-- 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?"
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.
|Brown isn't exactly the object of|
his colleagues' affection.
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 carries himself.
|How the well-dressed |
evil bastard carries himself.
|If Constance Cummings were around today,|
Gawker would say she looked old.
|Lee Tracy is concerned that, once again,|
Clarence Muse is stealing the scene.
|El loco Lee Tracy.|
Washington Merry-Go-Round is one of those interesting, elusive movies unavailable on DVD and only rarely shown on TV. It can't be for a potential lack of audience. Democrats can hiss the bad guy who wants a military invasion to protect his bootlegging enterprise. (Imbibers in the movie are always raving about "the real embassy stuff.") Republicans will cheer Brown's patriotism. Libertarians can point to its portrayal of a broken two-party system. Tea Partiers would agree that Congress is an utterly corrupt institution in dire need of a good flushing-out. Readers of Alex Jones could point with satisfaction to its many references to "the hidden government" really running things. Movie fans would find fascinating its snappy patter and shockingly casual venality.
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.