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The Candidate (1972)

Bill McKay is a candidate for the U.S. Senate from California. He has no hope of winning, so he is willing to tweak the establishment.

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Won 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Marvin Lucas
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John J. McKay
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Senator Crocker Jarmon
...
Klein
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Nancy McKay
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Rick Jenkin (as Quinn Redeker)
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Wally Henderson
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Paul Corliss
...
Floyd J. Starkey
Christopher Pray ...
David (as Chris Prey)
Joe Miksak ...
Neil Atkinson
Jenny Sullivan ...
Lynn
Tom Dahlgren ...
Pilot
Gerald Hiken ...
Station Manager
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Storyline

Californian lawyer Bill McKay fights for the little man. His charisma and integrity get him noticed by the Democratic Party machine and he is persuaded to run for the Senate against an apparently unassailable incumbent. It's agreed he can handle it his own way, on his own terms. But once he's in the race and his prospects begin to improve, the deal starts to change. Written by Jeremy Perkins <jwp@aber.ac.uk>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Too Handsome. Too Young. Too Liberal. Doesn't have a chance. He's PERFECT! See more »

Genres:

Comedy | Drama

Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

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Details

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Release Date:

11 August 1972 (Ireland)  »

Also Known As:

El candidato  »

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Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Scriptwriter Jeremy Larner used to write political speeches for 1968 Presidential candidate, Eugene McCarthy. See more »

Goofs

The red convertible driven by Marvin Lucas (Peter Boyle) has three different license plates during the opening credits: "677 EIY", "185 ENV", and "772 DYD". All are from the 1972 era in California. See more »

Quotes

Lucas: You're the Democratic nominee!
Bill McKay: You make it sound like a death sentence.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Wonder Years: The Candidate (1991) See more »

Soundtracks

A Better Way
Music by John Rubinstein
Lyrics by David Colloff
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User Reviews

Not bad
15 April 2004 | by (Deming, New Mexico, USA) – See all my reviews

Michael Ritchie seems to have this thing for competition -- whether downhill racing, body building, water skiing, or, as here, politics. This isn't my favorite human motive, besting other people, so this one comes as a rather pleasant surprise, laden as it is with more social and political content than the with the details of the quest. I mean -- Redford doesn't even want the office!

"The Candidate" has the appearance of a made-for-TV movie. The credits are presented simply, as in a TV movies. There is no underscore but the music that we hear consists of marches with lots of drums and sometimes one or two instruments hitting clinkers, as they would on a bandstand behind a speaker.

The photography is highly colored and flat, as in a TV movie. Everybody seems to be dressed in suits or riding costumes. They look overly made up, freshly preened and pruned. They drive big new American cars and live in splendidly arid modern homes. In short they appear to lead the kind of lives to which naive screenwriters aspire.

That out of the way, this is a pretty brave movie. It's a story of an innocent and blunt lawyer who become progressively corrupted during the campaign as victory seems more nearly in his grasp and the grasp of his managers. They 86 his sideburns and give him a haircut and put him in expensive suits. Girls love him because he displays such, well, such Robert Redfordness. One guy belts him in the mouth at a rally and I can understand why. All men as handsome as Robert Redford should be illegal.

But he does a decent job in his minimal way. His forte lies in little moves, as when he cocks his head and says quizzically, "Eh"? Everybody else is quite good too, though his wife is mostly decorative. Peter Boyle is fine, and Allan Garfinkle is always believable as a cynical scuzz.

You have to admire the way the script does not spare Redford's character. He may be an idealist at first. What does he think of abortion? "I'm for it." How about property taxes. "I don't know." By the end of the movie he's learned fluent politicospeak. How's he feel about busing? "You can't solve the problems of this country with a bus." (Right.) He knows that he's selling himself out but he wants to WIN.

As the campaign gets into high gear he's late for a meeting with a labor leader, a grizzled Kenneth Toby given to smoking pinched little cigarettes. Everybody in the room is wondering where Redford is, and how he can treat an important man like Toby with such disrespect. And where is he? We see the door to a hotel room open and there emerges a girl so gorgeous that if she were an escort instead of a groupie she'd be extremely expensive. A few seconds later Redford comes out buttoning his jacket.

Nothing much is made of this incident. Boyle watches this parade in the hallway, staring after the girl, but nobody says anything and the scene lasts for only a few seconds. And here is where Ritchie and the writers earn my respect. Think of how easily this very effective scene could have been demolished. Boyle stopping the groupie and demanding to know what's been going on. Boyle admonishing Redford for cheating on his wife -- "If this ever gets out our goose is cooked!" Redford protesting that his private life is his own business.

But none of this happens. Not in this scene or in any of the others in which a piece of character is revealed. Ritchie trusts in the perspicacity of the viewer. He shows us, because he doesn't have to tell us. He figures we're smart enough to pick up this clues by ourselves. Thank you, Mister Ritchie.

We should be grateful to the writer as well, and to Redford's improvisational talents, when, alone in a car's rear seat, half crazed, he mangles the stump speech he's given a thousand times and comes up with a hilarious parody: "The basic indifference that made this country great."

Also admirable is that the movie deals with specific issues -- abortion, busing, unemployment, fire hazard, health concerns -- and Redford is the Democratic candidate while Don Porter is the Republican candidate (imagine actually NAMING the political parties and risking losing half the audience).

Porter comes across like an actor, an old ham of an actor, which suits the part. He's smooth and wily at seducing the public, a kind of Don Juan of the political arena. Ritchie has taken some real chances here. Porter comes up with something like, "Oh, sure, when I was a kid we were all poor too. Why some of us didn't even have our own SOCIAL WORKER."

It took guts to make this movie. And talent to make it so well.


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