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Freudian slip.
rmax30482328 January 2001
They must have had a very good time in the old town when they shot this movie in the late 1950s. Ford's best movies were behind him, but he's gathered a cast of old character actors, enough to have a genuine party, with Ford sobbing in his beer about how the old days are gone forever. O.Z. Whitehead, Edwin Brophy, Basil Rathbone, Donald Crisp, Jane Darwell, Jeff Hunter, Carlton Smith? Some of the names escape me.

Ford's Irishness goes over the top in his puncturing of the WASPS who were his opponents in old Boston. (I suppose Spencer Tracy is supposed to be Mayor James Curley -- as in the campaign jingle, "Vote early and often for Curley.") The movie drips with sentiment and a sense of loss for a more innocent time -- before TV ads. One of the best lines in the movie is when Basil Ruysdael as the Protestant Bishop brings Tracy up short by asking him frankly, "Aren't you being a little TOO Irish?"

The novel was a bit better, as most novels are compared to their transformative expression in film, if only because there is time and space enough for the characters and the story can be more fully developed. The focus of course is on the mayor, a lovable rogue. The last line in the novel is from an admirer, "He was a grand man altogether."

For what it's worth, the political agenda is built around the substory of two political enemies, Tracy and Rathbone (the latter made into a former member of the KKK in case we didn't get the point otherwise) and their sons, each of them failures. Tracy's son is a ne'er-do-well whose only interest is new cars and women and who assures Tracy, "Ah, you'll win, Pop. You always do." Rathbone's son (Whitehead) is a rich dull bulb who is easily manipulated into making a fool of himself so that Tracy can blackmail Rathbone. Whitehead is given a lisp to make him as silly as possible. "Do you do much sailing?" "Oh, yeth. Printhicipally on my thloop."

In the early scene in Skeffington's office we see a row of old photos of bearded men hanging on the wall behind his desk. Prominent among them is probably the best known portrait ever published of Sigmund Freud, taken about 1912. Maybe the prop master recognized it subconsciously for what it was and sensed that it was a photo of a prominent-enough figure to be worth displaying in the Mayor's office. This is known as a Freudian slip.
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the spirit, but not the fact
bkoganbing31 March 2004
John Ford certainly does capture the spirit of how James Michael Curley would like to have been remembered. It's how he wrote his memoirs and how Edwin O'Connor wrote that brilliant piece of fiction.

Curley was a demagogue par excellence. He played ethnic politics to the hilt. He served one term as governor of Massachusetts and that term was noted for an outrageous scandal in which pardons were sold to prisoners who could cough up the money. And he was always the victim of those nasty Yankee patriarchs.

Spencer Tracy does a great job in cleaning up the Curley image and the rest of the cast is fine. I would like to call attention to two actors who typified the cultural divide that James Michael Curley never attempted to bridge in his lifetime, unlike in this film.

Willis Bouchey playing Roger Sugrue, disparagingly referred to as the Papal Knight, is this rabidly bigoted Roman Catholic who is forever finding fault with the rest of humanity and criticizing those of his fellow Catholics who are not as good as he. He nearly has a stroke after seeing a Monsignor played by Ken Curtis on TV playing golf with a rabbi. No wonder Donald Crisp playing the Cardinal refers to him as "that horrible man, Roger Sugrue."

And the other side of the coin is John Carradine playing Amos Force the descendant of old line Puritans who is as bigoted in his way as Roger Sugrue is in his. It's alluded to that back in the 1920s Carradine was in the Ku Klux Klan and you can believe it from Carradine's portrayal.

Bouchey and Carradine are the two best in a cast that is saturated with John Ford favorites. As a lesson in respect for diversity, The Last Hurrah has a lot to say. History it's not though.
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Somehow, Ford has managed to make a film that is BOTH cynical and sentimental
planktonrules29 November 2006
John Ford's version of the book, THE LAST HURRAH, is a behind the scenes look at one last election campaign for an aging mayor (Skeffington) of a town whose name is never mentioned in the film. In many ways, the film is a bit cynical as it showed the way that politicians wheel and deal and manipulate--but in this case, always for a good cause. While Skeffington is definitely not above using these questionable tactics, at the same time, he is shown as fundamentally decent and very, very sentimental--with a true love for his constituents. This is a very difficult balancing act for the film--combining gritty realism with sentimentality, but it manages to do so.

In many ways, this is highly reminiscent of the real life Ford, as he was by many accounts a highly manipulative son of a,.....well, you know what I was going to say. Yet, at the same time, sentimentality abounds in his films like no other film maker. You can see it here in his liberal use of old and almost forgotten supporting stars--such as Eddie Brophy, Frank McHugh and Jane Darwell.

Overall, the film is very interesting and manipulative (in a good way), as you find yourself pulling for Skeffington and feeling his pain as well--even though he is a fictional character AND a politician! The film is well worth seeing and the film is extremely well-acted and directed.
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classic Spencer Tracy
didi-520 January 2007
Tracy plays Irish-American Frank Skeffington, an old hand re-seeking political office for one last time, with dreams of helping the slums along, and, along with his cronies, leading the victory parade on St Patrick's Day. Will he make it? 'The Last Hurrah' is a tour-de-force, with John Ford's sharp direction, and several old timers making an appearance, such as Basil Rathbone as one of Tracy's more vehement opponents. Tracy of course is as excellent as ever, and there are some nice scenes between him and Jeffrey Hunter (playing his nephew).

Whether showcasing the camaraderie between Skeffington and his supporters, or giving the viewer a masterclass in acting, 'The Last Hurrah' cannot really be faulted. Even if the last half-hour of the film is a bit cloying, Tracy's last line is on target and raises a smile as the end card comes up.

Incidentally, this film was made in 1958, a time when black and white films mixed with those in colour to no-one's detriment. It would be interesting to see if a similar subject would come across as well today, in colour. It makes one long for the return of black and white for some genres.
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zetes31 July 2001
Never have I seen a film which is so terrible on the one hand, yet so watchable on the other. I was bothered to no end, but I was actually touched at the film's end. This fierce split in my opinion is easy to explain, however. The script of The Last Hurrah is one of the worst ever written. That's shocking considering the man who wrote it and the man who directed it, Frank S. Nugent and John Ford respectively, created many great movies together, including The Searchers and Mister Roberts. I say that the script is awful because of two main reasons, and they are huge reasons:

1) It is very unfocused. What is its point? Is it an in-depth political expose, a character study, or a melodrama? These categories are not mutually exclusive, but you wouldn't know that by watching The Last Hurrah. It goes from one of them to the next without ever mixing two. Shouldn't the role and relationship of Adam, the mayor's nephew, be more clearly defined? 2) all supporting characters, every single one of them, is a sit-com level caricature from Ditto to Junior (and especially Ditto and Junior). There are clear good guys, and clear bad guys. They might as well all be wearing black or white ten gallon hats so that we can discern who is who more quickly.

Really, there is only one pro, but, to be sure, this pro makes the movie totally worth watching: Spencer Tracy. Man, is he great in this film. His character, Frank Skeffington, is really not much less of a caricature than the rest of them, but Tracy imbues him with so much life and personality that he becomes very endearing. To judge only by the script, I should not have cared what was going on at all, yet Tracy made me care, deeply, at times. Up until tonight, I always bragged in a jokey manner that, despite my having seen over 1,200 films, films from every decade, every genre, every period of America films, not to mention a plethora of foreign ones, I had never, ever seen a movie with Spencer Tracy. Maybe it wasn't so much a brag as it was an oddity. Now I can safely brag that I have seen him act, and that he was one of the greatest. I cannot afford to put him off any longer, one who so amazingly saved such a train wreck of a movie, The Last Hurrah. 7/10.
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The Last Harrumph
I didn't get a Harrumph out of that guy!! That's because he died of boredom.

Like most of John Ford's over-rated ouvre, this movie is dull, earnest, stiff and a scrubbed-white version of America that never existed at any time except in Hollywood's imagination.

It's as static as a stage play. And if you'd seen it staged in a theatre you'd be grumbling that your wife dragged you to something do boring. And then you'd be snoring.

It's almost comical to think how highly regarded Ford was - and probably still is - considering none of this movies hold up to scrutiny all these decades later. I don't think he ever took a single chance in his entire career.
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Partially true story made exceptional by wonderful character actrs including Spencer Tracy
bettiem29 December 1998
I was 10 years out of a college in the Boston area when this movie came out, and we remembered Mayor Curley of Boston, a brilliant orator, a charming Irish rogue whom everyone - or almost everyone - found fascinating, even when he was in prison. This story, reduced to specific wonderful vignettes of Mayor "Skeffington's" last election and defeat is admirably played by a group of great character actors of the time. Many faces are hauntingly familiar. Tracy, already old, is superb. I consider this one of his greatest and most convincing roles. Slightly dated now, in black and white without the technical tricks we accept in our time, the plain story is sufficient to hold our attention, make us laugh and make us cry. Watching it now, we feel nostalgia for a simpler time, but realize that some things taking place in politics haven't changed that much. Cheers for Spencer Tracy. Cast your vote for "Skeffington" even though the name is not Irish, and "Irish"is the story.
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Should Have Been Better
Michael_Elliott27 March 2008
Last Hurrah, The (1958)

** 1/2 (out of 4)

Spencer Tracy plays a Mayor who is running for office for perhaps the last time and he invites his nephew (Jeffrey Hunter) along to see how a campaign is run. I must admit that I was pretty letdown with this film considering the talent involved. When you have Ford directing actors such as Tracy and Hunter then I expected a lot more than what was actually delivered. The supporting cast contains brilliant actors such as John Carradine, Basil Rathbone, Dianne Foster, Pat O'Brien, Wallace Ford, Donald Crisp, Ricardo Cortez and Frank McHugh. There are signs a greatness throughout this film but they're often followed up with overly talky scenes that just drag on for no reason at all. Ford is trying to make all sorts of points about the political game but when he speaks these points he just keeps on and on. There's a scene inside a funeral that has political motivations behind it and this scene is the perfect example of a message being beaten to death and dragged down into boredom. There are several great sequences including one where Tracy blackmails Rathbone into doing some good for the city and there's another great scene when Tracy busts in on some bank managers who are using race to work against him. Tracy is good in his role but I don't think this is among his best performances. Hunter delivers a nice performance as well but I found his role to be rather underwritten. I think Carradine steals the film as the racist newspaper editor who holds a grudge against Tracy. All in all, this is an interesting movie but I don't think it takes off the way it should have and considering the talent involved, the movie should have been much better.
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"The lesser of two evils"...
moonspinner5514 January 2012
John Ford produced and directed this well-cast but overlong, cumbersome and set-bound political melodrama, adapted from Edwin O'Connor's novel by Frank Nugent. Spencer Tracy is the over-confident New England mayor who resorts to dirty tricks in order to get re-elected, while his competitors come off like rubes with little experience. Some of the intentional humors--such as a banker with a pronounced lisp or a politician's wife caught off-guard for a television interview--are awfully broad for such a stately film, and many of the supporting bits are curiously over-played (as if Ford wasn't sure what tone to aim for). Tracy's innate professionalism and sincerity as a performer makes the picture worth-watching for his admirers, yet the Columbia studio-sets look artificial and the suburban surroundings (more California than New England) are barely exploited for their satirical possibilities. Remade as a TV-movie in 1977. ** from ****
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Silly and Sentimental Warning: Spoilers
John Ford directed a lot of good movies in his time, but even his best movies were flawed by his penchant for scenes that are corny and silly. He probably thought of those scenes as providing comic relief, but none of them ever made me laugh. Instead, they usually made me wince. This movie is no exception. In fact, it has an excessive amount of such silliness.

Also in excess is the sentiment. Frank Skeffington is running for a fifth term as mayor, and he is an old-style Irish politician who uses political muscle to do good things for the people of the city, especially those who are needy. After a while, we begin to wish for some hint of corruption, that maybe he lined his pockets once in a while. But this is not a subtle movie, where characters have both good and bad traits. The characterizations are simplistic and there are no deviations from type.

There are flaws in Frank's character actually, but they don't count because the movie doesn't want us to think of them that way. For example, when we first meet Frank's son, Junior, he is portrayed as a worthless playboy who cares so little for his father that he did not watch his father's speech on television, but rather was out on the town with a couple of beautiful women. Frank is disappointed with his son's lack of interest in his campaign, and the movie wants us to be disappointed with Junior too. And just to help us out, Junior is played by Arthur Walsh, a dorky-looking actor. But there is no reason why Junior should be interested in politics. He has his own interests and is entitled to live his life the way he wants. Frank is in the wrong for thinking his son has an obligation to be interested in what his father does for a living.

As a substitute, there is Frank's nephew, Adam, who is the son Frank wishes he had, someone who is willing to follow him around and listen to his speeches. And just to make sure we regard this as admirable, Adam is played by the good-looking Jeffrey Hunter. It would have been more interesting if Arthur Walsh had played Adam, while Jeffrey Hunter played Junior, but John Ford wasn't taking any chances.

Another flaw in Frank's character that the movie wants us to admire is revealed during a wake. Frank is critical when he sees the expensive coffin. And then we find out that the entire funeral is quite elaborate, involving limousines and a choir as well. Through the conversations, we find that the deceased did not arrange for such a funeral while he was alive, and what is more, the mortician admits that he did not discuss it with the widow either. And since the widow is destitute, the mortician is depicted as being irresponsible for making such decisions as to the obsequies. And so, when Frank threatens to have the mortician's license revoked if he does not reduce the charge to a pittance, we are supposed to admire Frank for this.

But this is preposterous. Undertakers do not simply make arrangements without talking to anybody about them. In fact, they typically get some family member to sign a contract approving the nature of the funeral and stating its cost. And so, when Frank puts pressure on the mortician to charge significantly less than what somebody must have approved of, he is simply being virtuous at someone else's expense. Just because a man is an undertaker with a creepy personality, that does not mean he is not entitled to make a profit just like other businessmen. But the movie apparently wants us to think otherwise.

The editor of a newspaper, Amos Force, refuses to say why he hates Frank so much. Frank tells Adam that his mother, Adam's grandmother, was a servant in Amos's house, and he fired her when he caught her stealing a few pieces of fruit (excusable because she was underpaid), after first humiliating her in front of the other servants. And now Amos just can't stand it that her son became mayor. The fact that we never hear Amos's side of the story is characteristic of the entire movie: it is completely one-sided in every way.

For just a moment, it looks as though the movie might become interesting. Another of Frank's adversaries is a banker, Norman Cass, who is played by Basil Rathbone. Norman comes across as an intelligent man, in complete control his passions, capable of acting in a cold, calculating manner. He and other bankers refuse to approve the loans needed to improve the housing conditions of the poor, probably for the simple reason that the bankers are afraid the loans will not be paid back. But as with the mortician, making a profit in this movie is an unworthy motive, which must give way to the public good. In any event, we look forward to how things will develop between Frank and Norman.

But then the movie takes another dive into silliness. Norman has a son, another Junior, who is even more simple-minded and dorky-looking than Frank's son. Frank threatens to make a laughing stock out of Norman's son by offering him a position as Fire Commissioner. As a result, Norman agrees to approve the loans for Ward Nine in exchange for getting back the absurd photographs and having Frank agree not to go ahead with the appointment.

Finally, an important theme of this movie is that the old ways are obsolete and must give way to the influence of television in future political campaigns. And then Frank is defeated by a politician who looks even worse on television than he does in real life. No one would vote for such an obvious phony. And since Frank, played by Spencer Tracy, is nothing if not telegenic, his losing the election makes no sense at all.
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Wee bit too much Irish in this stew
cstotlar11 July 2008
I'd been looking forward to this for a long time. I'm a fan of John Ford and he's given me some of my favorite films.

I'll have to confess that "The Last Hurrah" disappointed me in many ways. The acting, particularly Spenser Tracy's was wonderful throughout. Ford's stable of stalwarts made the film glisten with their bit roles and backup. It was Tracy's film, though, and he's a virtuoso whichever way you view it.

It's very much a black and white film - and I'm not referring to the color. There are the could guys and then the bad guys, with absolutely no subtlety at all. The good guys were the Irish who made it up the ladder through honest (?) hard work while the bad guys had English accents and inherited their wealth. Just think Basil Rathbone or John Carradine and you get the picture.

The rival candidate to Tracy is an undisguised idiot with a hilarious but ridiculous "interview" on television including a barking dog and a wife who can't read. These are very, very broad lines.

I can't help thinking about Frank Capra's descriptions of the other side, the "baddies" in such films as "Mr. Deeds" or "It's a Wonderful Life" There is absolutely no subtlety whatsoever. These people were educated and reared in wealthy families and should be punished. This is a very rural and dangerous flaw in the American personality that found its way in this film. But this time, they have English ACCENTS. John Ford has never been at ease with the English people in general. Sometimes, it borders on intense dislike or even hatred, and it's everywhere to be seen in this film.

The protracted death-bed scene was so over-done and over-long it was embarrassing to watch. Just a-tuggin' at the old heartstrings. Cardiac arrest might be a more appropriate term. Ford didn't know when to stop. It's as plain and simple as that.

Curtis Stotlar
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"Skeffington...Skeffington...Cast Your Vote For Skeffington..."
theowinthrop28 November 2006
Warning: Spoilers
In the early 1930s John Ford directed a relatively unknown actor in a forgotten film called UP THE RIVER, about prison. After that effort they went their separate ways, Ford usually directing at 20th Century Fox, Republic, and other studios (RKO for MARY OF Scotland), but rarely at MGM. And when he was developing into Hollywood's greatest director, Tracy, after an initially unrewarding period at Fox, went to MGM and became their leading actor-star. But neither managed to find a project to do with the other. Then in 1958 Ford approached Tracy to play Mayor Frank Skeffington, the hero of Edwin O'Connor's novel THE LAST HURRAH. This time, with both director and actor at their peaks, the result was far more memorable than UP THE RIVER had been.

O'Connor's novel (a best seller in it's day) was a fictionalization of parts of the career of James Michael Curley, a man who became synonymous with the city of Boston. Boston's laws were peculiar regarding electing Mayors. After some bad experiences in the 19th and early 20th Century, the city decided that Mayors could not have consecutive terms in office - that they could serve as Mayor frequently but (like Grover Cleveland's two terms as President) not one term following another. This was okay with Curley, who ended up the most re-elected Mayor in Boston, serving four terms (each four years in length) over a period of two and a half decades, with a two year term as Governor of Massachusetts as well. A remarkable career for his day or any day.

He was corrupt as they come - but he always pointed out that his corruption benefited the public (usually it did). It was like the old Tammany Hall dictum of their Sachem George Washington Plunkitt about good graft and bad graft. Good graft enabled the construction of roads, repairs of streets, public building projects (that were needed), bridges, tunnels, etc. In short, they enhanced or helped the city. Bad graft was like stealing the tin roof of the town orphanage to sell it to a metal dealer! Boston had many improvements under Curley, but plenty of pay-offs. Yet, he was a master at manipulating public opinion. The Irish and other ethnic groups (including Jews and African-Americans) became his voting blocks because the conservative opposition was hide-bound old Puritan - Yankee (and old money), and anti-minority. It worked like a charm for Boss Curley. It got him to the state house. It was only towards the end of his career (when he got involved in a postal fraud) that he went to prison for two years. He left prison and was re-elected Mayor of Boston!

The novel emphasized the more "hamish" elements of Curley's success. His ability to have loyal lieutenants (here played by Pat O'Brien, Ricardo Cortez, James Gleason, and Ed Brophy as his gopher "Ditto") and to have loyal friends (even including opponents) like Anna Lee, Wallace Ford (as a crank political rival), Frank McHugh, and Jane Darwell. Even some of his critics like and respect him (even if they don't always support him), such as the Cardinal (Donald Crisp) and the local Episcopal Bishop (Basil Ruysdael).

Tracy basks in this warmth, as well as that of his nephew Jeffey Hunter. It's good he has it, as his son (Arthur Walsh) is a total wash-out as an emotional support (the boy just likes dating pretty girls, going golfing, and hearing jazz).

Tracy invites Hunter to follow the last campaign. He is smart enough to realize that this mayoralty campaign is the last of the old time, political clubhouse type elections. Tracy has noted the rising media of television and radio, and knows in a few years they will dictate the political future. Ford captures this horrible future well, showing the inept, wooden candidate McCloskey, with his wooden wife and kids (four of them), and a rented dog they don't like, on television.

It's a rich film, and a warm one. The villains are evenly dispensed - Basil Rathbone as banker Norman Cass, John Carridine as editor Amos Force, Willis Bouchey as Roger Segrue are a trio of types, but each is different. Rathbone is a patrician, and dislikes Tracy for his background (he represents the loss of the patrician class's power to the lower classes). Carridine simply hates him for a piece of bigoted history on his own family's part. Segrue demonstrates that intolerance can be found in the Catholics as well as the Protestants. But there are differences. Rathbone, fed up with his ally Carridine at one point for his suggesting the banker could have put pressure on Ruysdael on a political matter, shoots a cutting statement that if it was up to Carridine (a former member of the Ku Klux Klan) they'd be burning a cross in the bishop's front lawn!

The film ends with Bouchey suggesting that if Skeffington had it all to do he would do it differently. Skeffington smiles, and says "Like Hell I would!". When the novel came out James Michael Curley was still alive, and angry...he threatened to sue. But then he noticed the public liked this friendlier image of himself from the novel. He dropped the lawsuit, and wrote his memoirs. He entitled the memoirs, "I'D DO IT AGAIN!"
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Not Spencer's Greatest
whpratt130 November 2006
This is a Classic John Ford Film dealing with old time politics in a small town, but hinting to be Boston, Mass. Spencer Tracy,(Major Frank Skeffington),"Guess Who's Coming to Dinner", plays the role of mayor who has been around for many elections and this is his final try at winning over his town. However, there are many changes starting to appear in the town and people are beginning to demand more improvements to their community. John Carradine,(Amos Force),"Prison Ship", runs the local paper in town and is not the best of friends with Frank Skeffington, however he hired Jeffrey Hunter as a reporter (Adam Caulfield),"A Kiss Before Dying",'56, who is a nephew to the mayor. It seems everybody smokes up a storm and in one scene the room is filled with smoke floating all over the place. (Glad those days are long gone) The film has many classic actors, Donald Crisp, Basil Rathbone and many more actors who make this film a very entertaining film; there is plenty of dry humor and drama, but entirely too draw out. I even noticed that Spencer Tracy used a great deal of cue cards, more than in any other film he appeared in. picture.
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Here is the end of a political career and of an era.
fkerr10 August 2001
"The Last Hurrah" is about the end of a political career and also the end of an era in American local government. I first saw the film when I was ready to launch a career in public administration, and I didn't like the sympathy Spencer Tracy gave the role of big city boss. Over the subsequent years, I have enjoyed the film more each time. Now, I thoroughly enjoy and am amused by the way Frank Skeffington manipulates the powerful to champion the underdog.

The film is more drama and comedy than history. Yet, men like James Michael Curley, Richard J. Daley, and David L. Lawrence combined ambition for power with a desire to achieve municipal progress as they saw it. They used their understanding of human nature and the ignorance of the body politic effectively. Skeffington shows how. Today, their successors use other methods for similar purpose.
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A bit of a whitewash, but still a great movie
Mike Sh.25 March 2001
This movie was based on the novel of the same name by Edwin O'Connor, which in turn was inspired by the career of the colorful 4-time Mayor of Boston (and sometime Governor of Massachusetts and U. S. Congressman) James Michael Curley. Curley, although remembered today as a lovable rogue and a flamboyant old-time politician who made the voice of Boston's despised Irish heard in the halls of power, basically ran Boston into the ground during his tenure as mayor, destroying the city's credit rating, and dividing its people by appealing to old-time Irish-American fears and prejudices.

But, as far as this movie is concerned, that's neither here nor there. Spencer Tracy is outstanding as the mayor (in my opinion, only James Stewart was a better actor among the leading men of the Hollywood studio era) and the supporting players are superb, notably Pat O'Brien, Donald Crisp, Basil Rathbone, John Carradine, Jane Darwell and especially O.Z. Whitehead, who is brilliantly cast in a small role as the featherbrained son of a crusty Yankee banker. Also noteworthy are the usual patriotic and sentimental touches of director-producer John Ford.

What ever your political opinions may be, this is an outstanding look at old-time politics as it begins to give way to the era of mass media.
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Wonderful political drama/comedy by Ford
alfiefamily25 July 2005
"The Last Hurrah" tells the story of old-time, machine driven, local politics. Both the good and the bad sides.

On the good, you had a cluster of politicos who worked hard for their citizenry. Efficient, powerful and determined, they could get the job done, with a pat on the back or the wink of an eye.

On the bad you had a cluster of politicos who expected a quid pro quo for favors they delivered. They expected those they helped to help them at the polls. They also usually helped members of their own group more than other people, as well.

In "The Last Hurrah", this type of old-time politics is coming to an end. Television campaigns are being introduced, and at least one of the candidates is learning that you can reach more people in a two minute ad, than you can by standing on local street corners giving speeches. It is the dawn of a new political era.

Spencer Tracy plays Mayor Skeffington, an old political pro, who is about to run his last campaign. He believes in the old ways. Pressing the flesh, meeting his constituency face to face. He is more apt to apply the pressure of his office in order to get what he wants, than he is to seek a consensus on matters. Tracy is perfect in this role. In many ways it is Tracy's last hurrah. He would appear in only a handful of films after this one. Since the film was made in 1958, you could also say that his style of acting is giving way to a new breed as well.

Jeffrey Hunter is effective as Tracy's nephew. A political neophyte, who learns to admire Skeffington the man, and mayor.

Tracy is surrounded by one of the best supporting casts to be seen on film. His "backroom" boys are Pat O'Brien, James Gleason, and Edward Brophy. Watching them, you get the sense of the type of "cigar filled rooms" they worked in to get deals done.

Basil Rathbone, Donald Crisp, John Carradine are all perfect in their roles as well. Wallace Ford and Frank McHugh add "local flavor" to their roles as traditional opponents to Skeffington.

But it is Tracy who carries this film, and he does so handsomely. I am one who believes that many of his best performances were his last ones. I think because he seemed more natural and there seems to be less effort and fewer mannerisms in these performances. "The Last Hurrah" demonstrates this.

Tracy at the top of his game with many of his, and Ford's, old cronies, making another classic.
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politics and sentiment
RanchoTuVu27 March 2005
A homespun and sentimental take on politics, with Spencer Tracy playing Frank Skeffington, an old style Irish Catholic big city mayor caught in a cooked up scandal by his blue blood Prostestant Republican enemies. Crowded scenes add to the pace as the characters whip through the sharp Frank Nugent screenplay like a hot knife going through butter. Directed by John Ford, the film previews the changes that have since taken place in American politics i.e. television imagery and big money, and here we see them presented in a political campaign pitting Skeffington against a younger, telegenic, politically inept opponent financed by the city's conservatives. With John Carradine giving a memorable performance as ultra-conservative newspaper publisher and ex-Klansman Amos Force, and personal favorite Ken Curtis playing a monsignor, the film blends the typical Ford elements: fairness and tolerance against hypocrisy and greed.
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Politics is a mad, mad, mad, mad world.
mark.waltz27 August 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Sometimes, there can be too much of a good thing. In this case, it is the presence of too many characters played by too many veteran stars in cameos, some of them off screen for so long that it is difficult to recognize them. Its a matter of oh, that's funny bald guy Edward Brophy and squeaky voiced Frank McHugh. I didn't realize that they were still alive let alone still working. Jane Darwell still movin' around as a towns-person who attends every funeral. At least modern audiences knew her from her cameo as the bird woman in "Mary Poppins". But what worked in the comedy classic "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World" is intrusive here. Tons of characters in a novel can't bring consistent flow to a two hour movie without some confusion no matter how well meaning the script writers was.

There is tons of potential for great drama in this political drama of devoted public servant Spencer Tracy running for re-election for mayor even though he's also been governor and suffers from health issues. Tracy is both public hero and a bit of a bully to get what he wants and this has made him both loyal followers and powerful enemies including an aging cardinal and a former Klu Klux Klan member whom Tracy claims had to drop out because he was too cheap to buy his own sheet. Director John Ford utilizes many of his old acting stable including Basil Rathbone, Anna Lee and Ricardo Cortez.

What is ironic about this movie is the timing of seeing it again just as scandal rocks American politics all over, particularly New York City as candidates for mayor are raked over the coals in the press. In this movie, Tracy's rival is a buffoon, a real weiner if you pardon the pun. In a sense, this makes a mockery out of politics, but in movies, politicians were often skewered and roasted. By the late 50's, however, the McCarthy scandals had made politics being taken much more seriously and later dramas like Advise and Consent and The Best Man would play on that change. The presence of the amazing Mr. Tracy is certainly worth its prestige, but too many things fall in the way of making this the masterpiece it could have been.
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Coulda been a contendah
antcol816 July 2006
Why is this film not great? All the elements for a masterpiece are in place: the stock company, Frank Nugent manning the screenplay, the Irish milieu and the most Fordian line ever - "there's only one way to describe the candidate, and that is that he was victorious in defeat". So Wha'happen? This is a mediocre film that should nonetheless be analyzed shot by shot. The last hurrah is Ford's, not Skeffington's and I wish I was enough of a theorist to go into every detail of how that becomes obvious over the course of the film. I once heard that the film critic Serge Daney said something to the effect that every film is a documentary of its own creation, and that is so true here. The sight of John Carradine alone evokes a whole world and life: the seven films of Ford's he participated in in the thirties; the fact that he hadn't been seen in one in almost 20 years. His scenes are a meditation on the ineffable quality known as "stardom": for all his sepulchral presence, he can't hold a screen the way Spencer Tracy can, and their moments together are a battle between the magnificent character actor who has never and will never rise above that status (except when he's with Edgar G. Ulmer, naturally) and the star. Ford understands all of this - all of this and more. What is being mourned - and, make no mistake, it's being mourned way before Skeffington's actual death - in this film? Is it the death of a man or of a way of life? The way Skeffington ritually changes the flowers under his dead wife's portrait daily tells us that these people are already in mourning for themselves. The wake scene for the nondescript ne'er - do - well seems disproportionally long, but as the film progresses, you understand that it functions as a foreshadowing of the film's central ritual. All this is great. But making all the sons into buffoons is a cheap, knee-jerk statement on the generation which is replacing these dinosaurs, and it is impossible to get a sense of how McCluskey's manipulation of the media (this, of course, represents "the modern world") leads to his victory, given the fact that the one time we see him on TV he seems like a totally unlovable clown. Was Ford going for Nixon's Checkers speech here? Nixon's nervousness and uncomfortableness read to many as a form of "truth", and his "we're not giving up that dog no matter what anyone says" read as a particularly bumbling form of honesty. Ford should have at least shown us that. This way, the deck is so stacked that it's impossible to care. Andrew Sarris was right: Sturges (director of The Great McGinty) shoulda taken this one.
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The Last Hurrah (1958)
MartinTeller4 January 2012
Spencer Tracy stars as a beloved mayor making his last run for re-election. Tracy is fun to watch as always, there are a few nice shots and some crisp dialogue. The situations are fairly compelling. But once again, Ford's love of myth-making gets in the way, as the protagonist is built up as The Swellest Guy in the World while his opponents are all either snakes or boobs. The mayor is a working class hero who can do absolutely no wrong, always does the right thing for the right reasons, and the bad guys are crooked, selfish, out of touch bluebloods. And of course, there's the wacky oafish sidekick. This film is the answer to everyone who thinks MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON lacks nuance. I suppose some people are comforted by such a black and white view of the world, it just makes me roll my eyes.
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No Silk Purse
abenr1 January 2003
Just as you can't make a silk purse from a sow's ear, a great cast can't overcome the handicap of a terrible script. The laughs are where the tears should be.

It's nothing less than a pity to see so much talent wasted. For those looking for a great political film (and more), watch the unforgettable "Citizen Kane."
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An interesting political film
perfectbond14 December 2004
When I watched this film, I had no idea who James Michael Curley was. I did not know that Spencer Tracy's wholly likable Mayor Frank Skeffington was director John Ford's revisionist interpretation of the 'notorious Massachussetts demagogue.' That is because his career was decades before my time! The always wonderful Tracy is backed by a very competent supporting cast including the original captain of the starship Enterprise (Jeffrey Hunter). In the America of today, the political tensions between Irish Roman Catholics and Anglo-Protestants are no longer there. The tensions now exist between the Euro-majority and the non-Euro minorities. Recommended for Tracy fans.
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Going to the well for the last time
kapelusznik1821 April 2016
Warning: Spoilers
***SPOILERS**** The world of changing politics is confronted by the four time elect mayor of an unmanned New England state, that's also unmanned, city the honorable Frank Skeffington played by a snow white as a sheet looking Spencer Tracey who's a bit to old, looking as if he's in his late 80's, for the job at hand. At first Skeffington has to deal with a very unfriendly press who supports his young ands untested opponent upright family man & war hero Kevin McCluskey, Charles Fitzsimmons, who seems to have no chance of winning. The editor of one of the state's major papers Amos Force, John Carradine, has had it in for Skeffington since his mother was caught stealing two overripe bananas and an apple from the Force household some 60 years ago when she was working for .25 an hour as a maid there.

It's when Skeffington age that really starts to show, in him living in the past not the present, as at first his poll numbers start to fall and the public soon realize that his health is a major issue in the long and grueling campaign. Skeffington also oversteps his bounds by taking on the political powers of the state & city using blackmail tactics, in getting low income housing built, against the big real estate interests represented by Norman Cass Sr, Basil Rathbone,that later comes back to haunt him.

***SPOILERS*** As election night shows Skeffington attempt at a fifth term as mayor goes up in flames despite the polls by then showing him well ahead in double digits. The shock of his delete leaves both Skeffington and his supports for the first time in the campaign completely speechless! Putting aside his defeat to the unknown Kevin McCluskey Steffington after getting a long rest then plans to run for governor of the state despite his friends as well as doctors pleading against it! As fate would have it Skeffington never made it out of his sick bed and peacefully, off camera, passed away before he could put his future plans into motion. It was a good try on Skeffington's part to get himself elected for an un-precedented fifth time as mayor but his gas tank as well as heart came up empty in the end. It was also the new technology, T.V in particular, that did the old guy in by him not quite knowing how to handle it correctly.

P.S The movie is a lot like two years later in real life in 1960 with Richard Nixon screwing up his live on T.V debate for president with John F. Kennedy by refusing to ware make-up and not looking presidential like not getting a real close shave, looking like a bum under the T.V lights, and wearing a dull gray not colorful suite in order for him to show the T.V viewers that he's up for the job.
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A Major Disappointment
richard-178714 September 2020
Warning: Spoilers
This movie has a great cast and a first-rate director who made some of my favorite movies. It had everything to be a masterpiece.

Except a good, or even a decent, script.

I haven't read the book from which it was adapted, but that book must have made more sense than this.

As many of the other reviewers on here will tell you, this movie is supposed to center around "the last hurrah" of a stump-speech-giving old-fashioned politician (Spencer Tracy, as the incumbent major of some large city with a considerable Irish population). He is being challenged for his fifth term by new, younger blood, a candidate who will use television. (In 1958, when this movie was made, we were still two years before the Kennedy-Nixon debates.)

But that doesn't turn out to be the focus. We see the younger man - a real dufus - on tv once, and it's a disaster. After that, we never see him campaign again. When Tracy's character loses to him, we have been given absolutely no reason to help us understand why.

So much for the focus of the movie.

After the campaigning and the election, which occupy most of the movie, there's a "tail end" that goes on forever, as Skeffington (Tracy) becomes ill and everyone in the unnamed Boston comes trailing through his bedroom to say goodbye. Donald Crisp, as the cardinal, has a good scene with Tracy, but we are never told why the two didn't get along. In fact, we are never told why most of the people who don't like Skeffington oppose him. The movie is two hours long, way too long for what it offers. Explanations could have been added and lots of other things cut.

Tracy is magnificent in this movie. It's worth sitting through all two hours to watch his face and listen to his voice as he truly creates a character, and a fascinating one. But the rest of the actors have nothing to work with, so he is surrounded by stereotypes, some of which could offend modern sensibilities.

What a shame Columbia didn't throw out this script and commission another one. They had all the rest of the makings for a great movie. They even had a screenwriter, Frank Nugent, who had written good scripts for other movies.
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Saying Goodbye
davidmvining30 January 2022
John Ford knew he was getting old. You don't make this kind of movie if you think you're young. The story of a long serving mayor of "a New England city" and his latest run for re-election, it's about looking back at a full life full of both friends and enemies and finding some kind of peace in a world that's changing all around you. Anchored by the wonderfully affable performance of Spencer Tracy that ends up giving surprising gravity to the film in the end, The Last Hurrah is a vivacious and heartfelt film.

Mayor Frank Skeffington (Tracy) is facing two major candidates in his re-election for mayor. There's the long standing city councilman Charles J. Hennessy (Wallace Ford), portrayed as a bit of a crank on the sidelines who runs all the time, and Kevin McCluskey (Charles Fitzsimons), a young political neophyte with the right kind of background that sounds good backed by the powerful newspaper editor Amos Force (John Carradine). Working for Force is Frank's nephew Adam Caulfield (Jeffrey Hunter) who works the sports beat and has no real interest in politics. When Frank invites Adam to follow his campaign, just as an observer of how things are in the campaign, Adam accepts and tags along.

An interesting element of the story, based on the novel by Edwin O'Connor, is that the actual politics have been drained completely. There is no mention of political parties or policy beyond Frank wanting to level a slum (where he grew up) and replace it with something nicer, something the bankers of the city are denying the city the money for until Frank is out of office. Politics in this movie is a personal, team based exercise, as Frank explains to Adam. Force's antipathy against Frank probably has as much to do with some event between Frank's mother and Force's father when she worked for him as a servant and stole something decades ago as with any policy. This seems to do one thing at first: eliminate any potential rancor from the audience when bringing up politics in a film. However, it becomes obvious by the end that it's actually for a different reason.

The key is that Frank loses the race. After all of the old fashioned work he puts into the race, going to the wake of a local no-good old friend and turning it into a de facto political meeting with the added benefit of demonstrating to the grieving widow that her husband was well-loved, a pleasant fiction for her in her time of sorrow. It's the kind of hands-on approach he has taken for years which contrasts with how McCluskey runs his campaign, through Force's newspaper and on television. There's a sequence where McCluskey gets interviewed in his home, and it reminded me of Fellini's later Ginger and Fred. Both were made by men well-versed in the visual language of film, and both seemed somewhat confounded by the rise of television. Fellini's take focused on the variety show, and Ford's focuses on the obviously fake televised interview meant to imply intimacy with someone. McCluskey rented a dog that won't stop barking that he looks at with complete disdain. His wife has to read off of cue cards and does it very badly. After having described the children as being just put down to bed, Mrs. McCluskey invites them in, and they're all dressed in their finest little suits and dresses. It's kind of hilariously inauthentic, and we watch flabbergasted that this could ever work on anyone.

Maybe it was the inauthentic television interview, and maybe it was how Frank strong-armed the bank to give the city the loan before the election that led to the bank owner promising unlimited funds to defeat Frank that led to a flurry of advertisement for McCluskey, but whatever it was, Frank's election headquarters goes from elated to defeated over the course of an hour or two as the results come in. His closest advisors are panicked. Adam is sorry for his beloved uncle. Frank's son, Frank Jr. (Arthur Walsh), is completely oblivious with a pretty girl on his arm. Frank goes home, has a heart attack, and ends up bed ridden with about half an hour left in the movie.

With a stinging political defeat and a crippling heart attack leaving him in bed, it becomes obvious where this movie's point is, and it's not about politics. Frank came into power during a time of change, when the Irish were first gaining political power in the Northeast, and that power seems to be waning. The new change is how politics is done, mostly through television, and that change is what ends up pushing Frank out of power. He's had a long life, and on his deathbed both friends and enemies see the humanity in the man who had been vilified for decades by the other side. The most touching is when the Cardinal Martin Burke (Donald Crisp), who grew up with Frank in the slums, comes to his side and wants to explain why he had never supported Frank politically. Frank waves off the concern, implying that their friendship is deep enough to not need that kind of explanation.

There's real emotion as the movie closes. Frank was a good man in a hard profession, a northeastern version of Judge Priest, but his time is past. There's always been an element of nostalgia for lost times in Ford's work, and it's particularly potent here with the added twist of acknowledging that the time is gone. With that time gone, what can we do but move on as good men?

The anchor to all of this is Spencer Tracy. Playing what seems like himself, markedly different from the previous work with Ford on Up the River, Tracy is a fount of humanity but is talented enough to never let the film go saccharine through his performance. He's tough edged like in his meetings with the bankers, and quick witted like his dealings with Force. It's also nice to see John Carradine in a Ford picture again, not having been cast in one since The Grapes of Wrath. Jeffery Hunter also gives a surprisingly subtle performance with some real emotion as he essentially functions as the audience's eyes in the film.

The Last Hurrah is the work of an old man in the best of ways. Looking back over a lifetime of successes and failures, friends and enemies, good times and bad, Spencer Tracy's Frank Skeffington feels like a John Ford placeholder saying goodbye to the world that he loved but seems to be rejecting him. It's ultimately a touching film, a real winner of a picture from an old master.
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