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Although George Raft plays the title role in Mr. Ace, the film such as
it is really belongs to Sylvia Sidney as the ambitious Congresswoman
who wants to become her state's first female governor. The Mr. Ace of
the title is Eddie Ace, noted political boss in the state whose backing
In fact two female governors had already been elected in the USA at the point in time Mr. Ace was made, Nellie Tayloe Ross in Wyoming and Miriam Ferguson in Texas. The script makes reference to both these ladies and to the 29 members of the House of Representatives that had been elected up to that point. It had been done before, but it was still a relatively new phenomenon.
For a smart political boss Raft sure gets his hormones involved in his decision making. His problem with Sidney is that she's tough and independent minded and won't take his orders or anything else from him. Raft's decision making is not coming from his head, that's for sure.
Sidney is also fighting an attraction to Raft as well even though she's married to Alan Edwards albeit they are estranged and do divorce during the film.
There's a whole lot of maneuvering done and at times it's more hormone driven than politically driven. These are supposed to be professional people you know.
Roman Bohnen plays Sidney's former political science professor and mentor in her younger days. He still appeals to the better angels of her nature. Sidney has two political operatives in Jerome Cowan and Sara Haden who do her bidding. Watch Haden's performance, a very understated one with definite lesbian undertones.
Sid Silvers is Raft's factotum and Stanley Ridges his rival within his own organization who Sidney successfully subverts for a while.
The emphasis of this film should have been on Sidney rather than Raft. Her's is the real story here and Mr. Ace would have been a better film had it been entitled Mrs. Chase.
Sidney's name in the film is Margaret Chase and in 1948 one Margaret Chase Smith won election to the United States Senate to become the first woman elected in her own right to that body without having been appointed by the state governor to fill a vacancy.
Mr. Ace does have its moments and one might want to view it just to see how things have so changed for women in politics.
This is an undervalued little political drama from an era when politics
on the big screen suddenly became popular. While so many such films are
based on saccharine preaching or play cute with the "women in politics"
theme, there's not an ounce of sugar here.
Ambitious socialite congresswoman Margaret Chase (Sylvia Sidney) seeks the governor's office, and knows exactly how to use the crooked political system (and even her estranged husband) to get there. One thing she needs is the endorsement of the nefarious Tomahawk Club and its top dog, Mr. Ace (George Raft). Like any seasoned politician with more aspirations than ethics, she has no qualms with buddying up to the shady characters. Ace toys with her but is not one to be manipulated. Watch him watch her as he introduces her to his "friends" as if waiting for her to exhibit the same hypocritical benevolence of any male politician trying to curry favor - and she does. The passionate moral compass of the story is her former professor, Joshua Adams, who (for reasons that differ from Ace's) does not want her to be governor. There is a portrait of modern politics as Margaret believes she and Adams are manipulating Ace when in fact Ace and Adams are conspiring against her.
The script by Fred Finklehoff shows great restraint. We get only as much backstory as we absolutely need. The people are human; nobody is an innocent angel and no political bad guy is cackling into his cloak. As in real politics, everyone is trying to manipulate everyone else. Even in "romancing" each other, Margaret Chase and Eddie Ace are actually testing each other's political wills. No hearts and flowers here. This is a romance of black coffee and hard-boiled eggs.
And how refreshing to see actors of a "certain age" actually acting their ages. Sidney is a mature, dynamic woman, and gets to play one. Being attracted to Mr. Ace does not turn Margaret into a brainless flit, nor does Ace let the attraction drown his cynicism. She's more than willing to use backhanded tactics to get around him politically, and he responds by turning the system against her. Only then does she have a change of heart about the entire campaign. And only her obvious change of heart allows Ace to rethink his own motives.
Take note of Roman Bohnen as Prof. Adams. Amid all the professional politicians and their cold-blooded calculations he is the emotional voice of infuriated idealism. This same year ('46) Bohnen also appeared in the brilliant "The Best Years of Our Lives" as a completely different sort of character (Dana Andrews' soft-spoken, alcoholic father). He's simply remarkable.
"Mr. Ace" was the third of a trilogy of films Raft and Sidney did together. "Pick-Up" brought them together in the early '30s, "You and Me" in the late '30s, and then "Mr. Ace." Their natural chemistry ages like fine wine.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
George Raft plays Eddie Ace, head of the state's Tomahawk Club. Ace is
a behind-the-scenes political fixer, a man who can deliver votes.
Nowadays he'd be seen as a cross between a machine boss, a lobbyist and
a political consultant, but without the body odor of the last two.
Sylvia Sidney plays Margaret Wyndham Chase, a glamorous, spoiled society dame with three names. Chase is a wealthy, ambitious Congresswoman with ice water in her veins who now intends to be elected governor. "I know what I want and I'm going to get it," she says. We believe her.
When Margaret Wyndham Chase meets Mr. Ace in this political romance, the sparks will fly, the tears will flow and a woman will learn her place even if she makes it to the governor's mansion. Chase wants Ace's support for her campaign to win the party's nomination. She knows he's essential because he can mobilize his machine to deliver the convention votes she needs. She has manipulated her husband in their loveless marriage, cozied up to newspaper publishers and fat cats and, being a beautiful woman, has never hesitated to use her charm to win over men with power. She thinks Ace will not be a problem. She's wrong.
"Well, are you going to support my nomination?" she asks him after a cozy dinner, dancing at a posh nightclub and an evening at her country home. "No," Ace says. "You're not? Why?" "Because beautiful women don't belong in politics," Ace tells her. "Where do they belong?" "Where do you think?"
I'm probably one of the few people around who enjoys Mr. Ace. The movie was made when Raft's career was on the downslide. He was no actor, which he proved in all of his movies, including this one. Sidney was a fine actress with great big eyes and a memorable face, but she, too, had seen her career begin to contract after some first-class roles in the Thirties. The problem with Mr. Ace, from my point of view, however, is not Raft. The first 30 minutes of the movie are spent establishing our three-named heroine as such an unlikable, power- hungry, ambitious politician that I became impatient watching. It's difficult later to accept her as a woman who has learned her lesson, much less like her. Sidney makes it work, but those first 30 minutes are a bore.
Then there is the lesson she learns. Mr. Ace, while a movie of its time, seems to hit harder than it needs the old saw about a woman who loses her femininity if she chooses to play at men's' games, and can be redeemed only by a man's love. Chase comes to her senses only after we have to listen to Sidney give us this bit of male-written insight. "A woman can be clever and shrewd. She can think brains more important than heart because she feels above everything else. Some little thing may happen...an ash may grow too long on a cigarette...a man may look too long in her eyes...suddenly everything collapses...she's afraid..."
Still, all the political shenanigans the movie shows us are fun. I've always liked Sylvia Sidney and she does a fine job here. Playing against Raft must have been a challenge, but she makes the chemistry look interesting. And -- I'll admit it -- I'm a sucker for George Raft. As wooden as he is, he still has that indefinable movie presence that makes him, for me, at least, watchable. I think some of his unexpected success in the movies is because, while he looks like a believable, emotionless tough guy, he also seems to be the kind of guy you'd like on your side. I can't explain it, but I enjoy watching him in most of his movies, even the bad ones...perhaps the bad ones most of all.
If you can get past the initial unlikeability of the heroine and the inherent sexism of the plot, give Mr. Ace a try. Just don't read the reviews first. (And is the movie worth seven stars? Objectively, no. But if you like Raft and behind-the-scenes political maneuvering...why not?)
Women in politics weren't common in 1947 when this came out. Therefore,
this was a surprisingly straight forward look at the theme with an
ambitious socialite who's no sweet "goody goody". I do agree with the
reviewer who would have liked more emphasis on Sylvia Sidney and her
campaign and less on George Raft and the inevitable romance.
And so this is disappointingly mediocre, not going where it could have gone. Even so, it's an interesting film to watch, especially in this age. And actually, I believe that it stands as a better "woman in politics" movie than most with the theme. Don't expect a gangster movie although Raft naturally is close to being one in this.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A successful woman congressman (Sylvia Sidney) finds herself on the
road to state governor, yet blocked by the manipulations of a sinister
adviser (George Raft). She's involved in scandal thanks to a loveless
marriage and the supposed affair she has with Raft that she claims is a
lie in order for Raft to maintain control over her. The performance of
Sylvia Sidney is what makes this an interesting political thriller, one
of the few films of Hollywood's golden age to desk with women with
political clout. Raft, however, isn't as lucky.
For one thing, his character seems to be almost mystical, of course in an evil way, and doesn't really have a we rounded, full drawn out character. Sidney, not regularly making films anymore after returning to the stage, is still quite lovely, almost exotic looking, and it's a far cry from the waifs she played on screen during the depression, and certainly not close to the old biddies she began playing only a few years later on TV and in occasional film roles. Supporting performances by Sara Haden and Stanley Ridges are excellent.
This really could have been a powerful commentary on politics as seen through the woman's angle, much like the classics "State of the Union" and "All the Kings Men", and obscure sleepers like "Alias Nick Beal" and "The Magnificent Yankee". But some bizarre unbelievable twists make this fall apart in the last quarter. It is a sign, however, of hopes in the independent film industry that strong roles for women went far beyond wives, mothers, nurses and secretaries. Sidney's great performance makes this a notch above what it could have been.
Margaret Wyndom Chase (Sylvia Sidney) is a hard-driven Congresswoman
who is bent on becoming her state's next governor. She is a tough dame
and seems willing to jump into the pig sty that is politics to get
elected. However, one of the movers and shakers in the state, Eddie Ace
(George Raft) has decided not only not to help her but work against her
because of his brilliant and modern thinking that 'a pretty woman has
no place in politics'!! But after he does what he can to sink her
candidacy, Eddie inexplicably helps her with a second
chance...presumably because he's suddenly developed a conscience!
Considering that he's supposed to be a hard-bitten and rather amoral
man, this is utterly preposterous...severely undermining the film.
George Raft is relatively wooden (as usual) and Sidney and the rest are reasonably good. But the huge plot problem I mentioned above does a lot to hurt the film. I honestly think the film could have worked very well if they'd removed the leading character (Eddie Ace) from the film!! The notion of a woman fighting for respect and acceptance in politics in the 1940s would have been really interesting.
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