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The Best Man (1964)

Approved  |   |  Drama  |  5 April 1964 (USA)
7.7
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Ratings: 7.7/10 from 1,997 users  
Reviews: 34 user | 23 critic

The two front runners for their party's Presidential nomination, one principled and the other ruthless, vie for the ex-President's endorsement.

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(as Franklin Schaffner)

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(screenplay)
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Title: The Best Man (1964)

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 1 win & 3 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
William Russell
...
Joe Cantwell
...
Mabel Cantwell
Margaret Leighton ...
Alice Russell
...
Sheldon Bascomb
...
President Art Hockstader
...
Sue Ellen Gamadge
Gene Raymond ...
Don Cantwell
...
Dick Jensen
...
Herself
...
Howard K. Smith
John Henry Faulk ...
Gov. T.T. Claypoole
...
Sen. Oscar Anderson
Penny Singleton ...
Mrs. Claypoole (scenes deleted)
George Kirgo ...
Speechwriter
Edit

Storyline

The other party is in disarray. Five men vie for the party nomination for president. No one has a majority as the first ballot closes and the front-runners begin to decide how badly they want the job. Written by John Vogel <jlvogel@comcast.net>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Does The Best Man Always Get To The White House?

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

5 April 1964 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Gore Vidal's The Best Man  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Film debut of George Furth. See more »

Goofs

Several times, stock footage of actual political rally doesn't match scenes shot especially for movie. In several shots, no one is sitting in upper seats of auditorium that are nonetheless packed in newsreel footage of same alleged event. See more »

Quotes

President Art Hockstader: There have been moments when I have questioned your methods.
Joe Cantwell: Well, you have to fight fire with fire, Mr. President.
President Art Hockstader: And the end justifies the means?
Joe Cantwell: Well, yes, sir. Yes. That is what I believe.
President Art Hockstader: Well, son, I have news for you about both politics and life... and may I say the two are exactly the same thing? There are no ends, Joe, only means...
See more »

Crazy Credits

During the opening credits, a picture of every single U.S. President appears in order, from George Washington to Lyndon Johnson. See more »

Connections

Referenced in What's My Line?: Episode dated 12 April 1964 (1964) See more »

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User Reviews

 
To Hell with both of you!
19 February 2006 | by (Van Buren, Arkansas) – See all my reviews

Gore Vidal was a TV fixture during the Vietnam War era using his wild wit to lay low conservatives such as William F. Buckley Jr. Vidal was also one of the most gifted and talented political playwrights of the period. "The Best Man" is one of his best works. Obviously Henry Fonda as Presidential hopeful William Russell represents the "egghead" Adlai Stevenson. Fonda even physically resembles Stevenson. Cliff Robertson as Presidential hopeful Joe Cantwell is a dead ringer for Richard Milhous Nixon. Ironically Robertson would use Hollywood politics to snatch the Oscar a few years later for "Charly."

There are several outstanding performances in this film. Fonda and Robertson have already been mentioned. Lee Tracy was deservedly nominated for an Oscar for best supporting actor for his performance as former President Art Hockstader who controls the nomination process at the party's national convention until cancer brings him down. This picture represented somewhat of a comeback for Tracy. While filming "Viva Villa!" in Mexico a drunk Tracy urinated from a balcony onto the heads of Mexican soldiers parading below leading to an international incident. It gave a whole new meaning to raining on someone's parade. Tracy, a truly distinguished actor, himself died of cancer a few years after "The Best Man" was released.

A few of the cast members noted for their comic talents give splendid dramatic readings. Shelley Berman plays a confused ex-soldier who accuses Joe Cantwell of having done a degenerate act while serving with him in the Aleutian Islands. Ann Sothern has the role of a busy body who thinks she's a king maker. Sexy Edie Adams (Ernie Kovac's widow) appears as Joe's wife hoping to be the future First Lady. And the great John Henry Faulk who was blacklisted in the 50's because of persons like Joe, fought and won, plays a corn pone Southern politician.

Don't miss the heavenly Mahalia Jackson, perhaps the best gospel singer of the 20th century, belting out an old spiritual at the opening of the convention. Her time on the screen is much too brief. Howard K. Smith doesn't have an acting problem since he plays himself but his appearance makes the convention seem more realistic. The entire cast makes a good showing. However, Kevin McCarthy is virtually wasted in the thankless role of Russell's campaign manager.

Gore Vidal writes with much wit and wisdom. There are subtle hints of humor from time to time that require the viewer's devout concentration. This is definitely not escapist type fare. The film analyzes American politics not just from the standpoint of 1960/64 but from the Republic's 200 plus year history. The revelations presented in "The Best Man" are just as true in the year 2006 and will be rerun to some extent during the Presidential conventions in the summer of 2008.

The ex-President Art Hockstader refers to the results of the convention as putting a king in the castle, a far cry from George Washington's views that being President was a civic duty. When asked if he should be called King, Washington replied, "No, Mr. President will do." We haven't had a Washington in the President's house since.


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