WASHINGTON STORY. MGM, 1952; Robert Pirosh, screenplay and direction; John Alton, cinematography; Patricia Neal, Van Johnson, Louis Calhern, William Self. Shown at Cinecon 41, September 2005.


   This attractive, if slight, MGM political drama was scheduled to showcase the talent of Patricia Neal, the convention’s featured guest, but it’s Louis Calhern, as a seasoned congressional representative and mentor of freshman representative Van Johnson, who walks off with the film with a scene in which he mimics several of his colleagues, a demonstration of acting technique that received an ovation from the audience.

   (The not very nimble interviewer “explained” to Miss Neal, and this came off as patronizing, that the audience reacted so strongly to Calhern’s scene in recognition of an old Cinecon favorite actor. Balderdash. We were applauding a scene-stealing star.)

   I don’t remember ever seeing the film, in which reporter Neal is interviewing Johnson for a story as he’s up for reelection, but it’s very engaging.


   Neal does a fine job in a not very demanding role, and Johnson surprised me with his command of his role. I never thought much of him as an actor.

   Neal’s most striking comment, in her interview after the screening, was that Gary Cooper was the “love of my life,” to which the interviewer (who should have kept his mouth shut) responded weakly that “we’re all great fans of Cooper.” I would like to think I wasn’t the only one who snickered at that.

   I was surprised at how small Neal is (she seems tall and rangy on-screen), but being in a wheelchair didn’t help. She’s clearly bright and very articulate, with an impressive memory of her career (with only some minor forgetting of names). A great actress and lady.