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Tonite's prime time feature: The Best Man

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Enjoyable well-acted political story except Henry Fonda's the good guy William Russell. I like to root for Joe Cantwell. (Cliff Robertson) Futile since the conservative characters always get the shaft in these movies. I'd like to see Cliff Robertson do a sequel where an aged Joe Cantwell comes out of retirement to do ruthless battle against a liberal apparatus. I got a great title "The Best Man 2: The Return of Joe Cantwell". On a lighter note I was just looking at saturday's schedule. They got "Destination Moon" classified as Horror.

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Cobolt, just watch *Advise and Consent*, which follows immediately, to see a film which reflects the novelist Allen Drury's conservative point of view (conservative as understood in the early 60s, not 21st century talk radio conservative).

 

Actually, The Best Man shows the liberal candidate played by Henry Fonda as rather indecisive and perhaps not someone who belongs in the White House. Love Lee Tracy's performance as the president in this film.

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The most memorable thing about THE BEST MAN is Lee Tracy's belated return to major films after a 30-year banishment for his "**** off the balcony" episode.

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> {quote:title=finance wrote:}{quote}

> The most memorable thing about THE BEST MAN is Lee Tracy's belated return to major films after a 30-year banishment for his "**** off the balcony" episode.

 

I believe the notorious incident to which you refer occurred during the filming of VIVA VILLA in 1934. He was fired by MGM, but he went to RKO and then to Columbia. Lee Tracy continued to act in lead parts in films until 1947, so the incident did not ruin his film career. Plus, I am sure he worked on various radio programs as was customary at the time. By 1950 he had turned to television, as most stars of that generation were beginning to do. He had the lead role on two television series in the 50s and made numerous appearances on other shows. His work in THE BEST MAN was basically a one-shot return to film at the end of an illustrious career.

 

There is another actor, whose name I forgot, that was angered by something at Columbia in the late 30s and urinated on Harry Cohn's chair or desk. He was released from his contract and effectively blacklisted at all the major studios because of Cohn's wrath. His film career did end because of that. Anyone know who I am talking about...?

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ADVISE AND CONSENT is the most intelligent, clever political drama I've seen. It's exceptionally well written and exciting. Especially if you consider what was SHOCKING at the time. This is a tremendous film.

 

Edited by: redriver on Jun 11, 2011 2:36 PM

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a 30-year banishment for his "**** off the balcony" episode.

 

I haven't been back to Howard Johnson for the same reason.

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I don't know how I got it past my folks but when I was eighteen I discovered the sequel to Advise and Consent, A Shade of Difference, and could not put it down. I actually hated coming to the end. I went looking for the original and read it along with some of the the other in the series. By then real life was trumping fiction as it did with The West Wing and I got involved with the real thing.

 

Both films show how politics operated at the time. I doubt an open convention with the candidates not already chosen could occurr today because of the primary system and the now usual naming of the veep before the convention. I'm not certain that one is better than the other, just with each having its own plusses and minuses.

 

I feel manipulated by The Best Man because neither one should be president. For Cantwell, it's not his conservatism but total self-absorption and lack of moral compass that makes us dislike him. For Russell, he has ethics and compassion, but does not seem decisive or inspire confidence until the end. He is a hero because he steps aside for another candidate taking out Cantwell in the process without dragging out the story he knows is not true. Will Merwyn make a good president? Then as now we have to wait and see.

 

As for Advise and Consent, accusations of being gay are also central to the plot only here they are true and lead to tragedy. Back then that would kill your career more than it might today. A thought I saw a lot of then current political figures in the characters, especially Charles Laughton's Seabright Cooley, even with that disclaimer that they're all "fictional and any resemblance to actual...".

 

I liked the movie but not as much as the book.

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The films that Tracy appeared in during his 30-year hiatus were hardly memorable ones, as opposed to the ones that he was in, prior to his ill-timed comfort break.

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If you look at his filmography on the internet movie database, which includes his television work, it looks like he did not have a break. The only consequence is that he never worked for MGM again. But he freelanced steadily and not in supporting roles, but in lead parts. He worked consistently and with two starring television roles in the 50s, he was a pioneer in that field. As I originally posted, there is another actor whose career completely ended because of a similar incident...but that is because his situation was pre-meditated and directed against the all-powerful Harry Cohn.

 

Back to Tracy, we would need to also look at his radio credits which I have a feeling were as extensive as his television credits.

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> {quote:title=wouldbestar wrote:}{quote}

>

> I feel manipulated by The Best Man because neither one should be president. For Cantwell, it's not his conservatism but total self-absorption and lack of moral compass that makes us dislike him. For Russell, he has ethics and compassion, but does not seem decisive or inspire confidence until the end. He is a hero because he steps aside for another candidate taking out Cantwell in the process without dragging out the story he knows is not true. Will Merwyn make a good president? Then as now we have to wait and see.

 

That could have been a contrived plan by the book author and the movie studio, so they wouldn't insult just conservatives or liberals. By insulting both main candidates, maybe they figured more people would buy the book and see the movie. And in fact, it left open the possiblility that the third guy could have been "the best man" of whatever party was holding the convention.

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> {quote:title=wouldbestar wrote:}{quote}

> I don't know how I got it past my folks but when I was eighteen I discovered the sequel to Advise and Consent, A Shade of Difference, and could not put it down. I actually hated coming to the end. I went looking for the original and read it along with some of the the other in the series.

 

I believe Drury had six books in that series, the last two describing what would happen to the U.S. if the President were a liberal ("The Promise of Joy") or a conservative ("Come Nineveh, Come Tyre"). I hope I got those titles correct - I'm working from memory, since it's been over 30 years since I've read them. Anyway, Orrin Knox, who is a fairly minor character (played by Edward Andrews) in the film version of Advise and Consent, is a major player in the series, and becomes President in one scenario. I found the whole series of books very compelling.

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Con you honestly say that there is a single film between the Mexican incident and THE BEST MAN that you've ever heard of? (THE LEMON DROP KID was NOT the Bob Hope version). I will sleep well tonight knowing that I've said that he p*ssed away his film career.

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I have heard of his films, yes. Not long ago I screened POWER OF THE PRESS for an organization where I volunteer. Lee Tracy has a lead role in that picture (alongside Guy Kibbee, Otto Kruger and Gloria Dickson). It's from either '42 or '43. It's on DVD, as part of a Columbia package on films by Sam Fuller. When we screened this film, I went in search of other work he had done during this time, because I too had thought his career ended in the mid-30s. Wrong. It did not. He kept right on working.

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The Best Man - Fonda is Adlai Stevenson & Robertson is Richard Nixon

 

Advise & Consent - Fonda - Another Stevenson type - Franchot Tone - FDR - Don Murray - Nixon & Wyoming Senator Lester Hunt ( Dem ) who committing suicide in 1954 after being harassed by GOP Senators Bridges ( NH ), Dirksen ( Il ), Nixon, and FBI director Hoover over Hunts son cruising Washington, DC for gay hook ups. Burgess Meredith - Whittaker Chambers - Charles Laughton is Richard Russell ( Dem - Georgia ) leader of the Senate " Southern Block ", and mentor of LBJ. George Gizzard is a combination of Senator Joe McCarthy & J. Edward Hoover, despite his characters ultra liberalism. Both McCarthy & Hoover were allegedly gay and blackmailed their opponents into silence. Grizzards charter is threathening with expulsion from the Senate or censure, while McCarthy was censured.

 

The Senate hearings were IMHO a take off on the Alger Hiss - Whittaker Cambers US House hearing that lead to Richard Nixons climb up the political ladder. In the 1952 Presidential campaign Mr Nixon sometimes " slipped " and called Democratic Presidential candidate Stevenson

" Alger "rather than Adlai. Mr Preminger must have enjoyed old time leftwinger Will Geer, who was blacklisted, as the Senate minority leader. Mr geer was made up to look like Seanator Robert taft ( R - Ohio ), " Mr Republican ", who was the leader of the conservatives forces in the Senate for almost 15 years.

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>>Con you honestly say that there is a single film between the Mexican incident and THE BEST MAN that you've ever heard of?

 

SUTTER'S GOLD is a film that I saw only once when I was about twelve years old. This film was apparently the HEAVEN'S GATE of its day. Its failure ended the Carl Laemmle regime at Universal as the film cost two-million to make and that was without stars - the two top-billed players were Edward Arnold and Lee Tracy.

 

I still recall that when she saw me watching the film, my mother mentioned that it was a notorious flop and practically closed Universal. She remembered this from when it came out yet she was only 16 or 17 at the time. Let's face it, we didn't have the media frenzy that we have now, boxoffice figures weren't exactly common knowledge. Thus for this film to have generated such news, it must have failed on a spectacular level.

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> {quote:title=finance wrote:}{quote}

> Con you honestly say that there is a single film between the Mexican incident and THE BEST MAN that you've ever heard of? (THE LEMON DROP KID was NOT the Bob Hope version). I will sleep well tonight knowing that I've said that he p*ssed away his film career.

 

Yes; I've seen *Millionaires in Prison* when it aired on TCM several years ago.

 

It's a lousy RKO B picture.

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The parallels you cite are fascinating. It's easy to see the Stevenson traits when Fonda plays politics. Hank is better looking, of course. After all, it is a movie!

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Arlene, thank you for the information. The next time I watch the movie, it will seem even more realistic than it does. I did not know about this Senator Hunt; what a sad story.

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