THE CAPITOL Hill newspaper Roll Call ran a fake full page advertisement Thursday for a new holiday season movie.
The copy says, "First there was 'The Magnificent Seven,' then 'The Dirty Dozen,' now the U.S. Senate in conjunction with the U.S. League of Savings Institutions presents a Constituent Services Inc. production of 'The Keating Five.' "
The casting, by Roll Call's Craig Winneker and others on the staff, is inspired. There's Ed Harris as John Glenn, of course. He played Glenn in "The Right Stuff." Tom Cruise plays John McCain. William Shatner is Don Riegle. Vincent Price plays Alan Cranston. Robert Duvall is Dennis DeConcini.
Ned Beatty plays Ethics Committee Chairman Howell Heflin. Jason Robards plays Co-Chairman Warren Rudman. Rod Steiger is Jesse Helms. John Candy plays committee counsel Robert Bennett.
Who plays Charles Keating in this movie? Well, as Associated Press writer Larry Margasack put it, "Would you believe Jimmy Stewart?"
I would, Larry, I would, and I'll tell you why.
The Wall Street Journal recently set eight experts down to watch the 1947 Jimmy Stewart Christmas classic "It's a Wonderful Life" (being seen all over television and on VCRs this month in the original black and white and in color).
It's the story of the small town Bailey Bros. Building & Loan managed by Jimmy. It gets in serious trouble when some cash deposits are lost. Disgraced and facing jail, Jimmy decides he's a failure and should commit suicide. He's talked out of it by an angel who tells him the townsfolk are better off because he practiced his kind of lending.
And what kind of lending was that? "If you get by all the warm and fuzzy stuff," one expert told the Journal, "you realize George Bailey [Jimmy Stewart] was a real speculator. He got into real estate development and granted mortgages with almost no down payments."
Sound familiar? How about this:
"George was clearly undercapitalized, and that got him in trouble," said another expert. Another said, "He got over-extended."
As for the time in the movie when George tells a bank examiner that his brother won the Medal of Honor and his mother was invited to the White House for a ceremony, another expert said, "He's clearly pulling a Keating, trying to influence the examiner with the friends-in-high-places routine."
(The Journal panel really got caught up in the movie. When a New York investor calls George inviting him to join him on some deals, one expert shouted, "Oh, no! It's a sleazy developer. Don't take the call, George!" To which another said, "Developer? Forget it. That's Michael Milken on the line. Hang up!'')
Anyway, yes, I can believe Jimmy Stewart as Charles Keating. Keating is just George Bailey updated from the idealistic Forties to the Reagan Eighties. Lincoln S&L was just the high-tech, large-scale, go-go, colorized version of Bailey Bros. B&L.