Advise & Consent (1962) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
68 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
Effective infighting in an all-star Congress
marcslope4 January 2010
Allen Drury's sprawling novel of Washington intrigue gets a bit over-condensed in Wendell Mayes' screenplay--the exposition comes fast and furious and unconvincing, and some important subplots in the book, such as the space race, are altogether missing. But what's left is pretty juicy and compelling, as Secretary of State nominee Henry Fonda (top-billed, but with surprisingly little screen time) sets off a destructive round of politicking that ends in death, destruction, and satisfying upholding of the Constitution. Preminger handles the gay subplot with as little subtlety as you'd expect, and while he was clearly trying to show some sympathy to an oppressed minority, he comes off as a square homophobe. Don Murray is oversold as an Ideal Husband and Father to artificially ratchet up the poignancy, and as his wife, Inga Swenson just cries and cries, and seems a shrew and a scold. But the dialog is sharp, even with all the overexposition, and the cast is wonderful: Peter Lawford as a Kennedy-esquire Rhode Island senator, Burgess Meredith as a weak witness, George Grizzard as a Roy Cohn-like meddler, Gene Tierney as Pamela Harriman more or less, Charles Laughton as a tasty-ham Southern senator, Lew Ayres as a Vice President with hidden strength, Franchot Tone as the horse-trading President, and Walter Pidgeon as the sort of Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid should aspire to be. Even such solid character actors as Paul Ford, Russ Brown, and Betty White turn up in tiny parts. The cinematography's clean and uncluttered, and while this congressional bunch is far more articulate and epigrammatic than our own, the theme of backstage double-dealing feels more relevant than ever. Very fast-moving, and dated as it is, it still packs a wallop.
22 out of 26 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
For The Good of the Country: The Political Shocker of 1962
gftbiloxi3 February 2008
As a Congressional correspondent for the New York Times during the 1950s, author Allen Drury had ample opportunity to witness Washington politicians in their natural habit---and drew upon numerous factual sources, including the controversial Alger Hiss case and the scandalous suicide of Senator Lester Hunt, to create the story of a controversial nominee for Secretary of State. The novel was not only a best seller, it was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.

It was also a book that Hollywood could not film under the film industry's notorious Production Code. As it happened, the book fell into the hands of director Otto Preminger, long-time foe of Hollywood's rules for self-censorship. He not only made the film, he flagrantly broke the code; as such, ADVISE AND CONSENT presents our nation's leaders embroiled in a blackmail plot, finds actress Gene Tierney using the word 'bitch,' and became the first Hollywood film to show a gay bar. It was shocking stuff for 1962.

The story is extremely convoluted. An aging and extremely ill President makes a highly controversial nomination for Secretary of State---which is opposed by a member of his own party, who bears the nominee a personal grudge and who attempts to derail the nomination by accusing the nominee of former membership in the Communist Party. This in turn touches off a vicious battle between those in the party who support the nominee and those who don't, a battle that will ultimately result in the suicide of the only character who has the integrity we would like to see in our political leaders.

The cast is indeed remarkable and, from Lew Ayres to Betty White, plays with considerable conviction and tremendous restraint. Henry Fonda is often cited as the star of the film, but in truth he appears in the small but pivotal role of Robert Leffingwell, nominee for Secretary of State. Screen time is divided between Walter Pigeon as the Majority Leader, Charles Laughton as the senator who opposes the nomination, and Don Murray, an idealist who finds himself chairing the nomination committee. All three play extremely well, but it is really Laughton---in his final screen role---who walks off with the film as the devious and openly vicious Senator from South Carolina. The trio is ably supported by a dream cast that includes Franchot Tone as the President, Lew Ayres as the Vice President, George Grizzard as a growling ideologue, Gene Tierney as a society hostess---and yes, Betty White, who offers a brief turn as the Senator from Kansas.

It has become fashionable to dismiss Otto Preminger films of the 1950s and 1960s as ponderous, all-star, and pseudo-intellectual trash, and indeed it is difficult to find much positive to say about films like EXODUS and HURRY SUNDOWN these days. But Preminger is in many ways under-rated; his films have not always dated well in terms of subject, but they hold up extremely well in the way in which they are put together, with ADVISE AND CONSENT a case in point---and it is worth pointing out that accusations of leftism, adultery, and homosexuality are still enough to prompt everything from impeachment to congressional hearings to resignations. Nor has the process of the political dance itself changed greatly between then and now.

The great flaw of the film is its conclusion, which seems facile to the point of being hokey---but this is also the great flaw of the novel, which ends in much the same way--and at times ADVISE AND CONSENT seems more than a little dry. All the same, it remains a movie worth watching, particularly notable for its performances, fluid camera work, and meticulous recreation of party politics. The DVD offers a near-pristine widescreen transfer with good sound quality and an interesting, if occasionally too academic, commentary by film historian Drew Casper. Recommended.

GFT, Amazon Reviewer
52 out of 68 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill
inspectors7114 April 2016
I saw Otto Preminger's Advise and Consent in 1981 or 1982 on, I think, KSTW or WTBS, and I have loved this movie for 35 years. It's a complex story of politics, and the thuggery that walks hand in hand with it.

The review on IMDb by "Snow Leopard" on 22 November 2005 is excellent, so I won't belabor this review with a synopsis. Ten years after I saw the film--and I read the series of books in the '80s--Advise and Consent became all too real. President George H. W. Bush nominated the head of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Clarence Thomas, to the Supreme Court. The head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Joe Biden, assured the President that the nominee would work out well. Thomas was being nominated to replace Thurgood Marshall, and Bush was interested in putting another African-American on the SCOTUS bench.

Only one problem. Clarence Thomas was a conservative, and a black Republican must be destroyed at all costs.

So, raw interview information by the FBI (what everyone who has an important job to do in the Executive Branch has to go through; all information, true or false, is collected) got dumped into the public trough. A former aide or secretary--I can't remember--had accused Thomas of sexual harassment. Anita Hill's private interview with the FBI had gone public.

It appeared the nominee's chances had been mortally wounded.

Everyone took sides. Feminists said that it didn't matter if it was true, that the mere accusation was proof enough. Conservatives huffed and flustered and wished Bush had picked somebody different. Liberals, smelling blood began, in Thomas' words, "a high-tech lynching."

When the anger and the nastiness and the general behavior that makes Americans hate politics cleared, Thomas was confirmed by a majority of 4 votes.

It was like watching Advise and Consent in real life. The good guys, the bad guys, the thugs, cretins, and other media were all there. Talk about life imitating art! Sheesh!

Besides the excellent performances, the realistic settings, and the general feeling that Preminger got it right, Advise and Consent is the sort of movie you can watch if you want to know how Washington really works.
7 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
Even more relevant today than in 1962
extratempore225 May 2005
Although I had seen it when it first came out (I was 18) and again about about 6 months ago (Winter, 2004), this screening (May, 2005) was even more insightful.

It really has aged very well, and is, obviously, at least as relevant today as it was in 1962 --"realistic" in its depiction of the congressional situation in its own day, positively prescient in its relation to our own.

Fonda is good, but curiously second fiddle to the other, more subtle characters.

It's Walter Pigeon's best flick (by far), well cast as the Senate Majority Leader and he carries the role off with an almost Shakespearean aplomb.

Almost Charles Laughton's best (only because that's a very hard call), with his hopelessly crumpled white suit and hat, shufflin' gait, positively Irvinesque homespun witticisms and wonderful, drawling, contemptuous "Mis-ter Rob-ert A. Leff-in-well".

Might be Franchot Tone's best, as well, as the ailing, frail, chain-smoking president, a little bit too close to Life (filmed 6 years before he died of lung cancer).

Gene Tierney is very good as the D.C. socialite hostess "Dolly Harrison" --a character clearly based on Averill Harriman's wife Pamela or, as a type, a later Katherine Graham.

Definitely Peter Lawford's best film --which, admittedly, is not saying much, but he's very well cast as a rather dissolute, philandering Kennedyesque senator who is, nonetheless, not without his Qualities.

Lew Ayres' Casper Milquetoast "Vice President Harley M. Hudson" is an excellently wrought character, from his "bucket of warm spit" role as the impotent President of the Senate to the wonderful twist he gives it at the end, which expounds quite beautifully the subtleties and definitiveness of the Reality of Power.

The scenes of D.C. are positively nostalgic --imagine anyone being able to catch a cab to the capital and then walk right up the steps and go inside ; or an aged night-watchman making his rounds as *the* Security for the inside of the Senate building.

As are the various aspects of the underground "Gay Scene" in NYC with the wonderfully cast Larry Tucker, Jerry Fielding's fine music and "the voice of Frank Sinatra" (as credited). (Some might object to the "clichés" in these scenes, but, to me, those clichés are part and parcel of the ambiance of the period of the film and the culture it portrays and should be seen as such --rather like appreciating the overt racism in "Birth of a Nation" for what it is. I am glad that Preminger didn't "sanitize" his presentation of this matter, especially given the crucial nature of it to the plot of the film.)

But the contrast between the civility --albeit occasionally a rather raw one-- of the senate of circa 1960 and that of the present day is not nostalgic quite so much as it is just heart-rending ("The World We Have Lost"), and the roots of our present grotesque, take-no-prisoners congressional savagery are fully exposed in the intertwined plot lines of McCarthyesque ideological rigidity and homosexual blackmail.

All in all, a "Roman à Clef" to the political world of 1960's Washington, vividly relevant to our own time.
93 out of 137 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
One of the great political films of all time
blanche-211 September 2008
An ill President wants his nominee for Secretary of State confirmed in "Advise and Consent," a 1962 film based on the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Alan Drury and directed by Otto Preminger. It was the first film in seven years for Gene Tierney and the last for Charles Laughton. Tierney couldn't have chosen a better comeback and Laughton a more fitting farewell.

It's up to the majority leader, Bob Munson (Walter Pidgeon) to get the President's (Franchot Tone) nominee for Secretary of State (Henry Fonda) confirmed, but it's not going to be easy. Senator Cooley from South Carolina (Laughton) believes that Robert Leffingwell once had Communist ties and doesn't want him confirmed, even if it means digging up marginal people (Burgess Meredith) who claim to have known Comrade Leffingwell. An ambitious, aggressive young senator (George Grizzard) loudly wants Leffingwell approved, and he will do anything to make it happen - even if it means blackmailing the chairman of the hearing, Brig Anderson (Don Murray). There is pressure on the President to withdraw Leffingwell, and he refuses; the President puts pressure on Anderson to get him confirmed, and, sticking to his own principles, Brig, despite a tremendous threat to his home and political position, refuses to reconvene the hearing. Meanwhile, if Leffingwell stays in and there's a tie, it will be up to the Vice President (Lew Ayres) as the President of the Senate, to break it.

This is a brilliantly done film that has you glued from the first moment to the last. It not only gives a vivid portrait of politics and how the Senate works but keeps the viewer in suspense for the entire movie. The acting is magnificent. Franchot Tone gives a sturdy performance as a President running out of time; Lew Ayres underplays and makes sympathetic the role of the compromise Vice President; Walter Pidgeon is elegant and authoritative as the majority leader; Henry Fonda gives a straightforward, honest portrayal of a man who wants to serve his country but has to go against some of his own beliefs in order to do it. There isn't a wrong note throughout, even down to a very young and pretty Betty White who has a tiny role as a Senator and Peter Lawford as a Jack Kennedy type. Inga Swenson is the insecure Mrs. Anderson and gives a heartbreaking performance as a loving wife who feels she has failed her husband in some fundamental way. Laughton is great, but he is given some very florid dialogue, and he rises to the occasion by hamming it up. It was an appropriate choice given the script. Gene Tierney, as a wealthy widow/hostess who sees Pidgeon on the side, looks beautiful and gives a charming performance.

The end of this movie is incredibly powerful, and the scene with the President, Vice President and Senate Majority leader Munson is one of my favorites for a special reason. In the book, the Vice President, who is terribly worried about the President's health, has an encounter with the President and then goes back to his office and expresses some emotion about the meeting. Though the scene isn't in the film, Lew Ayres obviously read the book and has the same emotional reaction, but unspoken, on the Destroyer. Unless you've read the book, you won't pick it up, but it's an even greater scene if you have.

IMDb members have posted that nothing has changed today. In politics, I'm sure that is true. In films, unfortunately, things have changed. A character-driven film rich in dialogue like "Advise and Consent" is hard to come by. See it and revel in the film-making past and shake your head at the timeliness of the story.
43 out of 63 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
A stately, dry, involving film--with some edgy social issues for the day
secondtake19 May 2010
Advise and Consent (1962)

A moving look at a fictional moment in American politics. We see the dirty deals behind the scenes, but also that dignity and wisdom is preserved by some of the men (and one woman, shown). And we see the power of the system, the value of begrudging respect for those with opposite views, and plain old simplicity of being on the Senate floor and making points, orally, in front of a bunch of others, some of them actually listening.

Reminds me of my classrooms, and that brings government down to a level of believability. That's the secret to the movie, overall, it's ability to make the people real, including a host of really great actors like Charles Laughton and Walter Pidgeon, and of course Henry Fonda, who has a smaller role. Franchot Tone makes a believable ailing president, and it's great to see Gene Tierney in 1962, perfectly cast as a cool, smiley Senator's wife.

Otto Preminger is one of those revered directors who was always tweaking the moral edges of Hollywood, and therefore of America, and the spectacular thread that rises as the movie goes along, of a homosexual subculture existing at all in 1962, and arising from the activity of soldiers, and penetrating the Senate directly, was weirdly controversial stuff. Of course, it's almost ridiculous now, but it wasn't then, and to hear the central senator refer to another senator's gay military experience as a "tired old sin" is hard stuff for those of use who have grown up thinking "each to their own," or even "don't ask don't tell."

Preminger also irked a few anti-Communists by using a couple of left-wing actors, including Burgess Meredith, who has a small but memorable role. And the whole notion of a potential Secretary of State once having been superficially involved in a "Communist cell block" is interesting here partly because it shows how silly accusations can be, attacking things you do when you're twenty and have fully rejected or outgrown. Fonda is that figure of utter respectability for the good reason that he represents utter morality and patriotism, without become a cardboard flag-waver.

Though released to a public well into the Kennedy era, it feels like an Eisenhower world, with a couple younger senators easily looking like the Kennedy type, but still not President. The belligerent Old South conservative is, tellingly, a Democrat, back in the days when the South was pretty much conservative democratic. There are no parties mentioned, actually, but the leading voices seem to be liberal in their foreign policy, more like the Kennedy tone (or from the 50s, the tone of Adlai Stevenson, who lost the nomination bid to Kennedy in 1960). The book that led to the movie, by Allen Drury, was finished in 1959, and Drury was a bit of a right-winger, critical of the media he was part of, and openly anti-Communist. The events in the story (book and movie both) take one notable liberty: the Senator with a "homosexual scandal" in his past was Lester Hunt of Wyoming, whose son was a homosexual. That was enough to make the father a blackmail target, leading to Hunt's suicide.

That none of this matters is tribute to the movie, which really captures 1950s style American politics in a bright, Hollywood way. I mean that positively. It's not a gritty documentary, and it doesn't make scandal out of everything. But the air is familiar, the tone, the looks, the clothes. And it is supremely well done, from the dignified camera-work (nothing film noir here) to the solid editing and storytelling, to of course the acting itself. Not exciting, but very involving and interesting.
10 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
Timely, Fascinating Inside View of Politics...
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!
47 out of 78 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
A Fun Didactic Old Thing
primodanielelori8 January 2008
So condescending, to everyone. Washington socialite Gene Tirney comes into the public gallery of Congress escorting two diplomat's wives, the British and the French. She gives the French wife a lesson into the workings of Congress, the French lady doesn't seem to know anything about the American executive branch or understand it. Why didn't the French sue? Or women for that matter. Behind the camera there is a man with a tyrannic brain a misogynistic eye and a very old sensibility, if any. What's fun about this politically incorrect tired tale is precisely the incorrectness, the melodramatic turn and Charles Laughton. Betrayal and conspiracy in the corridors of power has always been a favorite subject from Shakespeare and beyond but here there is a massive problem and I can't decide whether it takes itself too seriously or not seriously enough. See it by yourself and enjoy a terrific Laughton.
33 out of 53 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
The greatest of all American political movies
Martin Bradley6 May 2006
Preminger's masterpiece and one of the greatest of all American films and yet critical opinion is strongly divided on this one. Some people believe that the melodramatic elements of the plot, (homosexuality, blackmail, suicide), denigrates the film's authenticity and takes away from it as drama but the characters are so beautifully drawn, (and the performances of such a uniformly high standard), that the mechanics of the plot seem startlingly real. By being overt about homosexuality in 1962 the film broke new ground, though the gay characters, briefly seen, are cringe-worthy stereotypes.

What makes the film a masterpiece is Preminger's extraordinary mise-en-scene and possibly the best use of the widescreen for dramatic effect in any American movie. By keeping some characters on the periphery of the screen while the main characters in the scene interact in the foreground Preminger creates tensions and psychological relationships between them that cutting would only dissipate.

The plot centres on a dying President's controversial nomination of a left-wing Secretary of State. On the one hand, there are consequential melodramas inherent in pushing the plot forward, (the President's nomination is opposed; the politicians play dirty), while on the other is the almost documentary-like approach Preminger applies to the political machinations that take place on the floor of the senate and in the offices, houses and hotel-rooms where the characters live and work.

It is also the most entertaining of all political movies. (filmed luminously in black-and-white by Sam Leavitt it feels like a cracking film noir). The cast are matchless and many of them did their finest work here. This is particularly true of Walter Pigeon as the Majority Leader, (he's as decent and as noble as Ghandi), Franchot Tone as the President, Don Murray as the senator who is being blackmailed, (he was never to get a better part), Lew Ayres as the invisible Vice-President and Burgess Meredith as the mentally unstable witness, (it's a great cameo). Charles Laughton, too, gave a career-defining performance as the wily old senator whose opposition is the source of everyone's troubles, (it was his last film).

George Grizzard's character and performance is a mistake. He's the villain of the piece and he's demonic; he goes around spitting fire but he's a necessary evil. And the ending doesn't ring true; it's too convenient, a cop-out even if we are on the edge of our seat. But these are minor quibbles when everything else is so extraordinarily good. The script, by Wendell Mayes, is one of the great adaptations of a book, (even if it does reduce the roles of some characters and leaves out the back-fill). Amazingly, this great film wasn't nominated for a single Oscar. It rose above the brouhaha of the Academy.
63 out of 109 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
Otto's Washington
A.W Richmond24 January 2005
I've been told that Otto Preminger believed in discipline through voltage. He was a shouter. He was good with actors but had a reputation as a mean, cruel director of actresses. In his films there is a hidden streak of sadistic paranoia disguised in a costume of courage and all American social consciousness. With the passing of time the coat of courage appears fake and induced rather than deserved. The social consciousness seems mere opportunism. The only thing that survives with flying colors is the sadistic paranoia. Not in a fun, witty and cinematic way but as a plodding, old pastiche with the one redeeming feature: the quality of his actors and actresses. Dorothy Dandridge, Jean Simmons, Patricia Neal, Gene Tirney, Henry Fonda, James Stewart, Charles Laughton, Paul Newman, Brandon de Wilde. In "Advise and Consent" the spectacular cast makes this confused political thriller slash soap opera slash full of sadistic paranoia disguised as social consciousness, almost bearable. Every scene with Charles Laughton is enormously fun to watch. Henry Fonda, of course, totally believable. I suggest to watch it with your thumb ready on the fast forward button. Stay with Laughton and Fonda, look at Don Murray and say hello to Gene Tirney. All in all you could see the best of the film in about 15 minutes. Goodness I can hear Otto ranting and raving. I say, let him.
65 out of 115 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
A Good Job With Some Challenging Material
Snow Leopard22 November 2005
The complex story, numerous characters, and sensitive themes would seem to make Allen Drury's "Advise & Consent" a challenging story to film. This is a good adaptation that succeeds in most respects, and it gets about as much out of the material as you could hope for in a couple of hours or so worth of screen time. Otto Preminger seems to have had a good appreciation for the dramatic possibilities, and the fine cast brings the main characters to life believably.

The movie version (more so than the novel) is as much or more about the practicalities of politics than it is about ideology. Some of the political issues themselves were hotly debated topics in the movie's own era, and a couple of them are still topical now, but even they are often secondary to the harsh and often unseemly realities of political power. All of the major characters have their flaws and make mistakes, yet all but a couple of them have some worthwhile characteristics. On its best level, the story is not about winning and losing so much as it is about the ways that political battles affect individual lives and personal character.

There are numerous good performances and some fine casting. Charles Laughton personifies the old-time Senator Cooley, Walter Pigeon (the spell-checker refuses to accept it spelled properly) could not have been better chosen as the Majority Leader, and Henry Fonda is perfect in a challenging role that calls for him to maintain a difficult balance. Even most of the supporting roles are filled well by fine actors like Lew Ayres, Franchot Tone, and Burgess Meredith (who uses his brief screen time very effectively, in a role that must have been quite ironic for him personally).

Naturally, some of the characters and events from the novel had to be omitted or streamlined, but there is still plenty of meat left, even once you discount the Cold War era ideological issues. The personal lives and personal agendas of the characters, the tension between their lives as individuals and their responsibilities as public servants, and the contrast between what they do and what the public sees, all give the movie some extra depth that makes it worthwhile and that gives it meaning that goes well beyond the political issues on the surface.
27 out of 45 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
Overlong but splendid political drama that populates the vision of the American Senate
ma-cortes5 November 2012
A brilliant adaptation of a known bestseller dealing with politic intrigues and plenty of familiar faces formed by an all-star-cast who gives extraordinary acting . 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. Then the USA senate presided by the Vice President (Lew Ayres) at is called upon to confirm the controversial nominee by President (Franchot Tone) for Secretary of State (Henry Fonda) . But the nominee is accused as communist by Herbert Gelman (Burguess Meredith ,in real life, he was himself named an "unfriendly witness" by the House Un-American Activities Committee, which nearly ruined his career and Will Geer, who plays the Senate minority leader, was also blacklisted for refusing to name names before the same Committee) , he testifies against Leffingwell at the latter's confirmation hearing, claiming that the two of them were members of a Communist cell . A Southern Senator (flamboyant acting by Charles Laughton) strongly opposes himself the appointment . Meantime , a senator (Don Murray) is blackmailed (the blackmail attempt is based on the case of Wyoming Senator Lester C. Hunt, who was blackmailed by members of the Republican Party).

Gripping and long movie that contains over-the-top performances, engrossing drama , intrigue , corruption , political events and a special vision of US Senate and its behind-the-scenes Washington . Thought-provoking and stimulating film in which abounds top-drawer acting among the popular stars ; interesting screenplay from Allen Drury bestselling novel wheeling with a suspenseful intrigue about a controversial senator promoted to Secretary of State . When Allen Drury was writing the novel , John F. Kennedy, upon whom the character Senator Lafe Smith was based, was a young Senator with ambitions to be President. When the movie came out Kennedy was President, and Lafe Smith was played by Peter Lawford who was, at that time, married to Kennedy's sister Patricia . Main and support cast are very fine , there abounds magnificent performances as Don Murray , Paul Ford , Walter Pidgeon , Peter Lawford , Gene Tierney , Edward Andrews , Malcolm Atterbury and Franchot Tone , among others . Fascinating interpretation by Charles Laughton at his final movie , easily the most stimulating acting . Furthermore , stands out Henry Fonda who gives an adequate underplaying and the scene-stealing best , George Grizzard . Good production design by Lyle Wheeler , for the scenes taking place inside the US Senate, Columbia dusted off its senate set built for Mr Smith Goes to Washington. Appropriate cinematography in Panavision by Sam Leavitt , though also there is a horrible version being shown in computer-colored . Atmospheric and appropriate musical score by Jerry Fielding .

This engrossing , riveting picture was effective and compellingly directed by Otto Preminger . At the beginning he became a stage director and subsequently a notorious secondary actor . Otto directed several films , nowadays many of them are considered as classic movies . He made ¨Laura¨ that was released in 1944 and Preminger ranked as one of the top directors in the world . He realized all kind of genres as Court drama such as the great success ¨Anatomy of a murder¨, ¨Court martial of Billy Mitchell¨ , Noir film as ¨Laura¨ which made him an A-list director in Hollwyood , ¨Angel Face¨ , ¨Man with a golden arm¨, Religious drama as ¨The Cardinal¨ , Musical as ¨Porgy and Bess¨, ¨Carmen Jones¨ , Western as ¨River with no return¨ and historical as ¨Saint Joan¨, ¨Exodus¨ though also had some flop as ¨Rosebud¨ getting scathing reviews , though with ¨The human factor¨ won him respectful notices . However , his powers began to wane after and by the end of the decade of the 60s he was considered washed-up . ¨Advise and Consent¨ resulted to be one of the his best films . Rating : Better than average , Worthwhile watching .
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
I Advise You to SeeThis Amazing Film
pfogertyca7 July 2007
Warning: Spoilers
"Advise and Consent" offers a glimpse into the dirty deeds and misguided ideals that keep the Washington political machine running, and it's as powerful and relevant today as it was 45 years ago.

The story revolves around the nomination of a controversial candidate for Secretary of State. Henry Fonda plays Robert Leffingwell, the man whom the U.S. President (Franchot Tone) is determined to add to his administration. Leffingwell is a reluctant nominee, a man whose past dalliance with the Communist party could come back to haunt him. Walter Pidgeon, as the Senate's Majority Leader, embarks on a strategic campaign to approve Leffingwell's nomination, but he is opposed by the conservative and curmudgeonly Senator Cooley from South Carolina. As Cooley, Charles Laughton delivers one of the best performances of his career (and sadly, his last) as the politician you love to hate.

To add balance to Leffingwell's confirmation proceedings, the Majority Leader brings in the young and energetic Senator from Utah, Brig Anderson, played by Don Murray, to chair the confirmation subcommittee. When it appears that Anderson may hold up Leffingwell's confirmation, power hungry Senator Ackerman (wonderfully realized by George Grizzard) digs up a secret from Anderson's past in a blackmail attempt.

Murray has the film's most challenging role as the gay and closeted Brig Anderson, so full of guilt and self loathing that he goes to extreme measures to preserve his secret. "Advise and Consent" supposedly is the first American film to actually depict the inside of a gay bar. We see it from Anderson's perspective, a dark and foreboding location full of shadowed figures, while Frank Sinatra's "Secret Place" plays in the background. Anderson's reaction to what he sees is reflective of 1962 societal views of homosexuality; it's an uncomfortable and degrading scene to watch, and the film's weakest point. Still, it brings a visual and physical perspective to Anderson's utter desperation to keep this side of his life hidden.

Inga Swenson (probably best known as the bitter Swedish housekeeper Kraus on TV's "Benson"), turns in a touching performance as Anderson's wife, who preserves her husband's secret in order to maintain his dignity.

Otto Preminger, known for his perfectionism and dictatorial style, gets the best out his actors. There isn't a single flawed performance in the film, but Laughton and Murray certainly shine brightest. Look for some smaller, but effective performances by Peter Lawford as, ironically, a suave and womanizing JFK type, and by Betty White as the senator from Kansas. Gene Tierney also appears as Dolly Harrison, a rich Washington widow who throws lavish parties, but there's far too little of her in the movie.

"Advise and Consent" offers no happy and tidy ending, but a realistic one nonetheless. The theme of the movie can be best summed up when Pidgeon's Majority Leader responds to Ackerman's justification of Anderson's blackmail as having been done for the good of the country. Pidgeon's pointed retort, "Fortunately, our country always manages to survive patriots like you," is a pessimistic statement about the state of the U.S. political process.
12 out of 20 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
Taken From Some Real Political Characters
bkoganbing28 October 2006
Warning: Spoilers
The film Advise and Consent is an abridged edition of Allen Drury's best selling novel about political Washington, DC. The novel is a bit more complex. One major element of it that is removed is that the character of Orrin Knox who is played by Edward Andrews is the one who takes the lead in opposition to the nomination of the Henry Fonda character, Robert Leffingwell after Don Murray as Brigham Anderson commits suicide. Here he's a minor character.

Allen Drury was the New York Times Washington correspondent and in fact was assigned specifically to the Senate for 1943-1945. Before turning to fiction, Drury kept a daily journal of what he saw and later that was published. Readers of that will recognize Franchot Tone as the president who was named Roosevelt back in the day, Harley Hudson played by Lew Ayres as Harry Truman, and Walter Pidgeon's Majority Leader Robert Munson is Alben Barkley.

What the film is about is that the president has nominated Henry Fonda as Secretary of State and a certain southern Senator played by Charles Laughton has a personal vendetta against him. He uses the Senate hearings on the nomination to launch a charge of Communism against Fonda. The result of all of Laughton's machinations is the suicide of one of his colleagues.

This was Charles Laughton's farewell performance and he went out in a grand bravura style. His Seabright Cooley is an amalgam of a whole lot of southern characters who represented the south back in the day before the Voting Rights Act. There's a story that Laughton spent some time visiting with Robert Mitchum who had a farm in the rural Maryland area near Washington and Laughton confessed to Mitchum he was having trouble getting the proper accent down. Mitchum who had an uncanny ear for accents demonstrated it for him right on the spot. He might have even helped Laughton with it because Laughton had it and the character spot on.

The hearing where witness Burgess Meredith accuses Fonda of being a Communist is taken of course from the Alger Hiss-Whittaker Chambers drama. And the suicide of Don Murray's character because of an expose of a homosexual affair is taken from the suicide in 1955 of Senator Lester Hunt of Wyoming. Hunt was not being pressured for himself, but for his son. That's a story that could rate a film treatment.

Advise and Consent was one of the first films to have a gay subplot in the proceedings, handled ever so gingerly back in 1962. It's a milestone in gay cinematic history. I'm not sure that Don Murray's character wasn't just a guy who had a gay fling back in his youth and was probably essentially straight. Still back in the day such exposure would have been ruinous. Just look at Brokeback Mountain if you don't agree.

One thing I will never understand though is why Otto Preminger had Frank Sinatra record a half a song specifically for the gay bar scene. Sinatra fans will search in vain for that record, there's no such song, it's only a few lines of some sappy lyrics made better by Sinatra singing them. Why he didn't just use one of Sinatra's records is a mystery.

Advise and Consent is one of the best ensemble dramas ever done on screen. Even those who are not really political will appreciate the array of talent Otto Preminger assembled and directed to perfection.
21 out of 42 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
Preminger and Allen Drury's political masterpiece.
theowinthrop1 August 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Allen Drury is recalled for one single novel he wrote in the 1950s that became a bestseller and Pulitzer Prize Winner. It is ADVISE AND CONSENT. There had been many political novels before Drury. Ignatius Donelly's populist novel, CAESAR'S COLUMN was a best seller in the 1890s, and Jack London would write the first American anti-Utopian novel THE IRON HEEL in the early 20th Century. In the 1930s Sinclair Lewis would satirize Huey Long with with IT CAN'T HAPPEN HERE (about a Fascist America). Long cast a long shadow (his career influenced two novels turned films: A LION IS IN THE STREETS and Robert Penn Warren's ALL THE KING'S MEN). But Drury's novel picked up on a single procedure of government: the way the appointments of the U.S. President are reviewed by the Senate through subcommittees who decide whether or not to support the choice. Taking a seemingly dull process, Drury showed the machinations and maneuvers of the President, the Senate Majority Leader and Majority Whip, the Subcommittee chairman, and the candidate himself to demonstrate it was really great drama here.

As was pointed out in another review here, the characters are based on real parties in the Washington of the late 1940s and 1950s. The President, who enjoys cruises on the Presidential yacht and is a chain smoker, is based on F.D.R. The Vice President (frist name Harley) is Harry Truman - kept out of the loop by the President who isn't interested in preparing him for office. THe Majority Leader is based on Vice President Alben Berkeley, a wise politico type. Seabright Cooley is a combination of South Carolina's Senator Strom Thurmond and Mississippi's Senator Eastman. The Washington Hostess who has a side affair with the Majority Leader is a combination of Pearl Mesta and Alica Roosevelt (who had an affair with William Borah, Senator of Idaho in the 1920s and 1930s). Leffingwell's confirmation as Secretary of State is based on many hearings up to 1962 where there were serious questions, here tied to Communist leanings due to the date of the story (post-McCarthy, but the effect of the Wisconsin Senator was still there). The fate of one of the Senators is based on the tragedy of Wyoming Senator Lester Hunt.

Preminger reduced the plot line of the novel, making Senator Orrin Knox (Edward Andrews) a minor figure. That can't be done if there was a remake today - I'll get back to that. He concentrates on how Robert Leffingwell's confirmation is a political football because Leffingwell may be too soft on the Communists. Since Preminger casts Henry Fonda as Leffingwell, the audience tends to support him. But during the confirmation hearings Leffingwell is confronted by a former acquaintance played by Burgess Meredith who claims Leffingwell was a communist. Meredith is based, of course, on Whittaker Chambers, confronting Alger Hiss. But here he is briefly discredited by Leffingwell. Then it comes out that Leffingwell covered up the truth and lied to the subcommittee. Cooley (who hates Leffingwell) finds out, and decides to bring this to the attention of Senator Brigham Anderson (Don Murray) who wants Leffingwell to withdraw his candidacy.

The tragedy of the story is the pressures brought on Anderson by the President (Franchot Tone) and by the party leaders led by the Majority leader (Walter Pidgeon). Then he and his wife (Inger Swenson) get mysterious and threatening phone calls that Anderson understands the import of. They deal with a sexual incident that Anderson hoped would never be revealed, and he tries to find the person who is the key to destroying him. He fails to do so in time. He kills himself as a result. But his death leads to complications too. It ends with the disgrace of a fellow senator, and the last minute change of mind of a young New England Senator (based on John Kennedy and played by Peter Lawford) changing his vote. It all hinges on the Vice President at the end.

The novel shows how the Senate protects it's dignity by an inner circle that (at least until the 1980s) was inclusive of the leaders of both parties. It also shows how it treats obnoxious outsiders (George Grizzard as Senator Van Ackerman). But it gives a good look at the process - a process that we are more aware of now after the Bork, Thomas, and Sotomayer Supreme Court appointment hearings.

In the original novel Senator Knox was to have been more important. Today that would have to be shown in a remake. And that is the odd sequel to this fine movie. Drury continued a whole series of novels about his Washington scene, in which he gradually showed his super-conservatism (Knox eventually becomes a President in several of the novels). But Drury really could not see how our country would get out of the polarizing mess in Congress: the Liberals were too willing to give into the enemies and the Conservatives too reactionary. Ironically in later novels like COME NINEVEH, COME TYRE he concluded that the Communsts were doomed too - because he foresaw China and Russian going to war over Asia. The later books were not as well received as the first one. But the film version of ADVISE AND CONSENT does show Drury at his best, when he told a story well and to an understandable conclusion.
12 out of 22 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
A powerful movie, when it finally gets going
richard-178726 October 2012
Warning: Spoilers
This movie is too long, but once it finally gets going - once we find out what Brig Anderson is being blackmailed for, and then the political maneuvering that goes on in the Senate - it moves to a conclusion with real dramatic power, in part because of good direction, in part because of fine acting all the way around.

Others have weighed in on the various virtues - and defects - of the movie. I thought I'd address a point that doesn't seem to have been discussed: the portrayal of Brig Anderson as a man who had a homosexual relationship.

Late in the movie we learn that the handsome young senator Brigham Anderson had a homosexual relationship during WW II while stationed in Hawaii. This is not presented as an anonymous encounter in an airport men's room or something like that, but rather as an emotional, and therefore we must assume romantic, relationship between two men. We see Anderson's "Dean John" letter to his war-time companion, Ray, in which he declares the relationship a mistake and tells Ray he is now going to lead the life of a straight man. We also see a picture of the two of them as a lay-bedecked, smiling couple.

Earlier in the movie, before we have reason to suspect why, Anderson's wife says something about their marriage not having been very "exciting," which suggests that there was something wrong with their sex life.

If we put that together in retrospect, we conclude that Anderson did not "leave behind" his homosexuality when he returned to the mainland after the war, but rather "settled for" a heterosexual marriage that was not fulfilling for him sexually.

Given that, the portrayal of Anderson, which is uniformly positive if, in the end, very sad, is interesting. He is a man of principle who fights for what he believes to be right. (Granted, that included a hatred of Communism, but the movie was made in 1962, the era of the Cuban missile crisis.) The only other glimpse we get of gay men in the movie is very short: a brief scene inside a gay bar. It really doesn't seem out of the ordinary.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
American Politics
screenman21 August 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Otto Preminger brings to the screen this wonderful story of political intrigue in the USA.

Filmed in good ol' black & white, the work looks a decade older than its 1962 vintage. It's long, too; running time is well over 2 hours.

There are some fine turns from heavyweights like Henry Fonda, Charles Laughton and Walter Pidgeon. Henry Fonda always excels as the honourable but vulnerable man, which made his sadistic killer in 'Once Upon A Time In The West' such a shocking volte-face. Laughton is equally good as an ageing Machiavelli, as he further demonstrated in 'Spartacus'.

Once again, there are no special effects, blood-n-guts or pyrotechnics. The only fireworks derive from the drama and an excellent script to push it along. This movie reminds me very much of 'Seven Days In May'. The latter, I think, is superior, with more tension and a slightly better script, but this does well enough.

There are not enough of this kind of movie being made today, which must be a judgement of our times. How the honourable aspirations depicted here have been been laid waste by 'no whitewash in the White House' tricky Dicky, or 'I did not have sex with that woman' (just a bit of fellatio) Billy C. and 'weapons of mass distraction' Dubya. Integrity has been largely replaced by conniving cynicism, and respect by a growing contempt.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
Among Preminger's Most Accomplished Masterworks
Kalaman6 November 2003
Peter Bogdanovich once said that "Advise and Consent" is the greatest political film made in America and he could be correct. Preminger's 1962 masterwork is a gripping opus with a outstanding cast, masterly use of widescreen, and beautiful, almost hallucinatory black-and-white photography. Adapted from a novel by Allen Drury by Wendell Mayes, it recounts a US Senate committee's ongoing hearing on a controversial appointment by the President (Franchot Tone) for Secretary of State (Henry Fonda) which leads to a blackmailing of a senator from Utah (Don Murray). While I enjoyed all the performances by the top-notch cast, the stand-out performance, I think, is Charles Laughton's final turn as Senator Cooley from South Carolina, a pudgy, delightfully creepy politician who is resolutely opposed to the nomination and does what he can to stop it. The ending really surprised me, but it is not that injurious to the perceptive & emotional drama at the heart of this immensely satisfying film. Together with "Bunny Lake is Missing" & "Exodus", this is arguably Preminger's best film of 1960s.
17 out of 34 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
The more things change....
Gary M. James7 May 2007
It is interesting to watch the 1962 political drama "Advise & Consent" in 2007 and realize that U.S. politics and the background maneuvering that occurs when a president nominates someone for any government post has never changed. It is alternately interesting and frustrating to see what goes on in Washington behind closed doors. The great politicians know how to play the dirty game of compromise while others embarrass themselves by crossing the line.

If one looks at the last 45 years of U.S. politics after this movie was released and note the numerous real-life scandals, I can say that what is depicted in the movie is pretty close to reality, even though it's a fictional story. This entertaining film is through the observant eyes of producer/director Otto Preminger, a notable risk-taker who seem to have always made it his mission to shake up the Hays Office stranglehold on morals and what should be depicted on the big screen, and screenwriter Wendell Mayes, who adapted the original novel written by Allen Drury. I have never read the book but I understand that the movie was just an abridged version and I will have to say that Preminger and Mayes did a very good job.

From Henry Fonda as the Secretary of State nominee and Franchot Tone as the President, to Lew Ayres as the Vice President, Walter Pidgeon as the senator majority leader and, in his final role, Charles Laughton as the instigating senator from South Carolina, the strong cast, individually and collectively, gave impressive performances. Familiar character actors including Paul Ford (from The Phil Silvers Show), Edward Andrews, and Burgess Meredith were also very good. I was pleasantly surprised to see TV icon Betty White in a short but pointed performance as the only female Senate member.

One notably historic story plot line involved Don Murray as an influential senator who is simultaneously being blackmailed. I was more than a little bit surprised to see the depiction of apparently a closeted politician end up traveling outside D.C. to confront his supposed blackmailer. I found the situation rather funny and over-the-top. However, if you look at when this was made, it certainly fits the morals of that era. Arguably, what was shocking and shameful before the mid-1960s (blackmailing someone who might be gay) is not as shocking now (at least in some countries).

Overall, "Advise & Consent" is extremely entertaining. Alternately dramatic and sharply humorous, this movie kept my interest from beginning to end.
13 out of 25 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
Powerful Performances elevate Preminger's political thriller to a masterwork! Warning: Spoilers
One of a handful of truly outstanding political thrillers, Advise and Consent (1962) is a powerful masterwork, yet sadly, largely unseen film today. From director Otto Preminger, whose body of work never ceases to amaze, this film stars Henry Fonda as Robert Leffingwell, a would-be candidate for the appointment of Secretary of State. Although Leffingwell has the President's (Franchot Tone) backing, he must first be put under the microscope of a senate investigation. However, when scandalous bits of dirt begin to surface about Leffingwell's past, including links to the communist party, its up to cockeyed optimist, and senate committee leader, Brig Anderson (Don Murray) to deduce the best course of action. Apart from being populated by a veritable who's who of old time star talent (including Walter Pigeon, Charles Laughton, Lew Ayres, Peter Lawford, Gene Tierney and Burgess Meredith, who deliver outstanding performances) the film is also a harsh critique of the Washington bureaucratic machinery that functions in cloaked secrecy behind the façade of American justice. The climactic hearing, with its rogue element, faux patriots, and government conspiracies beginning to unravel, is pointedly shocking, but never cliché. This is one heck of a good show.

The same can be said of the DVD transfer from Warner Bros.; marvelous, anamorphic B&W picture element, with solid deep blacks and variably clean whites in what you get. Occasionally dirt and scratches appear but nothing that will terribly distract from the visual presentation. The audio has been nicely preserved and remastered along with the picture elements. Drew Casper's film commentary is a tad meandering at times, but overall offers fruitful reflections and a wealth of historical fact that compliment this DVD presentation. First rate in every way, Advise and Consent is definitely one to add to your DVD collection.
18 out of 37 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
a little long, a little slow but an excellent civics lesson
MartinHafer18 April 2006
What you think about this movie will strongly depend on you. I think the average person would probably score it a 6 or 7, the average teen a 3 or 4 and the average Government teacher a 9. I have taught Government in the past and am also a history teacher, so I was fascinated by the movie's plot PLUS saw it as a good civics lesson on how the Senate REALLY works--complete with all the sleaze and back room dealing. But, I would strongly hesitate using it with my high school students because they would probably be bored by the slow pacing and occasional lapses in tempo. However, for college students or advanced high schoolers this would be great. What I particularly liked was how brave the movie was in tackling blackmail and homosexuality--topics RARELY talked about--especially in 1962 when this film debuted. In addition, the ending was excellent and the movie picked up steam at the end. The only negative was HOW DID THEY KNOW WHICH SENATOR WAS THE BLACKMAILER? The answer to this just seemed like too easy a solution to be very believable.
12 out of 24 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
Very well-scripted political drama...
dwpollar20 November 2004
1st watched 11/20/2004 - 8 out of 10(Dir-Otto Preminger): Very well-scripted political drama that brings you to the edge of your seat without bullets firing, bombs exploding etc... but instead because of it's captivating story. I think the biggest thing I like about this movie is that each character has it's good and bad side and you don't know which side is going to come out when. The lone "good guy" throughout is played by Don Murray and his fate is definitely not welcomed. The political wheels spin from the beginning to the end of this movie that is basically about a senate trying to approve the president's nod for Secretary of State. It takes more than 2 hours for the movie to unfold but we still don't know who's going to assume this role. Kind of filmed like a day in the life of a Senator with actual shots being filmed in some of the exact places where they do their business adds to the allure. The acting is solid but not pressing work for those involved here because they are put into the parts that they fit well for and are accepted for. Notably the last film appearance by the fine character actor Charles Laughton.
12 out of 24 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
a dark but rewarding and uncanny story of the duplicity of politics (or "being polite")
MisterWhiplash31 December 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Otto Preminger broke ground with Advise & Consent. I wonder what the reaction really was at the time (some today call it a masterpiece, some are more critical, which is fine), since it really is much more cynical (though rightfully so) and filled with the kind of believable twists rarely seen working in political movies. Preminger's film takes melodramatic turns to be sure- there's a reveal in the story about the character that Don Murray plays, Brig, that I wish I could keep as a spoiler, by now revealed by others regarding a homosexual club- but it all works because we believe the characters - that is, to the extent that we believe almost nobody. It's hard to tell if anyone in the film is noble, and yet only one character, Senator Cooley (Laughton, his final performance), feels like it is, or at least should be, the villain.

It's the story of a should-be-a-shoe-in nominee for Secretary of State put in the hot-seat of a confirmation hearing, and how it goes, potentially, horrible awry. First of all is the Communist allegations, which prove to be about half right (Henry Fonda's Leffingwell is straightforward as can be, though only most of all to the President about actually attending a few meetings in the 30's as a curious young man), then the rather fishy calling to the stand an unreliable ex-mental patient witness (Burgess Meredith, in one of his truly underrated performances as a soft-spoken man under oath), and of course Senator Cooley, who is about the truest embodiment of the old-school "Dixiecrat" (that is back when the South was Democrat, though just on the border of being Republican) and who oozes contempt from his every pore while at the same time admiration from his colleagues as a kind of quintessential old-codger.

But the big twist comes with the leader of the sub-committee doing the questioning of Leggingwell, Senator Anderson. His conflict makes up the real complexity of the movie, one that is both tragic and, in Preminger's morbid sensibility, almost amusing on a sick scale. He makes up what today would be the typical political scandal about a really unruly affair - but the catch here is how scandalous it is really made up to be, just by the imagery of that club, and the guy who greets Anderson at the apartment with the tea. What becomes apparent, to me, is that the film is about an all-pervasive mind-set in Washington, characterized by the anti-Communist fervor at the time (the film is inspired by actual people, i.e. JFK and Alger Hiss, and actual events) and by a general lack of being true to oneself entirely, at least all of the time. One can practically see the skid marks on the road from the tires of Mr. Smith's car jetting out of Washington.

While casting just about perfectly in the roles; Fonda as the honest-but-not candidate whom we know we should like but is a bit complex; Laughton as a force of evil that, too, is way too complex to be pigeon-holed (and given a hell of a final twist at the end, a kind of true 'didn't-see-that-one-coming' moment in movies); Pidgeon, Lawford as the Senators and Tote as the weary but tough President; Tierney (great in scenes except when she's put on to cry); Preminger makes sure to make the movie interesting from a cinematography stand-point and in the pacing. We get characters sometimes speaking out of the frame, or from sides of the composition that seem rather wide or out of place from what we might imagine. This creates an unusual suspense in scenes such as the questioning of Fonda's character. And how he'll pull back in a scene, like when Laughton is speaking at great length, or pan to something that will be used in a few moments later. Only Scorsese's The Departed, another film about duplicity and lies and secrets kept, keeps up this kind of similar suspension in direction and character.

Advise & Consent is for someone who wants to watch an "old" movie about the political machine, but might not want (or has already seen) Capra's Mr. Smith, or has already taken in Fonda's other movies in the late 60's in political form (i.e. Fail-Safe). It's tough, nasty, and approximately satisfying and surprising. Some of the best performances from the 60's, namely from Laughton and Meredith, can also be found here too.
6 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
Fine Adaptation Of A Better Novel
Eric-6214 March 1999
As a political film, this is outstanding with excellent location photography and splendid performances from an outstanding cast (I can not understand how Charles Laughton didn't get an Oscar nomination for his magnificent performance as Senator Cooley). About the only reason why it's not quite as great as I'd hoped is that too many liberties are taken from the original spirit of Allen Drury's novel, on which this film is based (in the end, Drury wrote six sequel novels to "Advise And Consent" over a fifteen year span). Most distressing is to see Senator Orrin Knox, a vital character in the novel and in the stage version of the novel reduced to an overbearing buffoon who disappears halfway through the film. Purists may also cringe at seeing the Leffingwell battle played out in more ambiguous fashion, when the novel depicted as a clear good/evil struggle (though the close vote at the end makes better cinema than Drury's ending would have).
13 out of 27 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
Way Ahead of its Time ***1/2 Advise & Consent
edwagreen29 June 2007
Very interesting 1962 film dealing with the confirmation hearings by the senate of a proposed Henry Fonda to be the next Secretary of State.

While the questioning of Fonda, at the beginning, is amateurish at best, the film becomes more absorbing when it deals with a homosexual past of Utah Sen. Don Murray.

As always, Charles Laughton steals the film in his acting ability. Here, he places a conniving, corrupt South Carolina conservative senator out to destroy Fonda's nomination.

Who was Bette While imitating as a senator from Kansas? Was it Nancy Kassebaum, Alf Landon's daughter?

An interesting, intriguing film dealing with the politics and bureaucracy of Washington.

The surprise ending may be viewed as a cop-out by many. Dealing with homosexuality in 1962 was an achievement, and director Otto Preminger should be complimented for undertaking this achievement.
11 out of 23 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews