47
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Aug 1946.
---
Hollywood Reporter
7 Jan 47
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Jun 47
p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Aug 47
p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Aug 47
p. 6, 13
Hollywood Reporter
10 Dec 47
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Dec 47
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Dec 47
p. 16.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Nov 1953.
---
Independent Film Journal
21 Jun 47
p. 35.
Life
5 Jan 48
pp. 53-55.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
13 Dec 47
p. 3973.
New York Times
27 Dec 47
p. 9.
New York Times
4 Nov 1953.
---
Variety
10 Dec 47
p. 12.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
And introducing
George K. Mann
John R. Wald
John A. Butler
William Bailey
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Nunnally Johnson Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
COSTUMES
Miss Raines' clothes
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog
MAKEUP
Hairstylist
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Tech adv
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the serial story "The Senator Was Indiscreet" by Edwin Lanham in Collier's (24 Aug--7 Sep 1946).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
January 1948
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 26 December 1947
Los Angeles opening: 31 December 1947
Production Date:
mid June--mid August 1947
Copyright Claimant:
Inter-John, Inc.
Copyright Date:
8 March 1948
Copyright Number:
LP1657
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
81-82 or 88
Country:
United States
SYNOPSIS

Upon his arrival at the Hotel Westbrook in New York City, presidential aspirate Senator Melvin G. Ashton is asked by Lew Gibson, a newly hired publicist for Ashton's political party, to accept an honorary induction into the Cherokee Indian tribe, which the publicity-hungry senator eagerly agrees to do. Political boss Fred Houlihan then arrives at the Westbrook and demands that the inept Ashton give up his presidential hopes, but he refuses, much to Lew's delight. Back at his office, Lew's work for Ashton becomes sidetracked by the arrival of the beautiful Valerie Shepherd, though he is already romantically involved with newspaper woman Poppy McNaughton. That night, after Ashton gives a long-winded speech, during which he once again denies his presidential candidacy, Poppy breaks up with Lew, as she is nauseated by his support for the incompetent senator. The newspapers are soon filled with headlines proclaiming Ashton's candidacy, and after reading them, Houlihan goes to the senator's hotel room in the middle of the night and demands once again that he give up his presidential dreams. Ashton, however, informs the political boss that during his thirty years in politics he has kept a daily diary, which chronicles all the actions of their political party, honest and not. With that blackmail threat, Ashton begins a cross-country speaking tour of the United States and, despite his ineptitude, quickly rises to second place in the polls. After a political rally at Madison Square Garden, however, Ashton discovers that his prized diary is missing. While Ashton suspects Karl, a communist hotel waiter, of the book's theft, Lew accuses Poppy of stealing the diary. Later, Robert ... +


Upon his arrival at the Hotel Westbrook in New York City, presidential aspirate Senator Melvin G. Ashton is asked by Lew Gibson, a newly hired publicist for Ashton's political party, to accept an honorary induction into the Cherokee Indian tribe, which the publicity-hungry senator eagerly agrees to do. Political boss Fred Houlihan then arrives at the Westbrook and demands that the inept Ashton give up his presidential hopes, but he refuses, much to Lew's delight. Back at his office, Lew's work for Ashton becomes sidetracked by the arrival of the beautiful Valerie Shepherd, though he is already romantically involved with newspaper woman Poppy McNaughton. That night, after Ashton gives a long-winded speech, during which he once again denies his presidential candidacy, Poppy breaks up with Lew, as she is nauseated by his support for the incompetent senator. The newspapers are soon filled with headlines proclaiming Ashton's candidacy, and after reading them, Houlihan goes to the senator's hotel room in the middle of the night and demands once again that he give up his presidential dreams. Ashton, however, informs the political boss that during his thirty years in politics he has kept a daily diary, which chronicles all the actions of their political party, honest and not. With that blackmail threat, Ashton begins a cross-country speaking tour of the United States and, despite his ineptitude, quickly rises to second place in the polls. After a political rally at Madison Square Garden, however, Ashton discovers that his prized diary is missing. While Ashton suspects Karl, a communist hotel waiter, of the book's theft, Lew accuses Poppy of stealing the diary. Later, Robert Oakes, Ashton's ex-secretary, is discovered in the room next door to the senator's, and while he has the diary's jacket cover, he swears that someone else stole the book before he did. Meanwhile, Lew discovers that his old friend and Valerie's boyfriend, Bill Fisher, is a political enemy of Ashton, having authored a bill in the senator's home state to investigate the senator. Through her own journalistic investigation, Poppy also comes to the conclusion that Valerie stole the diary, as the young woman had purchased a book of the same size from a New York bookseller. The next morning, Houlihan asks Ashton to resign from the Senate for the good of the party, but the penniless senator refuses unless the party can find him another source of income. Limited by Ashton's abilities, the political bosses finally promise to make him the commissioner of a professional sports league, a job that pays twice as much as the presidency. At the same time, Poppy steals a locker key from Valerie's purse and recovers the stolen diary, only to have Lew then take it from her. Although Lew calls Ashton to tell him that he has safely recovered the diary, Houlihan has difficulty convincing Ashton to take a pay cut and return to politics. The publicist has a change of heart, however, and gives the diary back to Poppy. After the revelations in Ashton's diary are published, Ashton and his cronies are forced to flee the country, and the senator later becomes the chief of a South Seas Island. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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