Robert Leffingwell is the president's nominee for Secretary of State. Prior to his approval, he must go through a Senate investigation to determine if he's qualified. Leading the Senate committee is idealistic Senator Brig Anderson, who soon finds himself unprepared for the opposition and political dirt that's revealed, including Leffingwell's past affiliations with a Communist organization. When Leffingwell testifies about his political leanings, he proves his innocence. Later, however, Anderson learns that he lied under oath and asks the president to withdraw Leffingwell from consideration, especially after the young senator and his wife begins receiving blackmail threats about a skeleton in his own closet.Written by
Daniel Bubbeo <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The film is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Allen Drury, who was a congressional correspondent for The New York Times during the 1950s, while he was writing the book. Nearly every character is based on a real person (Lafe Smith is based on John F. Kennedy; Orrin Knox is based on Robert A. Taft, Fred Van Ackerman is based on Joseph McCarthy and the president is modeled on Franklin D. Roosevelt). Even the blackmailing of Brig Anderson, and how it's resolved, is based on a real incident. And the Leffingwell nomination is based on the House Un-American Activities Committee investigation of Alger Hiss. See more »
Vice President Harley Hudson does not cast the tie-breaking vote on the Leffingwell nomination after he is informed of the president's death. Under the Constitution, the vice president immediately becomes assumes the presidency when the president dies. Therefore, he is no longer the presiding officer of the Senate and could not legally cast a tie-breaking vote. This mistake does not appear in the original novel. Also, a 50-50 vote is not a tie, but a "no" vote -- so Hudson would have had to break the vote to confirm the nomination. See more »
[a boy is selling newspapers outside the U.S. Capitol, with the headline "Leffingwell Picked for Secretary of State"]
[to a customer]
[taking change from Danta]
Good morning, senator... thank you.
[Danta gets into a taxicab]
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Also available in a computer colorized version. See more »
Although I had seen it when it first came out (I was 18) and again about about 6 months ago (Winter, 2004), this screening (May, 2005) was even more insightful.
It really has aged very well, and is, obviously, at least as relevant today as it was in 1962 --"realistic" in its depiction of the congressional situation in its own day, positively prescient in its relation to our own.
Fonda is good, but curiously second fiddle to the other, more subtle characters.
It's Walter Pigeon's best flick (by far), well cast as the Senate Majority Leader and he carries the role off with an almost Shakespearean aplomb.
Almost Charles Laughton's best (only because that's a very hard call), with his hopelessly crumpled white suit and hat, shufflin' gait, positively Irvinesque homespun witticisms and wonderful, drawling, contemptuous "Mis-ter Rob-ert A. Leff-in-well".
Might be Franchot Tone's best, as well, as the ailing, frail, chain-smoking president, a little bit too close to Life (filmed 6 years before he died of lung cancer).
Gene Tierney is very good as the D.C. socialite hostess "Dolly Harrison" --a character clearly based on Averill Harriman's wife Pamela or, as a type, a later Katherine Graham.
Definitely Peter Lawford's best film --which, admittedly, is not saying much, but he's very well cast as a rather dissolute, philandering Kennedyesque senator who is, nonetheless, not without his Qualities.
Lew Ayres' Casper Milquetoast "Vice President Harley M. Hudson" is an excellently wrought character, from his "bucket of warm spit" role as the impotent President of the Senate to the wonderful twist he gives it at the end, which expounds quite beautifully the subtleties and definitiveness of the Reality of Power.
The scenes of D.C. are positively nostalgic --imagine anyone being able to catch a cab to the capital and then walk right up the steps and go inside ; or an aged night-watchman making his rounds as *the* Security for the inside of the Senate building.
As are the various aspects of the underground "Gay Scene" in NYC with the wonderfully cast Larry Tucker, Jerry Fielding's fine music and "the voice of Frank Sinatra" (as credited). (Some might object to the "clichés" in these scenes, but, to me, those clichés are part and parcel of the ambiance of the period of the film and the culture it portrays and should be seen as such --rather like appreciating the overt racism in "Birth of a Nation" for what it is. I am glad that Preminger didn't "sanitize" his presentation of this matter, especially given the crucial nature of it to the plot of the film.)
But the contrast between the civility --albeit occasionally a rather raw one-- of the senate of circa 1960 and that of the present day is not nostalgic quite so much as it is just heart-rending ("The World We Have Lost"), and the roots of our present grotesque, take-no-prisoners congressional savagery are fully exposed in the intertwined plot lines of McCarthyesque ideological rigidity and homosexual blackmail.
All in all, a "Roman à Clef" to the political world of 1960's Washington, vividly relevant to our own time.
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