Advise And Consent Review
By Christopher Null
Everybody loves Henry Fonda -- but what if he was a freakin' commie!?
Otto Preminger turned his eyes from the legal system (Anatomy of a Murder) to American politics in the underseen and tragically underappreciated Advise and Consent.
The film plays out on a Red Scare-era senate floor, where the ailing president has put Fonda up as his nominee for Secretary of State. Naturally, party politics erupt as the conservatives try to discredit Fonda, eventually turning up a witness who claims he was involved in a communist party of sorts years ago. Meanwhile, another plot erupts from the other side of the aisle, accusing Fonda's main detractor (Don Murray) of equally nefarious activities (at least for 1962).
Above both of them are senior senators played by Walter Pidgeon and Charles Laughton (clearly on his last legs here, this was his final movie), who play puppetmasters over their younger charges.
Advise and Consent may not be completely realistic -- and the timing of Consent's machinations are uncannily tidy -- but as a time capsule look into American politics in the '60s it couldn't be more insightful. Preminger may have been Austrian, but he understood exactly how corruption, dedication, vindictiveness, and -- above all -- the awfulness of party politics have left America with a bareful functional democracy today. Though the action, so to speak, takes place almost entirely behind closed doors and in committee meetings, it couldn't be more involving. What will become of Fonda -- who ends up being just a minor player in this drama? We're hanging on until the last frame, until ultimately, we realize that that decision doesn't really even matter. It was just another meaningless vote that will be followed by another meaningless vote and another and another. Spooky.
Great performances all around, with Pidgeon stealing the show as the guy you'd definitely want as your senator -- if, that is, you had to have one.
Facts and Figures
Production compaines: Otto Preminger Films
Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5
Cast & Crew
Starring: Henry Fonda as Robert A. Leffingwell, Charles Laughton as Senator Seabright Cooley, Don Murray as Senator Brigham Anderson, Walter Pidgeon as Senate Majority Leader, Peter Lawford as Senator Lafe Smith, Gene Tierney as Dolly Harrison, Franchot Tone as The President, Lew Ayres as The Vice President, Burgess Meredith as Herbert Gelman, Eddie Hodges as Johnny Leffingwell, George Grizzard as Senator Fred Van Ackerman, Inga Swenson as Ellen Anderson, Paul McGrath as Hardiman Fletcher, Will Geer as Senate Minority Leader, Edward Andrews as Senator Orrin Knox, Betty White as Senator Bessie Adams, Malcolm Atterbury as Senator Tom August, Tiki Santos as Senator Kanaho, Raoul De Leon as Senator Velez, Tom Helmore as British Ambassador, Janet Jane Carty as Pidge Anderson, John Granger as Ray Shaff, Larry Tucker as Manuel, Russ Brown as Mike, the Night Watchman, Sid Gould as Bartender, Henry Fountain Ashurst as Senator McCafferty, Kenner G. Kemp as Reporter, Leoda Richards as Senator, Paul Ford as Senator Stanley Danta