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Washington Story

Washington Story(1952)

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teaser Washington Story (1952)

Cynic sets out to smear young innocent only to fall in love - it was a plot right out of a Frank Capra movie, and in Washington Story (1952) it even shared the same setting as Capra's Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939). For MGM in 1952, however, it was a quiet way of making amends with a congress that was busy smearing Hollywood through the infamous Witch Hunts while also taking advantage of renewed interest in politics during a presidential election year.

Dore Schary, one of the most liberal of all studio heads, personally produced this slight romantic comedy. He even got one of his proteges, Robert Pirosh, to write and direct it. Pirosh had won an Oscar® for writing Schary's first big MGM project, the 1949 World War II drama, Battleground. Schary had promoted him to directing two years later for Go for Broke!, the story of Japanese-Americans fighting in World War II.

To star, Schary and Pirosh picked Van Johnson, star of both Battleground and Go for Broke!. Schary had spotted the former chorus boy and convinced MGM to put him under contract in 1942. With the start of World War II, Johnson became one of the studio's top male stars, playing boy-next-door types. He brought the same charm to his role as the liberal, innocent senator.

Leading lady Patricia Neal had already demonstrated the right combination of romance and hard-edged cynicism in films such as The Fountainhead (1949) and the stage production of Lillian Hellman's Another Part of the Forest, which brought her Broadway's first Tony Award. The independent star never really fit in with the studio system, and Washington Story would be her last Hollywood film for years. She later moved to New York, making only occasional film appearances until she seemingly came out of nowhere to win the Oscar® for Best Actress in Hud in 1963.

Lending the slight romantic tale an air of authenticity was cinematographer John Alton's location shooting in Washington. Alton had first attracted notice with his low-keyed lighting of such classic films noirs as He Walked by Night and T-Men (both 1948). He seemed a strange choice for the glamorous MGM, but fit well with the studio's growing realism after signing on there in 1950. He had no problem doing lush, romantic work, however, and even won an Oscar® for his first color film, An American in Paris in 1951.

Director: Robert Pirosh
Producer: Dore Schary
Screenplay: Robert Pirosh
Cinematography: John Alton
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Daniel B. Cathcart
Music: Conrad Salinger
Cast: Van Johnson (Joseph T. Gresham), Patricia Neal (Alice Kingsley), Louis Calhern (Charles W. Birch), Sidney Blackmer (Philip Emery), Philip Ober (Gilbert Nunnally), Patricia Collinge (Miss Galbreth), Elizabeth Patterson (Miss Dee).

by Frank Miller

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