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Van Johnson's character is a congressman. Reporter Alice Kingsly arrives in Washington D.C. determined to uncover a tabloid-worthy scandal, and chooses Representative Joseph "No Comment Joe, the human clam" Gresham as her target. However, problems arise when the senator's wholesome image looks to be true and Alice becomes torn between her desire for a scandalous story and her growing attraction to Gresham. Written by
When I began watching WASHINGTON STORY, I really had no idea what the film was about and I have never been a particular fan of the leads, Van Johnson and Patricia Neal. Because of this and the score on IMDb, I was prepared to be unimpressed. However, the film took me completely by surprise as it turned out to be a darn good film--better than the mediocre score on IMDb would indicate.
The film is an interesting lesson on 1950s politics and the press. The film begins with Philip Ober and his employee, Patricia Neal, talking about her new press assignment at the US Capitol. Exactly what her story will be she isn't sure, but it is interesting how Ober slowly guides her to a story idea--one, it turns out, he had in mind for her all along and one that she now thinks is just spur of the moment. She is to try to get a young Congressman (Johnson) to agree to let her watch him for one week and write an exposé on him. She is to try to get the usually press-shy Johnson to allow her access in order to do a "hatchet job"--i.e., tear him to pieces regardless of what he says or does. It takes a lot of work for her to get Johnson to let down his guard and agree to the story. He does so only after she lies and convinces him it's a human interest story for a women's magazine--sort of like "Ladies Home Journal".
The problem is that the more Neal follows Johnson as he works, the more she realizes he's a pretty decent and hard working guy. Now this isn't saying that the Congressmen are all angels--far from it! However, she's amazed to see a politician who is more concerned with doing what's best for the country instead of what will get him re-elected--something politicians these days could really stand to learn.
The film gets very high marks for solid acting--not just with the leads but with the excellent supporting actors (particularly Louis Calhern). In addition, the script is a big star because it is very engaging and manages to tell a MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINTON style story while still avoiding the schmaltz. The characters aren't all black and white in style and even the nice Johnson is a flawed man. I am a rather cynical person yet I didn't find myself laughing at the way these people were portrayed. Overall, a very good and highly underrated film that deserves a look.
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