|Senator Anderson (Don Murray) walks out on Ray (John Granger)|
ADVISE AND CONSENT (1962). Director/producer: Otto Preminger.
"Us old buzzards can spot a dying mouse from 10,000 feet up. Us old buzzards have the sharpest eyes in creation. Right now I'm studying the terrain ..." -- Senator Seabright Cooley
The President (Franchot Tone) has selected Robert Leffingwell (Henry Fonda) to be the new Secretary of State, but first the senate has to "advise and consent" to his nomination in a special hearing. The person primarily opposed to Leffingwell is a senior southern senator named Seab Cooley (Charles Laughton), who is concerned about Leffingwell's possible communist ties, and also has a personal dislike of the man after he once showed him up in public. Presiding over the hearing is young Senator Brigham Anderson (Don Murray), who is very concerned when he discovers that Leffingwell lied under oath about his personal ties to his chief witness against him, Herbert Gelman (Burgess Meredith). But then Senator Van Ackerman (George Grizzard), who wants Leffingwell to get in, institutes a blackmail plot against Anderson, having to do with the Senator's relationship with a Ray Shaff (John Granger) while stationed in Hawaii, leading to tragedy. This business is a major plot point of Advise and Consent, with a scene in a gay bar [full mostly of gay caricatures] when the self-loathing, closeted Anderson goes to confront Shaff, who told of their former relationship because he was desperate for money. Advise and Consent is an interesting, if talky political film, with the "villains" coming from both sides of the political spectrum. Fonda is fine in what really amounts to a supporting role, but Charles Laughton, who is superb in his final movie, would have walked off with the picture were it not for Murray's strong [if imperfect] portrayal of Brigham Anderson. Inga Swenson is also quite good as Anderson's wife and Edward Andrews is excellent as Senator Orrin Knox. Gene Tierny has a small role as a wealthy Washington hostess who is the secret lover of the Senate Majority Leader (Walter Pidgeon, who gives one of his better performances). Grizzard, Lew Ayres as the vice president, and Tone, are all notable, as is Betty White in a brief turn as the only female in the senate. Peter Lawford is okay as another senator but he is a little lightweight in this company. John Granger, who played Ray, did not appear in another film for 19 years! Allan Drury, who wrote the novel that this film was based upon, apparently based the Anderson business on a real-life incident. One wonders what Frank Sinatra thought of one of his records playing in the background in the gay bar. Sam Leavitt's black and white photography is outstanding, with one beautifully-composed widescreen shot after another. One of Preminger's better directorial efforts.
Verdict: It's the acting and the look of the film that puts it over. ***.