Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Last of Mrs. Tierney

TCM's Summer Under the Stars salute to Gene Tierney concludes overnight at 3:30 AM ET with the 1962 political drama Advise and Consent. Tierney is one of many members of an all-star cast.

The story concerns a dying president (Franchot Tone), who is trying to get his nominee for Secretary of State (Henry Fonda) confirmed. There's a problem, though, and it's a big one: Fonda had some dalliances with Communism when he was younger. So, it's obvious that senators like South Carolina's Seabright Cooley (Charles Laughton) are going to be strenuously opposed, while others, such as the Majority Leader (Walter Pidgeon), try to get the nomination through.

Advise and Consent is from a time where the Republicans and Democrats didn't have nearly as rigid ideologies as they do today; the Senate committee that was going to investigate Hollywood just before World War II was supported by Senators of both parties and opposed by Senators of both parties. Indeed, in Advise and Consent, any mention of what political party most of the senators belong to is assiduously avoided. Instead, what the movie is about is the high-stakes poker that people on all sides go through to try to get their viewpoint to be the one that carries the day. As such, all matter of blackmail is considered acceptable, as we see when young hotshot Senator Brig Anderson (Don Murray) is confronted with a secret from his past as a World War II hero.

As I mentioned at the start, Advise and Consent has an all-star cast, consisting of people who were stars in the 30s (Tone) to people who were to become new stars. Among the names I haven't mentioned are future TV star Betty White who gets a small number of lines as a Senator from Kansas; Peter Lawford playing a Kennedy-like Senator (ironic, since he was a Kennedy in-law at the time); Lew Ayres (Johnny Belinda) as the Vice-President; Burgess Meredith as one of the witnesses who appears before the Senate committee; and future Benson cast member Inga Swenson (also of The Miracle Worker) as Senator Anderson's wife. Gene Tierney fits into all this as the doyenne of the Washington social scene.

Advise and Consent is quite good, although a few parts of it have become dated, such as Sen. Anderson's war secret. Still, it's more than satisfying, as you get to see a whole bunch of people you'll recognize from other movies and TV shows working together and pulling it off marvelously. The ending, with a roll call vote on whether to confirm the nominee or not, winds up having a surprising outcome as well. And even if you miss this overnight showing, don't worry: Advise and Consent has been released to DVD.

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