Robert Leffingwell is the president's candidate for Secretary of State. Prior to his approval, he must first 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 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 even asks the president to withdraw Leffingwell for consideration, especially after the young senator begins receiving blackmail threats about a skeleton in his own closet. Written by
Daniel Bubbeo <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Senator Brigham Anderson of Utah is shown in his home drinking from a distinctive fluted Coca-Cola bottle. Anderson (from his first name and home state) may be a Mormon; the novel states this explicitly, but the film does not. 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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With the election of John F. Kennedy, in 1960, Hollywood took a heightened interest in politics, and the behind-the-scenes drama of lawmaking. Allen Drury's massive novel of wheeling and dealing, "Advise and Consent", was a natural choice for the big screen, and under the sure direction of legendary Otto Preminger, a classic 'political thriller' was born.
The premise, the nomination of a controversial new Secretary of State, and the actions of the President and Congress to help or hinder his approval, is still a remarkably timely issue, over forty years later, and it is surprising how little things have actually changed. With Henry Fonda as the nominee, you'd expect that he'd be the 'good guy' of the tale, but when he lies under oath (even for the best of reasons), Preminger makes it clear that in politics, as in life, there is little that can easily be divided into 'black' and 'white'.
Certainly, there are recognizable historic figures in the cast, under different names. The most obvious is skirt-chasing Sen. Lafe Smith, a thinly-disguised JFK, himself, who cut quite a social path prior to marrying Jackie (and afterward, too, as the years have revealed). That his real-life brother-in-law, Peter Lawford, plays the role, is a grand piece of 'tongue-in-cheek' casting (as is Gene Tierney, one of Kennedy's early 'conquests', as a Washington social maven). One character has become even more fascinating, since the film's release; wily South Carolina Sen. Seabright Cooley (a brilliant Charles Laughton, in his final role), was said to have been based on Illinois' legendary Everett Dirksen, but in a real-life parallel, South Carolina produced a 'real' Sea Cooley, in the amazing Strom Thurmond! The 'Who-Is-Who?' aspect aside, the film is populated with many fascinating characters, from wise and sympathetic Senate Majority Leader Robert Munson (Walter Pigeon, in one of his finest later roles), and his 'right-hand man', Senate Majority Whip Stanley Danta (Paul Ford, also wonderful), to the Minority opposition, headed by the perfectly-cast Will Geer. Women, who were finally achieving greater political status, aren't as well-conceived in the film, but are present, with Betty White(!) in a small but visible role.
The key 'players' of the drama, however, are the wily, dying President (screen veteran Franchot Tone, in a terrific 'comeback' role), the enigmatic Vice President (Lew Ayres, another screen legend making a 'comeback'), young, idealistic Sen. Brigham Anderson (Don Murray, who nearly steals the film in his tragic portrayal), and opportunistic Sen. Fred Van Ackerman (George Grizzard, as easily the film's most hiss-able villain!) As with all Preminger films, there is an element of controversy in the story, with homosexuality as the issue addressed. While later film historians have complained that the director fell back into an almost caricatured approach to the gay lifestyle, considering the era the film was produced, and the censorship restrictions of the time, to even mention it was a courageous move, and that Preminger kept this key plot element in the story should be applauded.
"Advise and Consent" may not be the kind of film that will appeal to everyone, but each time I hear Jerry Fielding's stirring opening theme, I find myself drawn back into this ever-fascinating world of Politics and Power, and I think, if you give it a chance, you'll be hooked by it, too! This one is a keeper!
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