Regardless of your political persuasion, conservative or liberal, with the current Supreme Court confirmation hearings going on it’s a great time to watch Otto Preminger’s Advise and Consent. Found at the intersection of the political thriller and the all-star cast extravaganza, I love to tell the story:
The Secretary of State has been dead for two weeks, and President Franchot Tone surprises Majority Leader Walter Pidgeon (and the nation) by nominating Henry Fonda for the position. Pidgeon enlists the help of Majority Whip Paul Ford, bachelor senator Peter Lawford (!), and married senator Don Murray with the nomination while also reaching out to Minority Leader Will Geer (!), who is opposed. Senator Charles Laughton (essentially appearing as Jesse Helms) hates Henry Fonda, but Senator George Grizzard passionately supports him with his army of sycophants, his “Brain Trust.” Vice President Lew Ayres wants to be helpful, but is overlooked by all. During the confirmation hearings, Laughton calls Burgess Meredith as a witness to expose Fonda as a Communist. Fonda eventually discredits Meredith, but not because Meredith wasn’t telling the truth.
The nomination stalls, and suddenly Don Murray finds out from his wife Inge Swenson (!) that someone wants to remind him “about what happened in Hawaii.” Blackmail?! Society hostess Gene Tierney (oh my God, she is so fabulous) remains the background, and ends up hosting a stag poker party at which some terrible news arrives . . . The nomination finally comes to a vote, but will the Vice President have to break a tie or not? You won’t catch me divulging what happens!
Steve Hayes, the Tired Old Queen at the Movies, tells the story better than I, but there are spoilers in this video:
This is my favorite scene with Laughton: “Ah honah the President, I love my pahty, and I admiuh you, Mr. Majority Leadah, except wheah it crosses with mah convictions.”
Even Senator Betty White gets into the act!
Early on, my beloved Gene Tierney explains how the Senate works to the wives of two ambassadors. Pay careful attention . . .
Advise and Consent is a great way to spend part of your weekend!