The Senator Was Indiscreet


1h 21m 1948
The Senator Was Indiscreet

Brief Synopsis

Dim-witted blowhard, Melvin G. Ashton, is a US Senator who wants to be President. He hires Lew Gibson, a talented PR man who gets Ashton in newsreels and on the front page, never thinking he'll win. But Ashton has a secret weapon: a diary documenting every shady deal his party's made for 35 years. With the diary, he blackmails the party leaders to support his candidacy, and he's on his way to the nomination. An unseen political enemy is after the diary, using the young and lovely Valerie Shepherd to get into the Senator's room, and Lew's fiancée, reporter Poppy McNaughton thinks she can get her hands on it, too, and stop Ashton. Will the otherwise unemployable dope become President?

Film Details

Release Date
Jan 1948
Premiere Information
New York opening: 26 Dec 1947; Los Angeles opening: 31 Dec 1947
Production Company
Inter-John, Inc.
Distribution Company
Universal Pictures Company, Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the serial story "The Senator Was Indiscreet" by Edwin Lanham in Collier's (24 Aug--7 Sep 1946).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 21m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

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 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.

Cast

William Powell

Senator Melvin G. Ashton

Ella Raines

Poppy McNaughton

Peter Lind Hayes

Lew Gibson

Arleen Whelan

Valerie Shepherd

Ray Collins

[Fred] Houlihan

Allen Jenkins

Farrell

Charles D. Brown

Dinty

Hans Conried

Waiter [Karl]

Whit Bissell

[Robert] Oakes

Milton Parsons

"You Know Who"

Francis Pierlot

Frank

Oliver Blake

Indian

Chief Thunder Cloud

Indian

Chief Yowlachie

Indian

Iron Eyes Cody

Indian

Boyd Davis

Politico

Rodney Bell

Politico

Edward Clark

Eddie

Cynthia Corley

Helen

William Forrest

U.S. officer

Douglas Wood

University president

George K. Mann

Texan

Claire Carleton

Ingred

William H. Vedder

Book dealer [Gryphon]

Nina Lunn

Girl in elevator

John R. Wald

Broadcaster

Vincent Pelletier

Quiz master

Myrna Loy

Mrs. Melvin G. Ashton

Norma Varden

Woman at banquet

Tom Dugan

Attendant

Tom Coleman

Politico

John Alban

Politico

Alex Davidoff

Guest

Forrest Dickson

Guest

Howard Mitchell

Guest

Don Wilson

Commentator

Martin Garralaga

Italian waiter

John Bagni

Italian waiter

Billy Newell

Elevator operator

Leon Lenoir

French waiter

Billy Bletcher

Newsboy

John A. Butler

Reporter

Franklin Parker

Reporter

Clarence Straight

Reporter

John O'connor

Reporter

Mervin Williams

Newsreel man

Eddie Coke

Ticket buyer

Dutch Schlickenmayer

Ticket buyer

Jimmy Clark

Bellboy

Russ Whiteman

Bellboy

Jack Chefe

Waiter

Walter Soderling

Hotel guest

John Valentine

Desk clerk

Sven Hugo Borg

Swedish waiter

Lucius Brooks

Busboy

Michael Stokey

Night clerk

Paul Bryant

Black caddy

Polly Bailey

Charwoman

Laura Parrish

Aunt Abby

Gene Fowler Sr.

Charlie

Beatrice Roberts

Bruce Riley

Ethan Laidlaw

Richard Gordon

Walton Decardo

Watson Downs

William Bailey

Cedric Stevens

Rex Dale

Film Details

Release Date
Jan 1948
Premiere Information
New York opening: 26 Dec 1947; Los Angeles opening: 31 Dec 1947
Production Company
Inter-John, Inc.
Distribution Company
Universal Pictures Company, Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the serial story "The Senator Was Indiscreet" by Edwin Lanham in Collier's (24 Aug--7 Sep 1946).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 21m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

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 Hollywood Reporter 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 above).
       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. Hollywood Reporter 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 May 13, 1947, was rejected by the Breen Office for its "characterization of a United States Senator in such a derogatory and ridiculous manner." On June 10, 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 June 20, 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. Hollywood Reporter and New York Times 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.