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Our Congressman (1924)

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Cast

Cast overview:
...
Madge Hunt ...
Agatha Doolittle
Beth Darlington ...
Mary Doolittle
Frank Butler ...
Hemingway Abbott IV
Helen Gilmore ...
The Dowager Lady Hemingway Abbott
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Plot Keywords:

politics | u.s. congress

Genres:

Comedy | Short

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Release Date:

20 July 1924 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Alfalfa Doolittle, Our Congressman  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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User Reviews

 
Will success spoil Alfalfa Doolittle?
28 October 2009 | by (Westchester County, NY) – See all my reviews

This two-reel comedy was the second of three shorts in which Will Rogers starred as Congressman Alfalfa Doolittle, a naive and unsophisticated but basically good-hearted guy from the heartland who finds himself rubbing elbows with Washington power brokers. The Doolittle trilogy was part of a series of shorts Rogers made for the Hal Roach Studio during the 1923-4 season. It seems that the renowned humorist was in financial difficulty at the time, and signed on with Roach to help replenish his bank account. Given the circumstances it's no surprise that some of the shorts have a rather half-hearted quality; Rogers wanted only to crank 'em out as quickly as possible and probably didn't care much about quality control. Still, even the lesser entries have their amusing moments, often provided by Roach's expert stock company. Buffs familiar with the studio's roster of players will spot a number of welcome faces here, including Frank Butler (later a screenwriter), gorgon lady Helen Gilmore, the ubiquitous William Gillespie, and the one and only Jimmy Finlayson. Each is given a moment or two to boost the proceedings with a dry reaction or a startled take.

The first Doolittle short, Going to Congress, ends with the newly elected representative's arrival in Washington, D.C. This short picks up somewhat later, and reveals that our congressman has been in office long enough to display telltale signs of creeping arrogance. While his wife and daughter entertain stuffy-looking guests in the parlor, Doolittle is revealed in the yard wearing formal clothes, complete with top hat, milking a cow. We soon realize that he's performing for the benefit of reporters and newsreel cameramen. When the Congressman takes questions it allows Rogers the opportunity to offer a few characteristic quips about prominent people. (For modern viewers this means that familiarity with celebrities of the 1920s will be required in order to get the jokes.) We're given a number of hints that power may be corrupting Doolittle, such as his Napoleon-like stance for the photographers. Meanwhile, when a group of humble-looking constituents show up to speak with their congressman, his butler high-hats them and sends them away. Later, they find their representative engaged in that most patrician of pastimes, a game of golf, wearing a ridiculous outfit. They leave in a huff as Doolittle's snooty golf partner remarks: "Pay no attention to them, they're only voters." Just to show us that he's still a regular guy, Doolittle wears his silly golf togs to a formal garden party and even teaches an aristocratic dowager how to chew gum.

Unfortunately, the short concludes with a dinner party sequence that fails to build to a satisfying conclusion. The humor is mostly based on Doolittle's lack of social polish, as reflected in his daughter's embarrassment over his boorish behavior, but the laughs are few. Even Finlayson can't save the scene, and the film ends on a resoundingly anticlimactic note. Worse, where the story is concerned, it appears that our congressman has indeed lost touch with the hometown folks and his own values. Happily, however, Alfalfa Doolittle and Will Rogers would redeem themselves in A Truthful Liar, the third and final installment of the trilogy, which turned out to be the best of the series.


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