-- Lee Tracy in Washington Merry-Go-Round
There's a special irony that the movie which best captures the zeitgeist of our cynical times was released over 80 years ago. Far more bitter than any studio movie today, Washington Merry-Go-Round is a Rand Paul speech come to life, a Tea Party gathering writ large. No one gets off easy here, not the politicians who sell their votes to the highest bidder, the constituents who condone the system or those who prefer to complain rather take action. Frank Capra, it's not -- and yet, eventually was. But we'll get to that later.
|Brown is shocked to discover that politicians|
don't like hearing the truth.
|"Senator Wylie... are you sure you're not|
Charlie Rangel in whiteface?"
A basically-decent chap who, over 30 years, has been sucked into corruption without even realizing it, Wylie tries to guide Brown into the ways of Washington ("One never takes orders. One gathers by indirection that a certain course would be preferable"). Brown in return accuses him of being part of the problem because Norton pays him off by deliberately letting him win during their high-stakes poker games.
When he and Norton next play cards, Wylie realizes the truth in Brown's statement. Wylie promises to go public with all that he knows about Norton's dirty ways. Norton retaliates with a move that would make him the envy of lobbyists everywhere: arranging to have the Senator assassinated. Does this guy have juice or what? Norton, you see, has plans: "Italy has her Mussolini. Russia has her Stalin. Such a man will rise in America" -- namely, himself. Well, if you're going to dream, dream big.
|Brown and the boys make an exception for|
gun control when Norton shows up.
Luckily, Brown has one more trick up his sleeve, installing unemployed war veterans at Norton's regular watering holes in order to take notes on his conversations. They ultimately shanghai him to their campground, where Brown is holding captive the man who poisoned Wylie on Norton's orders.
The assassin's written confession in his hands, Brown offers Norton a gun to make his next move that much easier. A moment later, Norton blows his brains out. That's the next best thing to term limits.
Smith and Brown even drop by the Lincoln Memorial at night for strength as they become pariahs among their colleagues. Both movies were made at Columbia Pictures, for heaven's sake. It's unthinkable that Capra wasn't at least aware of Washington Merry-Go-Round at the time he made his own movie.
|Just once, I'd like to see this happen on C-SPAN.|
pass without votes. Suicides and assassinations are just part of business. Edward T. Norton is even arranging his political puppets to authorize a military invasion of a Central American country to protect his business interests. (No! Congress would never do such a thing.)
There aren't enough synonyms for "cynical" to do this movie justice. Congress was outraged by Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, yet appeared to be too busy bloviating, deal-making and murdering colleagues to notice its far more eviscerating predecessor.
|How the well-dressed troublemaker|
As Brown, Lee Tracy is more abrasive than James Stewart's Smith, but there's a sharp reality in his delivery that jolts even today. He has at least a half-dozen juicy speeches to chew on, all of them quite effective.
|How the well-dressed SOB carries himself.|
|Do 22 year-old women|
look like this anymore?
|Lee Tracy is concerned that, once again, Clarence Muse|
is upstaging him.
Everybody, in fact, can find something to enjoy in Washington Merry-Go-Round. Everybody but the jokers currently in Congress, that is. All the more reason to rip the lid off the Columbia vaults the way Button Gwinett Brown rips the lid off the Capitol. Those "public servants" in Washington wouldn't notice anyway. They're too busy cutting deals with Edward T. Norton's grandchildren.