Did you hear the one about the idealistic politician who learns he must sell his soul to the corrupt “machine” to secure support, and then, his conscience prodded as much as his libido by the disappointment of a good woman, he finally makes a speech that tells the truth and wins the girl? You’ve heard it if you’ve seen any number of Hollywood political comedies building up to the Big Speech. A very good example from the Depression is Thanks a Million starring Dick Powell. A smart, glossy example from the Clinton era is The American President. A blander example from the dawn of the 1950s is The Reformer and the Redhead, now available on demand from Warner Archive.
It opens with the sharpest satirical comment it’s going to make. An African guide fires a rifle at a lion. When it’s safe, a white man (Ray Collins) pokes his pith-helmeted head from the bushes, grabs the rifle, and rushes over to pose for the photo. His niece (Kathleen Freeman) does the same, and together they swindle a reputation as big game hunters. Back in the California town they control, their self-promotion crosses swords with the local zookeeper (Cecil Kellaway) and his daughter Kathleen (June Allyson), who despises those who hunt animals for sport. They lose their zoo jobs, so Kathleen applies to up-and-coming “reform candidate” Andy Hale (the same Dick Powell from the aforementioned Thanks a Million ) for support and eventual romance.