Blagojevich At The Movies: A Hero In His Own Epic The Illinois governor has taken to using movie quotes to make the case that he's being railroaded in the ongoing corruption case brought against him back in December. Bob Mondello takes stock of the footage.
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Blagojevich At The Movies: A Hero In His Own Epic

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Blagojevich At The Movies: A Hero In His Own Epic

Blagojevich At The Movies: A Hero In His Own Epic

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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BOB MONDELLO: Man, what I wouldn't give for a peek at the list of movies on Rod Blagojevich's Netflix queue.


Our film critic Bob Mondello.

MONDELLO: Since being arrested last month, the governor's been tossing around Hollywood references like a film critic on a bender, each reference tailored to his own story.

Governor ROB BLAGOJEVICH (Democrat, Illinois): I like old movies and I like old cowboy movies. And I want to explain how these rules work in a more understandable way.

MONDELLO: That would be the rules of impeachment.

Governor BLAGOJEVICH: There was a cowboy who was charged with stealing a horse in town. And some of the other cowboys, especially the guy whose horse was stolen, were very unhappy with that guy. And one of the cowboys said, let's hang him, and the other cowboy said, hold on. Before we hang him, let's first give him a fair trial.

(Soundbite of movie "Silverado")

Mr. BRIAN DENNEHY: (As Sheriff Cobb) And we're going to give you a fair trial followed by a first class hanging. Or you could ride out of here before dawn.

MONDELLO: That, says Blagojevich, is essentially what the state Senate is telling him, and he's not riding out of here until he's had his say. For the having-his-say part, he has another cinematic image in mind, as he told WLS Radio's Don Wade and Roma.

(Soundbite of WLS Radio interview)

Governor BLAGOJEVICH: This is a 21st century Frank Capra movie. You know those old black-and-white movies...

Mr. DON WADE (WLS Radio): Sure.

Governor BLAGOJEVICH: ...from the '30s and '40s, how the good guy was up against the establishment, and yet they tried to make him look like he had violated rules.

(Soundbite of movie "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington")

Mr. JAMES STEWART: (As Jefferson Smith) Well, I guess the gentlemen are in a pretty tall hurry to get me out here. The way the evidence has piled up against me, I can't say I blame them much. And I'm quite willing to go, sir, when they've voted that way. But before that happens, I've got a few things I want to say to this body.

MONDELLO: Heroic casting, Jimmy Stewart. And again it would be hard to come up with a clearer image than "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," which has not kept the governor from trying. Earlier this month when reporters caught up with him during a morning run, he likened his situation to the Alan Sillitoe story "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner" about an authority-defying teenager.

(Soundbite of movie "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner")

Mr. TOM COURTENAY: (As Colin Smith) They'll have to stick a rope around my neck. That's a job they don't mind doing.

MONDELLO: This reference, though, is a little trickier than the others. The lonely long distance runner is a convicted criminal running marathons in reform school. And while the governor's point was that he would go the distance to defend his reputation, in the story the runner does not go the distance. But, never mind, it's British and from the 1950s - who's going to know that? Actually, one movie that maybe should have been on the governor's list apparently wasn't. If he'd seen "The Great McGinty" recently, he would have been much more circumspect about selling President Obama's old Senate seat. As the great Preston Sturges makes clear, McGinty knew how to cut an underhanded deal without ever mentioning money. All he needed was the right photo on the wall of, say, a baseball stadium.

(Soundbite of movie "The Great McGinty")

Mr. BRIAN DONLEVY: (As Daniel 'Dan' McGinty) How many people do you think there are in that photograph?

Mr. THURSTON HALL: (As Mr. Maxwell) Ten thousand.

Mr. DONLEVY: (As Daniel 'Dan' McGinty) Guess again.

Mr. HALL: (As Mr. Maxwell) Twenty thousand.

Mr. DONLEVY: (As Daniel 'Dan' McGinty) You're not even warm, Mr. Maxwell.

Mr. HALL: (As Mr. Maxwell) Well…

MONDELLO: And Mr. Maxwell realizes they're talking payoff money, not people.

(Soundbite of movie "The Great McGinty")

Mr. HALL: (As Mr. Maxwell) You mean it's more like 40,000?

Mr. DONLEVY: (As Daniel 'Dan' McGinty) That's more like it, but that ain't it.

Mr. HALL: (As Mr. Maxwell) Fifty thousand?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DONLEVY: (As Daniel 'Dan' McGinty) There was 75,000 people in that stadium. Ain't that wonderful?

MONDELLO: A federal prosecutor could have been right in the room and not have proved a thing. Of course, "The Great McGinty" is more likely to be in the Netflix queue of Governor Blagojevich's critics. So, let's grant him the casting he likes better - Jimmy Stewart, standing up to the elected mob as Mr. Smith.

Governor BLAGOJEVICH: I've been a congressman. I've been a governor of the fifth largest state. That movie is not inaccurate. That's what my story is. It's a Frank Capra movie.

(Soundbite of movie "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington")

Mr. JAMES STEWART (As Jefferson Smith): You all think I'm licked. Well, I'm not licked. And I'm gonna stay right here and fight for this lost cause even if this room gets filled with lies like these. Somebody'll listen to me.

MONDELLO: In the movie, you don't find out where there's somebody does listen to him until the last minute of the last reel. And the governor, in real life, well, we're not quite there yet. I'm Bob Mondello.

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