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Advise & Consent (1962) - Plot Summary Poster

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  • Robert Leffingwell is the president's nominee for Secretary of State. Prior to his approval, he must 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 opposition and 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 asks the president to withdraw Leffingwell from consideration, especially after the young senator and his wife begins receiving blackmail threats about a skeleton in his own closet.

  • When the President of the United States nominates Robert A. Leffingwell to the post of Secretary of State, it's left to the U.S. Senate to confirm that appointment. Leffingwell is eminently qualified for the post but is seen by many in both parties, especially Senator Seabright Cooley, as an appeaser and soft on Communism. The Senate Majority Leader, Bob Munson, appoints an up and coming young Senator, Brigham Anderson, to chair the sub-committee reviewing the nomination. The hearings soon becomes a communist witch hunt with Leffingwell denying any communist affiliations or leanings. When Anderson learns that Leffingham did in fact attend several meetings of a communist cell and lied to the committee, he refuses to support the nomination. That's when he and his wife start to receive phone calls threatening to reveal something from his past unless he supports the Leffingham nomination.

  • The hot topic of debate within the United States Senate is the President's controversial appointment of Robert A. Leffingwell as Secretary of State, controversial even within the President's own party. The controversy stems not from Leffingwell's abilities, but rather his overly principled manner which has often gotten in the way of political expediency. As such, Leffingwell has in the past ruffled the feathers of some within the Senate, with some of those ruffled feathers being against the individual as opposed to his or her general ideals. Senior Senator Seab Cooley, a man fond of grandstanding to get his point across, in particular sees Leffingwell as a Communist sympathizer. But Leffingwell also has his staunch supporters, such as Senator Fred Van Ackermann who sees Leffingwell as the type of man needed to maintain peace in this era of the Cold War. Senate Majority Leader Bob Munson sees that getting enough votes to confirm the appointment may be a difficult task. He strikes a senate subcommittee dealing with Leffingwell's appointment and names junior Senator Brig Anderson as Chair, who Munson knows will follow his wishes in this matter. During the subcommittee hearing, serious allegations are leveled against Leffingwell by an outside source, albeit one orchestrated by Cooley and one with some perceived lack of legitimacy seeing as to the source himself. As the pro and anti Leffingwell factions strategize on how to deal with the allegations (some which include blackmailers digging up skeletons in one politician's closet), Leffingwell himself has to decide what to do in light of the truth and what may be best for his professional future and that of others involved.

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  • Senate investigation into the President's newly nominated Secretary of State, gives light to a secret from the past, which may not only ruin the candidate, but the President's character as well.


Spoilers

The synopsis below may give away important plot points.

Synopsis

  • A look behind the scenes at the wheeling and dealing that goes on in Washington to get things done. The ailing President (Franchot Tone) nominates a controversial candidate (Henry Fonda as Robert A. Leffingwell) for Secretary of State. The film follows the public and private dealings as the Senate holds confirmation hearings on the nomination. Blackmail, smear tactics, political trade-offs and more highlight this movie. Senate majority leader Robert Munson of Michigan (Walter Pidgeon) tries to steer Leffingwell toward confirmation, with his initial roadblock being Senate Pro Tem Seabright "Seab" Cooley-SC (Charles Laughton), a party member. But Munson bypasses overly-ambitious Wyoming senator Fred Van Ackerman (George Grizzard) to put Utah's Brigham "Brig" Anderson (Don Murray) in charge of the committee vetting of Leffingwell. Cooley drags out an old acquaintance from the nominee's college days (Herbert Gelman, played by Burgess Meredith) in an attempt to scuttle the appointment. Meanwhile, Van Ackerman sics a team of blackmailers on Anderson in an attempt to ensure the nomination, even though Anderson, Munson, and the president know Leffingwell has provided perjured testimony about his past. Anderson travels to New York and confronts his old army lover outside a gay bar, returning to the Capitol to slit his own throat in his Senate office. Chastened by Anderson's suicide, Munson and Cooley agree to disagree in a "nice" way, and the full Senate vote on Leffingwell's nomination ends on a 47-47 tie since Munson has shamed Van Ackerman into walking out of the chamber before his name is called to vote. Just as the voting ends, the Vice-president Harley Hudson (Lew Ayres), the Senate's presiding officer, is informed of the President's death. Knowing that Leffingwell has given false testimony under oath, Hudson refuses to honor his mentor's dying wish, and cast the deciding vote. Hudson leaves stating that as president-apparent, he'll nominate his own Secretary of State.

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