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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful.
One of the most intelligent films about politics I’ve ever seen.
By March boy
Academy Award nominations: None
March Boy nominations: Picture, Director-Otto Preminger, Supporting Actor-Charles Laughton, Supporting Actor-Don Murray, Supporting Actress-Inga Swenson, Screenplay, Original Score, Black and White Cinematography and Black and White Set Design.
Wins: Song "Heart of Mine"
Advice and Consent is a movie so full of complex characterizations, intrigue, twists and turns that I can’t quite do it justice explaining it, even after two viewings. On face value, it seems to fall under the typical message films that political satires back then (The Manchurian Candidate, Mr. Smith goes to Washington and All the King’s Men just to name a few) hammered to their audience—that people are basically honorable or corrupt by their own choice and power only brings it out more—but even the four main protagonists have a certain amount of sin in their lives too—the only difference between them and Frederick van Ackerman (the main antagonist) is that they are aware of it and choose to fight it—or if they succumb they’re consciences are clean enough to where they want to smooth it over and do the right thing.
Throughout the film we see a study of the public and private lives of three senators’ and one Secretary of State nominee and they are all so brilliantly acted and written that each one of them has a certain aspect of likeability despite their flaws.
1. Robert Leffingwell is nominated by the President as the Secretary of State. However, scared for his reputation he lies under oath during a subcommittee evaluation when faced with charges of once being associated with the American Communist Party when he was a college student. Saddened, that he lost his sense of morality for a moment, he tells the President the truth and begs him to withdraw his nomination.
2. Robert Munson is the Senate Majority Leader. Despite being a playboy in his private life, he treats every senator with dignity and respect and isn’t afraid to call a spade and spade when he sees one which is seen in his confrontations with Seabright Cooley and Frederick van Ackerman towards the end of the film.
3. Seabright Cooley, the senator from South Carolina is all bluff but there is no real harm in him. His playful sarcasm makes him almost impossible not to like whether you agree with where he stands on the issues or not. Yet he is not so high and mighty that he will not openly humble himself and apologize without making excuses when he realizes he has gone too far in his political maneuvering—as is seen in his final speech.
4. Brigham Anderson, the Senator from Utah is the youngest of the group. He is a kind gentle soul who loves him family and treats all the other senators—even the vipers like Frederick—with respect. He is not an opportunist who blows in the wind for the sake of political gain—he merely wants to know the truth about Leffingwell and whenever he votes, it’s always for a firm, deeply rooted conviction. He never attacks anyone for disagreeing with him or tries to throw rocks through the windows of their private lives for he knows FULL WELL that his own are made of the THINEST GLASS. He definitely set himself up for the slaughter getting involved in politics considering the demons of his past but maybe he sincerely felt called to run for senate because of his good intentions (Hence his speech to his wife about how “If I vote for Leffingwell everything I’ve ever stood for and believed in will crumble into dust”) and decided in the end that it was worth the risk.
The acting is all solid throughout with Charles Laughton and Don Murray as the standouts. Laughton (Seabright) delivers his lines with crisp speed and wit and provides quite a bit of comic relief. His delivery of “I haven’t had so much fun since the cayenne pepper hit the floor” is a classic. Murray (Brigham) is handsome and brings just the right amount of sweet, gentle family-man charm to his character and the way he slowly unravels emotionally and psychologically like peeling away at the layers of an onion will tear your heart out. That last close up of his face (especially those glistening eyes) as his wife is ringing for him in his office will stay with you for a long time--you can simply feel him crumble inside.
Inga Swenson likewise gives a very powerful performance as his strong devoted wife Ellen. Even though she only has two or three major scenes towards the end she really makes the most of them—the part where she hugs her husband and tells him “I could never leave you! No matter what happens I could never leave you!" is a real tear jerker.
The screenplay is richly detailed and beautifully written with moments of wit, humor and poignancy. My favorite bits are:
1. “Son this is a Washington D.C. kind of lie.” Mr. Leffingwell explains when he tells his son to tell the Senate Majority Leader Robert Munson on the telephone that he is not at home. “It’s when the other guy knows you’re lying and also you know that he knows.”
2. The French lady in the balcony asks the British lady “Why do the Democrats sit on the left and the Republicans sit on the right?” The British lady says “Oh no darling. It’s purely geographical. They’re all liberals and conservatives but no communists or anything of that sort. The only difference is the liberals don’t always sit on the left and the conservatives don’t always sit on the right.” Very true then and now.
All in all a very great watch and great for discussions.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful.
Terrific Political Drama Even More Timely Today
By Silver Screen Videos
It's always fascinating to watch movies made and set a generation or more ago to compare the political and artistic beliefs of today with those when the film was made. In the case of Otto Preminger's Advise and Consent, comparison of the political process in the early 1960s to that of today shows just how far things have changed, and not necessarily for the better.
Advise and Consent was based on a highly popular novel by Alan Drury that gave many people an insider's look for the first time at the nuts and bolts of the political process, which wasn't pretty then or now. The President of the United States has nominated a brilliant intellectual (Henry Fonda) as the new Secretary of State, but Fonda's world view is seen by many as being too soft on communism. The Senate majority leader (Walter Pidgeon) names a relatively junior senator (Don Murray) to head the committee reviewing the nomination. However, the more the committee investigates, the more it appears that Fonda may actually have been associated with Communist groups in the past and lied about it. Heading the opposition to the nomination is Charles Laughton, in his last movie, oozing courtliness and a perfect Southern accent as a good old boy from South Carolina.
Both the cast and the screenplay are top notch here. Although Fonda is top billed, it's a true ensemble piece, as his character practically disappears in the second half of the film. Instead, the plot turns on an attempt by another junior senator (George Grizzard) to blackmail Murray into dropping his opposition by threatening to bring up a gay encounter Murray had during World War II. Although this type of storyline today would probably be seen as too tame to matter by audiences and voters alike, even discussing the issue (and setting a bizarre scene in a gay bar) in 1962 was highly controversial. The resolution of Murray's conflicted dilemma proves the emotional centerpiece of the movie.
The film has too many other subplots and intrigues to mention in a brief review, but what is truly fascinating is the difference between the political climate then and now. While it's true that accusing a political nominee of being soft on communism wouldn't matter much at all today, what shines through in Advise and Consent is the underlying spirit of decency and cooperation among most of the Senators (with the notable exception of Grizzard's extremely out-of-touch hardline idealist). Pidgeon, Laughton, Murray, and Grizzard are all members of the same unnamed party... the opposition pretty much sits on the sideline as the battles play out. But despite their differences, the Senators all want to do the same thing, determine whether Fonda as a person is right for the job. By contrast, a similar contest today would undoubtedly be considerably less civil and considerably less about the individual's qualifications and more about scoring political points.
Although the movie certainly doesn't have a "happy" ending, it does end by confirming the effectiveness of the Constitutional process in its day. What it also provides for audiences is a riveting 2 1/2 hours of drama and melodrama that combines great acting with an interesting lesson in government and politics.
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Revisited 55 Years Later
By Gilbert Zimmerman
It's been 55 years since I last saw this film. Viewing it again, it lives up to my memories and expectations. It remains a study in the political behavior of powerful and sometimes devious and ruthless individuals. All these interactions occur within the same unnamed governing political party, so it's not a partisan propaganda piece. The cast is simply excellent. The leading characters (including the adversarial roles of Charles Laughton and Henry Fonda) are complex figures, but each has redeeming qualities, sometimes unanticipated, as with the conscience vote of Peter Lawford's character. Those expecting Fonda to invariably play a heroic figure might be disappointed. Only the fanatical senator from Wyoming is a one-dimensional villain. Laughton's role as the South Carolina Senator is stereotypical, but it's entertaining and undeniably well played. One earlier reviewer opines that "the Repub opposition is masterminded by the vicious Charles Laughton character." No way. Reviewer doesn't begin to understand the political realities of 1962, including the one party system in the old Solid South. The setting is indeed that of fifty-five years back, but the important things are mostly still relevant.