The President's choice of an unpopular Secretary of State leads to divisions in the Senate and the blackmail and death of a senator.
Genre: Feature Film-Drama
Release Date: 10-MAY-2005
Media Type: DVD
"Talk about an all-star cast: when Otto Preminger brought Allan Drury's epic study of a Senate confirmation of a morally ambiguous nominee for Secretary of State, he got just about everyone in Hollywood to participate. Though the best roles go to Charles Laughton as a manipulative (but intensely likeable) South Carolina senator and Franchot Tone as the tortured President, not everyone got so lucky; the novel had so many characters that some big actors (like Gene Tierney, wasted as a Washington hostess) are pretty much trapped in throwaway roles. Preminger was pretty progressive by Hollywood standards, and so the Senate he depicts is remarkably diverse, with senators of many ethnic backgrounds. There's a great cameo (the film's standout moment) from Betty White, who, as a shrewd Kansas senator, trounces George Grizzard, the despicable Senator Van Ackerman (from Wyoming, of course, so as to offend the least number of audience members possible) in open debate on the Senate floor. Preminger was really daring (for the time) in his willingness to tackle the subject of the blackmail of homosexuals in the film. It should be said, however, that the film's notorious depiction of a gay bar (the first Hollywood film to do so openly since the institution of the Hays code) as a nightmarish cesspool of vice, where the fat effeminate bartender hysterically beckons in the horrified Don Murray (see my title), probably did more to keep gay men in the closet in the Sixties than anything Hollywood ever did."
Defanged but still worthwhile
Jeffrey Ellis | Richardson, Texas United States | 09/28/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Otto Preminger's film version of Allen Drury's classic political novel was quite the event in 1962 but today, it all seems quite tame. Both the film and novel deal with the political intrigues surrounding the nomination of Robert Leffingwell to be Secretary of State. Drury's deeply cynical novel drew its power through its complex characterizations and its then shocking portrait of an American government dominated by self-interest and hypocricy. Preminger, in his film version, actually tones down the novel but, on the whole, sticks to Drury's basic vision. The film does a pretty good job of establishing the many different conflicts and subplots that swirl around Leffingwell's nomination but the film's characters are never quite as vibrant as they are in Drury's novel. As a director, Preminger usually alternated between being excessively lurid or courageously honest. Here, perhaps intimidated by the scope of the film, Preminger's direction is sadly stodgy and, if not for several fine perfomances, the film's pace would probably be too draggy for most viewers. As well, in today's times, much of the film's controversy seems rather dated. We're no longer shocked to see the President presented as a devious power broker or to find out that a Senator is secretly homosexual. However, in 1962, these were truly bold statements to make. The film has been rightfully criticized for its trashy portrayal of homosexuals (with the prerequisite decadent sax blaring when closeted Don Murray desperately runs from one gay tiki bar to another) but at the same time, its also one of the few films of that era in which a gay character is presented sympathetically and certainly Preminger made a strong statement, for the time, by casting clean-cut, Mormon Murray in the role as opposed to the typically shifty people usually given such parts.That said, this is a film that will entertain political junkies. The portrayal of the workings of the U.S. Senate are fairly realistic and the storyline is nicely complex and doesn't reduce the issues to the typical black-and-white issues of most overtly political films. The cast is literally all-star with Henry Fonda and Charles Laughton as the two big names. Both actors are actually a bit disappointing. As Leffingwell, Fonda is in full wise man mode and as such, comes across as a bit of a bore. As a Southern Senator, Laughton goes overboard and his fake accent is overdone even by the standards of most fake Southern accents. However, the lesser stars in the cast all turn in finely tuned performances -- even if it is a little bit jarring to see Betty White sitting in the U.S. Senate. Already in decline, former leading man Franchot Tone is almost painfully believable as the dying President while Lew Ayres makes the perfect likeable but lightweight Vice President. Walter Pidgeon, as the Senate majority leader, conveys the man's overall benevolence while still remaining a credible power player. As womanizer Lafe Smith, Peter Lawford at times seems to be channelling more of his famous brother-in-law than '60s audiences would have liked to admit while Burgess Meredith is both pathetic and heart-rendering as an unstable former communist who accuses Leffingwell of being a subversive. Its impossible, for me at least, to read Drury's novel without picturing Don Murray as tormented Brig Anderson, so powerfully does Murray inhabit the role. However, the best performance goes to one of the more unsung members of the cast. As Sen. Fred Van Ackerman, character actor George Grizzard perfectly embodies the man's evil blandness and creates a character who is actually much more menacing the more hysterical portrait presented by Drury in his original novel and its sequels. In short, this is not a perfect film. However, despite its flaws, it should still hold a lot of interest for political junkies or anyone who wants a chance to see some unheralded actors give some really outstanding ensemble performances."
The Granddaddy Of Political Movies!
David Von Pein | Mooresville, Indiana; USA | 12/11/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This ultra-realistic 1962 drama of the goings-on in Washington, D.C. must rank as one of the best films of its type ever made. It's a lengthy one (2 hrs., 19 min.), but it never gets dry. The many veteran actors assembled to comprise this cast see to that. The roster includes Henry Fonda, Franchot Tone, Charles Laughton, Lew Ayres, Walter Pidgeon, and Burgess Meredith! There's also Don Murray, who probably gets more screen time here than anyone else. And I think Murray shines bright in his role as the senator with a deep, dark secret! Pidgeon is also particularly convincing in this film. This was Mr. Laughton's final motion picture. If you've never seen Advise & Consent ..... then get it today! It's a thoroughly engrossing and powerful movie experience!"
"What I Did Was For The Good Of The Country:" The Political
Gary F. Taylor | Biloxi, MS USA | 02/02/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"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 "
An absolutely fantastic film more relevant than ever
Daniel Jolley | Shelby, North Carolina USA | 05/05/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Advise and Consent is really quite a remarkable film. You'd have to search high and low to find a higher-caliber cast, the script's behind-the-scenes look at the reality of politics remains just a relevant today as it was in 1962, and the whole presentation is just flawless. Heck, even Peter Lawford's good in this movie. That Otto Preminger really knew what he was doing; the man still doesn't get all the credit he deserves. I think he must have had his own super-secret superior cameras because the clarity and overall video quality of this film is beyond amazing. This thing looks sharper and better than most movies being churned out today.
The basic premise of the film is rather simple. The President has nominated a controversial man to become Secretary of State, dropping the nomination like a little bomb on his own party and thus setting the stage for a good bit of ugliness in the Senate - with most of the trouble coming from the President's own majority party. On one end, there's a brash, still-wet-behind-the-ears primadonna who wants to use the media attention to make a name for himself; on the other end is an old curmudgeon of the Senate who opposes the nominee largely for personal reasons. The minority party (led by none other than Will "Grandpa Walton" Geer) pretty much sits back and enjoys the show- but this isn't fun and games, at all. The nominee faces charges that he was at one time a Communist, and the back alley manipulations of unscrupulous Senators push the chairman of the relevant subcommittee to the breaking point. The politics of this era played out in exaggeratedly civil terms, but deep down it was just as ugly as anything you'll see today on the floor of the Senate, where civility has quite disappeared.
The only thing that has been lost over the decades since this film was released in 1962 is the close connection between the men on the screen and the actual power players of Washington during that era. The story was fictitious, but Pulitzer-Prize winning author Alan Drury crafted the novel upon which the film is based on real people and events. Peter Lawford, appropriately enough, played a Senator modeled on JFK, George Grizzard's character supposedly represented Joseph McCarthy (although I find him quite unlike that great patriot), etc. I thought this was going to be some subtle dramatization of McCarthy's crusade against Communists, but it goes much deeper into the heart of power than that. In fact, Robert Leffingwell (played masterfully by Henry Fonda), the nominee accused of Communist associations, gets surprisingly little screen time. Stealing the show, most viewers would agree, is Charles Laughton as the Honorable Senator from South Carolina, a man adamantly opposed to the President's nomination and willing to go to great lengths to see Mr. Leffingwell turned away at the gate. With his charming (albeit unauthentic) Southern drawl and constant the-cat-who-ate-the-canary facial expressions, he proves himself quite a force to be reckoned with. As the movie progresses, however, the focus shifts more and more toward Senator Bigham Anderson, the sub-committee chairman who eventually butts heads with the President and learns that the extraordinary act of putting principles over politics can be a dangerous business. Personally, though, I thought Walter Pidgeon gave the best performance of all in his role as the Senate Majority Leader, one of the few characters to emerge in the end as a man of both practicality and honor.
I have to think this was a pretty bold film for its time, particularly in terms of the story's most startling revelation. Nowadays, we know just how ugly politics really is, but I doubt too many men had shone a flashlight of truth into the Senate's hallowed halls before 1962. Sadly, today's audiences may find all the hullabaloo of this story exceedingly tame, yet there's no taking away from the power this film still possesses. Politics was, is, and always will be a sort of game to many elected officials. They get down in the mud and wallow largely because they enjoy it, especially if it gets their faces on the national news. Far too often, though, the games of these petty men and women are taken much too far, and that leads to tragedy - for individuals, for parties, and for the whole country. This film's truths are today's truths, and as long as Senators pitch hissy fits on all sides over the process of exercising their Constitutional duty to advise and consent and, more importantly, put their own selfish, vindictive motives over the interests of the men and women they are supposed to represent, this film will remain as relevant as it ever was."