ADVISE AND CONSENT.
US, 1962, 138 minutes, Black and white.
Charles Laughton, Walter Pidgeon, Don Murray, Lew Ayres, Franchot Tone, George Grizzard, Henry Fonda, Gene Tierney, Paul Ford, Burgess Meredith, Peter Lawford.
Directed by Otto Preminger.
Advise and Consent is based on a very popular novel by Allen Drury. It was directed by Otto Preminger in between Exodus and The Cardinal. Though it is filmed in black and white, and has a more limited scope than those other two films, nevertheless it is in the tradition of the big blockbuster movie.
It was produced in the Kennedy era and now looks very interesting in retrospect, considering the more public knowledge of political machinations, blackmails and cover-ups.
The film is noted for its performances, especially by Don Murray, Henry Fonda, Charles Laughton in his last role. The film is strong melodrama and should appeal to instant response for people who enjoy the thriller aspects of public intrigue. The characterisations are done in broad strokes but are nevertheless quite telling. Advise and Consent can be considered superficial in many ways, sketching rather than portraying and exploring. Nevertheless, most audiences enjoy this kind of film thoroughly.
1. How enjoyable was this film, why? Its big style, stars, political interest, human interest intrigue and crisis? why did these ingredients appeal so much to audiences?
2. How good was this film as drama, entertainment, human interest in good taste?
3. How real was the film? In its events, crises, people, interaction? To what extent were these unreal? How important were the various incidents in the film for its impact? Did the themes that arose from politics and human interaction seem real or contrived? Did the film generate real and genuine feeling or did it just seem contrived melodrama? What was the quality of human response to this rather complex melodrama?
4. How interesting were the political themes of the film? The running of a country like the United States and the type of men needed, the need for integrity, the need for official approval and popular support, the possibilities of deceit, the nature of the procedures, the quality and drive of ambitions, the relationship between private life and public life? How well were these themes explored?
5. What insight into men did the film offer? As regards the complexities of ambitions, the nature of careers and what men will do to serve careers, careers of service of the people, careers and selfishness, the relationship of careers, personality and integrity? How important was the element of
truth in this exploration of man? The question of man using and manipulating man? Of one man hindering another's possibilities and potential? The nature of human decisions and pressure of circumstances and influence? The element of cruelty?
6. How impressive a character was the President: as a man and President, as a dying man, the sequences on the yacht, his relationship with the Vice President, the reasons for his wanting Leffingwell. The pressures that he put on people, the pressures on him? Insight into the role of the Presidency?
7. Insight into the role of the Vice Presidency? What kind of man was the Vice President? How weak a character and politician? His explanation of getting the job and his running of it, the limitations of the role? His presiding in meetings, the quality of his decisions, his bowing under pressures? The
importance of his final decision for himself and for the resolution of the film?
8. How interesting a character was Leffingwell in himself? As standing for a modern type of politician, as a good man in himself, his family relationships, the quality of his integrity? Comment on his political style. Why did he tell the lies under oath and pressure? Did his telling the President excuse him? The effect and repercussions of the lies? The impact on Anderson's life? Anderson as a contrast to Leffingwell in his approach? Leffingwell's use of Gelman and the other contacts? The fears and pressures once a lie is told and the past is dragged up? The influence of Cooley in the background of Leffingwell's career? How admirable a man was he? Could anybody consent to his function as Secretary of State?
9. The importance of Cooley in the film: Charles Laughton's performance and style, his image in politics and his role, his influence, deviousness, ferreting out news? What right had he to do this? How badly did he use people and interfere and play God? The qualities of his Southern style, patriotism, oratory? How much was he responsible for what went on in the film? Was he a good man, a good politician?
10. How did the Senate Leader compare with these men? How much integrity did he have, his skill in rounding up support, putting pressures on people, yet allowing them to be themselves? His control of the Senate? His relationships with Anderson and his inability to help him? How good a man, good a politician? How admirable?
11. The character of Senator Anderson? How central for the film? How good a nun in himself, at home, his Utah background, political performance? How much was he used by the President, Leffingwell, Cooley? His integrity and his being shocked? His refusal to bow to the President's pressure? Van Ackerman? The nature of his decisions? How melodramatic was his New York visit, the revelation of his background, the letters and photos? Why could he not face the truth? The horror of his death, too melodramatic? Whose responsibility was his death?
12. Senator Smith: how typical an American politician, suave, his friendship, inability to help? What kind of man,
13. The importance of the Gelman testimony, his not telling the truth, the truth that he told, being put up to the job, a pathetic figure, yet his influence in people's lives?
14. What did Van Ackerman add to the film? The quality of his witch-hunting and interference? His obsessions? What kind of politician was being criticised in this performance? How telling were the sequences with him?
15. How interesting was the presentation of other Senators? Did their personalities emerge in the film? Their political roles and different opinions? Pressures on them in voting etc.?
16. How interesting were details of meetings, the shuttle train, the nature of voting in the Senate meetings, Senate
investigations? How much authenticity did this add to the film?
17. The importance of Dolly in the film - the portrait of the American and Washington hostess? Her place as a centre for information and gossip? The influence of people like this in politics?
18. How authentic did the film seem as a whole, or was it a product of Hollywood and melodramatic imagination? Did this matter as regards the enjoyment and insight?
19. What are the values of films like this, which tackle big political and human themes? Why do audiences like them? Do audiences learn about politics and behaviour, widen their horizons by mans of films like this? How satisfactory was the ending, or did it seem equivocal?
20. How impressive a piece of Hollywood film-making is this? Why?