Archive for the ‘POLITICAL COMEDY’ Category

The State Of The Union

18 Jul

The State Of The Union – directed by Frank Capra. Political Drama. A self-made millionaire runs for president and ruins himself morally. 124 minutes Black and White 1948.


Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. She was a remarkable personality. He was an unremarkable one. She was a thoroughbred racing down the track with the blinders on. He was a garden variety Joe shambling along taking it all in. She was quick thinking and controlling. He was withdrawn and deliberating. Energetically they made a perfect couple because they could see into one another and you could see them do it and you could see that they didn’t mind being seen doing it. Theirs is a transparent cocktail. So a film with them presents, before one looks at it, the promise of a union that puts pat to one of the great American hatreds, snobbism. She was upper class, he was lower. They are equal opposite parts, and there is a democracy to them as a given. Knowing they are together in a film means we are to be presented with that common vision of fairness which is at the heart of the American character and vitality. Their popularity is the popularity of the audience themselves. The homogeneity of the heterodox, they are the melting pot itself. They are one from many. Claudette Colbert was slated to play the wife here as she was also slated to play Margo Channing in All About Eve, and, while she is a marvelous film actor, it is impossible to imagine these parts being played by anyone but the actors who did play them. Katharine Hepburn is particularly suited to this part if you consider her from the point of the enneagram, for her point is One, the one who is born right, and Hepburn’s is a woman who never veers from her sense of what is right, This sense drives the entire plot of the film, and without it the film would lack the foundation it possesses. Hepburn’s playing is superb – light, quick, agile, responsive, and natural. She is right without being righteous. She is most profound when funny, as Ones are, which makes her being right digestible, and she is most untrue when emotional which Ones also are, which makes her weeping scenes merely lachrymose. Hepburn seems to think that weeping is the Great Thing That Acting Requires, but when Hepburn tears up, her character goes out the window. Otherwise everything she does is on the money, down to the smallest detail. Just beware the trembling lip, folks. When she starts getting noble, head for the exits. Spenser Tracy, who plays the husband two-timing her, commands his part like a skipper; virtually every detail is believable. He’s funny and true, convinced and convincing, and it’s largely his film. The script from a Broadway success, feels jammed with repartee and wisecracks, overwritten and forced. Capra is a great director of crowd mayhem, but everybody yells a lot and delivers noble orations. It’s a bit thick, with a thickness made viscous by Victor Young’s taffy score. Angela Lansbury is but 22 when she plays the hardheaded, lascivious newspaper magnate who is having an affaire with Tracy and who instruments his presidential bid. The maturity of her bearing is almost sufficient, but she is helped by her costumes by Irene, and particularly by her hairdos by Sydney Guilaroff, who also does Hepburn’s hair and does it brilliantly, for this is not one of Hepburn’s slacks roles. Adolphe Menjou plays the campaign manager tellingly and Van Johnson, in one of his great sardonic roles, plays the press agent. Capra made few films after the war, for after the war America was no longer corn-fed. But if you like the writing of Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing, A Few Good Men, The Newsroom, The Social Network), as I do, you will be very happy watching The State Of The Union.



Running Mates

18 Oct

Running Mates – Directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg. Political Comedy 92 minutes Color 1992

* * * * *

Yes, of course you know it’s going to turn out well. All you’re supposed to care about is the cleverness of the array of obstacles to it. Diane Keaton is perfectly cast as the dame off whose tongue gaffes fall trippingly. No one has achieved flusterdom on the screen with such brilliance since Jean Arthur. With Keaton, of course, you cannot do anything but veer toward comedy. She’s never going to play Clytemnestra. Her touch is too light. But she is an actor of genius. She looks like she is making everything up, stumbling along, not knowing which way to turn, and blurting out her lines this way and that. But the fact is every word she utters is scripted, and every move musically right. The same was true of Bing Crosby whom she resembles in nonchalance and aplomb. He never ad-libbed anything. Keaton is 46 here and looks 36, which is the age she is playing, opposite Ed Harris who is butch but with dimples. He is miscast, since he has no sense of humor, but they are very good in their scenes together, and of course it is her you watch. She draws focus even when she doesn’t, because you expect her to. The picture is a good Hollywood political comedy along the lines of State Of The Union with Hepburn and Tracy, good middle-class comedy, well-mounted in all departments. Keaton won her Oscar for Annie Hall which she made when she was 31. The shelf life of pretty actresses is usually not of the duration hers has proven to be. Thank goodness she has never abandoned ship. Comedy is her preservative. Twenty years later she is still before us, and we are blessed to be able to watch her ply her craft, one of the great techniques ever to appear before us on screen. A full body craft. Watch how she makes her exits, if you want to know how an actor of genius gets it done.






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