Button Gwinett Brown is a freshman congressman on a mission to rid Washington of corruption. He quickly runs afoul of the powerful Senator Norton, while falling for the granddaughter of the... See full summary »
Button Gwinett Brown is a freshman congressman on a mission to rid Washington of corruption. He quickly runs afoul of the powerful Senator Norton, while falling for the granddaughter of the kindly senator Wylie. He then teams up with some members of the Bonus Army to foil the villains' plans. Written by
The title is taken from a popular 1931 best selling book, "Washington Merry-Go-Round," by Robert Sharon Allen and Drew Pearson. Columbia bought the rights to the title only, and then hired Maxwell Anderson to write a fictionalized story about corruption in Washington, D.C.. See more »
Button Gwinett Brown:
Let me tell you this: This nation is in trouble, great trouble, plagued with a thousand problems. This isn't just a depression; this is a crisis! You've got a Senate and a House of Representatives, filled mostly with honest, patriotic men. . . . And they're all striving to bring this nation back to its place in the sun. But they're handicapped--hamstrung by a hidden government--an evil, marauding crew that has turned the Constitution of the United States into a bill of sale.
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Lee Tracy exemplified the 1930s American. After an impressive performance on Broadway in the original cast of 'The Front Page' (he created the role of the wisecracking reporter Hildy Johnson), Tracy went on to an even more impressive screen career ... usually playing hardboiled cynical reporters or newspaper columnists. (It helped that Tracy bore a strong resemblance to Walter Winchell.) Tracy's career faltered after the 1934 film 'Viva Villa!', in which he was cast (again!) as a hardboiled cynical reporter. During location filming in Mexico, Tracy got drunk and urinated off a hotel balcony onto a Mexican flag. When this leaked out (no pun intended) to the Mexican press, the outcry forced MGM to recall Tracy and reshoot his scenes with Stu Erwin.
'Washington Merry-Go-Round' was the title of a long-running newspaper feature by political columnist Drew Pearson (the mentor of Watergate era's Jack Anderson), and it's also the title of this film by underrated director James Cruze. Lee Tracy gives a fine performance in an atypical role: he's an honest, uncynical and naive man who has just been elected to the House of Representatives. He's immediately offered bribes by various political factions, but he turns them all down. Tracy's character is named Button Gwinnett Brown, and he's identified as a descendant of the (real-life) patriot Button Gwinnett. (Gwinnett was a member of the Continental Congress who signed the Declaration of Independence and then got killed in a duel less than a year later. His autograph is extremely valuable, being much rarer than George Washington's or Ben Franklin's. In this movie, the fictional Gwinnett owns a letter written by his ancestor; it's worth $50,000, but he carries it folded up in his wallet!)
The excellent actor Alan Dinehart is quite good as Ed Norton, a crooked lobbyist who wants Brown to vote for legislation which will help the Prohibition bootlegging trade. Dinehart has impressed me in nearly every role in which I've ever seen him, and he's at the top of his form here. Walter Connolly (an actor who never impressed me) plays a senator who is honest but stupid (come, now: how many of THOSE have we ever had?), unfortunately named Wylie. He's Wylie by name but not wily by nature. Wylie won't accept Norton's bribes, but the two men frequently play high-stakes poker. Norton deliberately loses one hand after another to Wylie, giving Wylie the money which would have been his bribe anyway. The stupidity of Wylie's character is rather far-fetched. (Connolly was never a very plausible actor.)
The power-hungry Norton praises Mussolini and Stalin, yet makes no mention of current (1932) events in Germany. Is it coincidence that Norton's poker chips have swastikas? Elsewhere, this Columbia film uses the same taxicab (Yellow Cab #79) that showed up in Universal's drama "Okay, America!".
The talented black actor Clarence Muse is saddled with another of the many 'yassuh!' roles that unfortunately constituted the bulk of his career. The photography by Ted Tetzlaff is blighted by poor shot-matching and some rear-projection that's more obvious than it needs to be. And a major plot point is never explained: how did so many Bonus Marchers manage to get jobs (in the Depression!) which enable them to spy on Norton? I'll rate 'Washington Merry-Go-Round' 6 points out of 10.
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