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 »
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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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Though it's small in scale and unpretentious, this is really an excellent film, able to hold its own with Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and other later, more ambitious films. It's fast paced, and intelligently integrates comedy, drama, public-spirited ideas, good performances, and an excellent script.
Don't believe Halliwell on this one ("naive comedy-drama with a miscast star"). Lee Tracy plays Button Gwinnet Brown (descended from a Declaration of Independence signer), elected by the crooked machine but determined to bite the hand that fed him. He's perfectly cast as the no-bull guy who (though he may be cynical at times) always tells the unpalatable truth. His several great "soap-box" speeches might have been unbearable from anyone else. His speech about how everyone has their hand out, delivered to bonus marchers who have their hands out, his complaint about pork-barrel bills, and his comments on voter apathy are all still timely. (The touch of vigilantism, though admirably held in check, and the suggestion of the danger of dictatorship, are mere whispers of thirties sensibilities.) This portrait of Washington's corrupt lobbyists and influence peddling seems, if anything, more relevant to today's scene than Capra's better-known tracts.
On the train to Washington he meets Constance Cummings, a Washington insider, who wants to put him on the inside track in spite of himself. She's not Capra's brassy tool of cynicism whose latent heart of gold is set beating by the hero's purity. Her attitude is more ambiguous; she seems to think Tracy's crusade against corruption can be waged without danger to the status quo. (One advantage of the brevity of the film is that it all takes place over a few days, so it's logical for her not to completely grasp his intent.) Cummings is one of the forgotten great female leads of the early thirties, largely because many of her films are unavailable Columbia films like this one. Her performance here and her character as written are exceptional.
Walter Connolly, as an honest but complaisant Senator, is excellent, as always. Alan Dinehart is a Washington wheel and all-around bad guy, quite believable.
Very enjoyable and well worth seeing; too bad this seems to be unavailable on TV and video.
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