Tuesday, April 25, 2006

A memo to Congress and whichever anomalous entity hosts the Screen on the Green series

Every July and August, five films are shown on consecutive Monday nights on the National Mall, with the inspiring cranium of the Capitol glowing in the background, as legions of interns, Hill staffers and sundry summer denizens nibble on brie and silently suffer the dictatorial humidity. Inevitably, one of those five films is Washingtonian in nature. One year it was Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, for example.

For this summer, I must recommend two movies to the Screen on the Green programmers (whoever ye may be): The More the Merrier and Born Yesterday. I have previously blogged about Merrier (a ribald real estate romp), so let me simply quote three bits of dialogue from Born Yesterday, a pointed political commentary disguised as a Pygmalion tale. It needs to be shown to the Bush admininstration and every single representative in Congress. The premise? Blowsy, chauvinistic tycoon Harry Brock (Broderick Crawford) moves to D.C. with his uncouth wife Billie (Judy Holliday) and yes-man assistant Jim Devery (Howard St. John) in order to seduce senators and buy legislation. William Holden plays journalist Paul Verrall, who exposes the scandal.

JIM: What do you think you've got, Paul?
PAUL: A connection between Harry's combine and the congressman's amendment.
JIM: All right, but why single us out to make a fuss over it? What we're doing isn't uncommon. It's done every day.
PAUL: Done every day, that's right. For all I know there's an undiscovered murder every day, and what does that prove? All this undercover pressure, this corruption. Government between friends. Sure it goes on all the time and it's tough to crack. Just ask me. I've tried for years.

PAUL: Who are you to get mad, you big baboon? You ought to be grateful you're allowed to walk around free.
HARRY: You don't know me good enough for that kind of talk.
PAUL: I know you. A kick in the keister, a crooked play, and your problems are all solved. Bigger problems, bigger kicks. Who's next? The government? The nation?
HARRY: Ah, don't blow your top. I'm still ready to do business. How's a hundred grand?
PAUL: A hundred grand is beautiful, but I can't take it.
HARRY: Why Not?
PAUL: My girl wouldn't like it, would she?
BILLIE: She certainly wouldn't.
HARRY: All right then, what's your idea?
PAUL: Nothing. No idea. I'm just trying to show you that legislation's not meant for buying and selling.

PAUL: You know, when you live in Washington, it's enough to break your heart. You see a perfect piece of machinery: the democratic structure. And someone's always tampering with it, trying to make it hit the jackpot.

Things haven't changed in 56 years. Pictured above (left to right): Holliday, Crawford and Holden.


Alanna said...

I love any movie that includes the word "keister."

Jamy said...

I think I love you. Born Yesterday is my favorite movie. BTW, Billie is NOT Harry Brock's wife, "She what you would call a fiancee."

Did you know that they produced the play at Arena Stage this year? It wasn't half bad, but there's really no substitute for Judy Holliday.

Merrier is also a gem. I'd go out of my way to see that on the green.

J.J. said...

Fiancee, yes. Thanks for calling me out. I heard about the Arena Stage play, but haven't been there in a long time. But you're probably right: there's no substitute for Holliday. No one else can quack a thoroughly subversive and hilarious "WHAT?" like she can.

Jamy said...

The real flaw in the Arena Stage production was Harry Brock. The actor portraying him kind of swished around the stage--it was odd. He also was losing his voice and couldn't match the Broderick Crawford bellow. However, Crawford's performance in the film (which I think is perfect) was apparently a lot more over the top than the original stage production, where Paul Douglass played Brock--as a more sympathetic, human guy.