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Advise and Consent

Classics movie directed by Otto Preminger

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A Preminger Classic

  • Jun 21, 2008
"Advice and Consent"

A Preminger Classic

Amos Lassen

It has been several years since I watched Otto Preminger's "Advice and Consent" and I had forgotten what a powerful movie it is--even now more than forty years after it was made. Based on Allen Drury's epic novel of wheeling and dealing in Washington D.C., it is a classic political thriller with an all-star cast and a very overt gay theme.
When John Kennedy was elected President in 1960, Hollywood began to take a new interest in politics. The main idea of the film deals with the nomination of a controversial man as Secretary of State and how the President and the Congress used their powers either to secure or hinder the nomination. The nominee is Robert Leffingwell (Henry Fonda), who must go through a Senate investigation to see if he is qualified for the position. The Senate committees is led by an idealistic Senator, Brig Anderson (Don Murray), who soon finds himself unprepared for the political dirt that is unearthed which include the candidate's past affiliations with a Communist organization. Leffingwell manages to prove his innocence but Anderson learns that he lied under oath and he asks the President to withdraw him from consideration. As the same time mysterious threats begin against the Senator because of certain sexual activities that he as been involve in.
Preminger shows that in politics as in life it is not easy to be all black or all white. Several of the characters are recognizable historic figures with the most obvious being Lafe Smith, a very thinly disguised Kennedy (who is ironically played by JFK's own brother-in-law, Peter Lawford), who had quite a social life before he married. Gene Tierney who plays a Washington social maven is one of his early conquests. Another character that is easily recognized is Charles Laughton's brilliant portrayal of South Carolina's Seabright Cooley which is, as I understand it, based on Illinois Senator Everett Dirksen but also parallels the real South Carolina Senator, Strom Thurmond. Other fascinating characters include Walter Pidgeon as the Senate Majority leader, Robert Munson, Paul Ford as Senate Majority Whip. Will Geer as the head of the Minority Opposition and Betty White in a small part.\
It is, however, the main characters that are the keys to the drama" Franchot Tone as the President, Lew Ayres as the Vice President and George Grizzard as a villainous Senator Fred Van Ackerman.
Preminger did not hold back when he introduced the homosexual sub-plot. Keeping in mind that the film was made in 1962, this was quite a bold move. When we consider when the film was produced and remember that there was censorship on film, we should be proud to owe a debt to Otto Preminger. Granted today it seems quite tame but in 1962, he presented some very bold statements. The film has been criticized for the way it depicted homosexuals but it is one of the few films of that period when a gay character is presented in a sympathetic light and Preminger made quite a statement with the casting of Don Murray as the gay man as he was a Mormon and extremely wholesome and clean-cut.
The cast is so outstanding that the characters seem to be constantly stealing scenes from each other but in my opinion that is one reason that "Advice and Consent" is so fascinating. The film has aged well and withstood the test of time and seems as relevant today as it was in 1962.
To those who have criticized the gay scenes as clich├ęd, they are wonderful representations of the ambiance of gay life in the 60's. This is how it was. We did not have super-bars nor the freedom to be who we were and everything (especially in the Nation's capital) was quite clandestine. This is a great film that rises above some of the mediocrity that we sometimes get from Hollywood.

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More Advise and Consent (1962 movie... reviews
review by . September 13, 2006
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Sociologically interesting topic, decent acting      Cons: Plot cannot sustain more than 2 hours, very weak plot      The Bottom Line: If you have to see all of Laughton or Fonda pix, see it, otherwise avoid.      Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie''s plot. I rented Otto Preminger’s Advise and Consent for sociological reasons more than anything else. For this reason only is the movie, clocking …
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Amos Lassen ()
Ranked #210
I am an academic who reivews movies and books of interest to the GLBT and Jewish communities.   I came to Arkansas after having been relocated here due to Hurricane Katrina. I was living in … more
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Otto Preminger expanded his vision in the 1960s with a whole series of ambitious, expansive dramas with huge casts and big themes.Advise and Consent, an examination of deal making, party politics, and congressional diplomacy in Washington's legislative halls (based on the novel by Allen Drury), is one of his best. Preminger broke the blacklist with his previous film,Exodus, and it rings through in this drama about a controversial nominee for secretary of state (a confident, stately Henry Fonda) accused of being a Communist. The nomination process becomes the center ring of the political circus, with fidgety accuser Burgess Meredith in the spotlight; devious, silver-tongued Charles Laughton cracking the whip as a southern senator with a grudge against Fonda; and party whip Walter Pidgeon lining up votes behind the scenes. Arm twisting and diplomatic hardball turns to perjury and blackmail, and a melodramatic twist gives this lesson in party politics a salacious soap opera dimension. Preminger's style has been hailed as "objective," but it's really a matter of attentiveness: he gives all the character their due and their say, eschewing heroes and villains for an exploration of people clashing over opposing goals. In fact, the weakest elements of the film are the unscrupulous populist senator played by George Grizzard and the badly dated caricatures that populate a notorious underground club. The video preserves the handsome widescreen black-and-white ...
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