I saw at least the first half of this movie (but not all of it) somewhere around 1994 or 1995, on television. But it was all in black-and-white, so I feel reasonably confident that it was made no later than the 1950s. (Possibly earlier.) I would call it a political comedy. English language; set somewhere in the USA; presumably made by an American studio. The hero was a white guy; I think he had a round face and dark hair that was cut short, staying close to his skull, but I didn't recognize him at the time as any of the famous movie stars of yesteryear who were still very fondly remembered in the 1990s. (For instance, he definitely wasn't Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant, or Clark Gable.)

Here's what I remember about the characters, setting, and plot:

  1. Our Hero (as I call him for lack of a better name) is a sincere young lawyer who, along with his best friend and legal partner, is trying to build up a successful practice in his home town. Somehow, as the movie starts, he has gotten the idea (or it was suggested to him by other members of the community?) that he ought to run for mayor as a reformer.

  2. A note about the town: It didn't come across as being the sort of big city that had hundreds of thousands of inhabitants, and a bunch of skyscrapers in the downtown district, but it didn't seem to be the sort of small town where the adult residents were only numbered in the hundreds, and thus all knew each other's names from years of daily interaction, either. I estimate this town probably had a total population somewhere between, say, 10,000 and 50,000. (But I doubt anyone ever gave the exact figure.)

  3. Early on, there is a scene where Our Hero and his partner (who will be serving as campaign manager, I believe) are having a quiet meeting with one of the richest men in town. I think they are in this old man's house, and several of his influential friends from the local business community are also present. These men seem to be the very epitome of this town's version of The Establishment (at least within one of the major political parties). I can't recall anyone ever saying whether Our Hero was planning to run as a Republican or a Democrat. The general idea is that these men want to meet this eager young candidate, and discuss how he would run things if elected, so that they may gauge whether they can see their way clear to endorsing his candidacy, writing out generous donations for the campaign, etc. The implication is that he if says the right things, and thus these prominent citizens all support him to the hilt, his victory on Election Day is virtually guaranteed!

  4. But things get a little sticky when the host of the meeting hands a piece of paper to Our Hero and says matter-of-factly, "Here's a list of names. These are the men whom we will expect you to appoint to certain offices within your administration." Our Hero blinks, glances at the list, and then says something like this: "Excuse me, but I thought a Mayor got to make his own appointments." There's an awkward silence at this sign of profound naivete, and then his partner tries to smooth things over by saying, "Well, of course, you will be the one making all these appointments . . . . after you're elected!" But the candidate makes it clear that he doesn't want anyone's support on such terms, and the meeting breaks up, unsuccessfully. (You understand that I'm not quoting the dialogue word-for-word; I don't have that sort of memory; but that was the general substance of what was said that derailed any hope of a meeting of the minds.)

  5. I'm pretty sure that the rich old guy who had hosted this meeting was also the father of the nice girl whom Our Hero had recently been courting. As I recall, she continues to be a faithful supporter of the candidate even after his political falling-out with her daddy. (As does his partner, despite the partner being more cynical/realistic about the uphill battle they'll be fighting if the candidate insists upon such pure idealism instead of making promises to the local power structure as a matter of pragmatism.)

  6. The other scene that I remember particularly well comes later, when Our Hero is on a whirlwind speaking tour, saying nice things (on or near July Fourth, I think) at many consecutive meetings of ethnic associations within the town. German-Americans, Italian-Americans, etc. After we see a montage of him saying one or two nice things about the relevant nationality at each of several gatherings, the pace slows down to show him addressing what we know to be a gathering of the Finnish-American community of this town . . . but we quickly realize that Our Hero has completely forgotten which ethnic group he is addressing this time around! It becomes clear from the evidence that he vaguely remembers he is speaking to people from one of those countries located near the Baltic. I believe he says nice things about the achievements and cultural contributions of the brave people of Sweden, Denmark, Estonia, etc. -- pausing after each case of name-dropping, and anxiously watching the audience to see if they smile in approval. Finally, his girlfriend (the rich guy's daughter) manages to give him some sort of silent signal that puts the word "fin" into his head, and thus he concludes his speech by talking about how much the USA owes to the valiant efforts of the people who came here from dear old Finland. As soon as he mentions that nation, his entire audience applauds wildly; they'd just been waiting for him to get to that part!

I never saw the end of the movie, but I would like to do so. It appeared to be building up toward the stereotypical happy ending wherein Our Hero would win the election, marry the girl, and somehow be reconciled with his new father-in-law. Does anyone recognize it from my description?

  • 1
    Nice question. Though it's a bit obscure and I'm not really sure about this (since you seem to leave out the lion), see if this trailer to The Reformer and the Redhead with Dick Powell rings any bells. – Walt Jan 17 '17 at 1:57
  • I spent some time looking for detailed plot summaries online, and finally decided that yes, that must be the one I saw at least half of. (Even if I didn't remember anything about zookeepers or lions when I posed the question.) Why don't you make it an Answer so that I can formally accept it? – Lorendiac Jan 18 '17 at 4:17
  • OK, done. Glad you found it! – Walt Jan 18 '17 at 8:55

This seems to be the American B&W comedy The Reformer and the Redhead from 1950.

Hot-tempered Kathleen Maguire enlists the services of a young attorney to help her zookeeper father get his job back after he is fired for political reasons. In the midst of uncovering local political corruption and dealing with a lion that's escaped from the zoo, the two manage to fall in love.

It stars Dick Powell (who fits your description) as a man running for mayor and Powell's real-life wife June Allyson as his love interest. Indeed, if you only saw the first half, you must've missed the zoo plot, but there are various ethnic rallies, one of them is Finnish, and Dick's character forgets where he is. [BTW, one of the guests at the Finnish rally is an uncredited Tor Johnson!] Here's the trailer:

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