Advise & Consent
Wendell Mayes (Novel: Allen Drury)
Franchot Tone, Lew Ayres, Henry Fonda, Walter Pidgeon, Charles Laughton, Don Murray, Peter Lawford, Gene Tierney, Burgess Meredith, Eddie Hodges, Paul Ford, George Grizzard, Inga Swenson, Paul McGrath, Will Geer, Edward Andrews, Betty WHite, Malcolm Atterbury, J. Edward McKinley, William Quinn, Tiki Santos, Raoul De Leon
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It’s an intriguing political drama that relies too heavily early on attempting to educate the audience on the details of Senate structure and operation, but when the film finally gets into its meaty plot, you can’t help but pay attention. Whether it’s the threat of Communism, the selfishness of a President or the surprise scandal for an up-and-coming senator, if Advise & Consent were a novel, it would be a real page-turner (and apparently was, having been adapted from a novel).
The story revolves around the president’s nominee for Secretary of State, Robert A. Leffingwell (Henry Fonda). While his character is the main catalyst for the film’s events, I would hardly call him the lead character. Mostly, the film is filled with a slate of talented supporting actors lead by the brilliant Charles Laughton whose lack of an Oscar nomination is surprising. He plays a southern senator named “Seab” Cooley who begins a witch hunt against Leffingwell when he discovers that perhaps Leffingwell is a Communist, based on the quickly rebutted testimony of a government worker played by Burgess Meredith. Despite no political party designations being referenced in the film, it’s fairly clear that the Democrats are in the minority, but I respect that the makers wanted to make this seem like a universal story and not one that would be unique to either party.
Heading the committee to question Leffingwell, “Brig” Anderson, played by Don Murray, must wrestle with his convictions about whether to support and pass through Leffingwell’s nomination. However, when a scandal threatens to destroy his marriage and his political career, it leads to some rather intriguing soul searching and a less than friendly conclusion. Matter of fact, this one storyline was quite brave for 1962 and is one of the things I respect most about the piece. Even though the female performers in the film (Gene Tierney and Inga Swenson) never really have much of a role in the film, it is still a strong dramatic ensemble. Other notable performances come from Walter Pigeon as the Senate Majority Leader, Franchot Tone as the president and Lew Ayres as the Vice President.
August 9, 2010