Fave Film #62 – State of the Union (1948)

State of the Union Cast-Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn, Van Johnson, Angela Lansbury.  Directed by Frank Capra

I said I was going to review seven more political movies before election day and I’m not sure I’ll make it, so  I want to be sure I showcase my favorites at the very least.

Grant Matthews is a self-made man with no interest in politics.  At least until an attractive woman with visions of glory in her sights convinces him and the bigwigs of the Republican party that he could be the next President of the United States.  Now, he just needs to convince his estranged wife to go along with the campaign.

Why You Should See It– This movie was released in 1948 and it’s starkly honest look at the world of Washington politics is just as relevant today as when it was released.  When I saw this the first time a few years ago I was struck by how modern it was and what that says about politics.  The names (and genders and races) may change but the ugliness of it all stays the same.  In this political season I think it’s a good idea to remember how these candidates get made.  This is not a movie without hope and I highly recommend it for anyone remotely interested in politics.

Why I Love It

I really like Katherine Hepburn.  In my teens and 20’s it was the other Hepburn I loved, but with age I’ve grown to appreciate Katherine.  She is smart and funny and quick as a whip.  I loved that she played the victimized wife in this one, it suited her.  She was Spencer Tracy’s conscience and he needed it.  He was a flawed man, but he had two women in love with him, both trying to get him to the White House.  If not for Hepburn, his ambition would have ruined the character completely.

Van Johnson, as the campaign sidekick was perfect comedic relief.  He was right up there with Hepburn on the likeability scale.

For a political junkie like me (as an Ohio voter I am having a total blast actually answering the phone for some of the pollsters and then having fun with them.  Today alone we received 8 political calls, completely ridiculous) this movie is great.  I warn you that there is a lot of talking.  I was worried that this would turn of my apolitical husband, but it didn’t and he claims he really liked it.  The money and influence that it takes a person to even become a candidate is crazy.  I don’t know if I believe that any candidate can get elected with his integrity intact and that’s a sad state of affairs.  A few fun quotes

Mary: Oh, that’s silly. No woman could ever run for President. She’d have to admit she’s over 35. (LOL!)

Kay: But there is one question on his mind you better have the answer to.
Jim: What’s that?
Kay: He’s beginning to wonder if there is any difference between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.
Jim: Now that’s a fine question for a presidential candidate to ask. There’s all the difference in the world. They’re in and we’re out!

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how ironic I found the Hepburn-Spencer roles.  In their private life they had a 26 year affair (he was married) and in this movie Hepburn played his somewhat abandoned wife.  She stepped into the part days before shooting because Claudette Cobert pulled out and Hepburn knew the script because she had been running lines with Tracy already.