Advise & Consent


2h 19m 1962
Advise & Consent

Brief Synopsis

A controversial presidential nomination threatens the careers of several prominent politicians.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Political
Adaptation
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Jan 1962
Premiere Information
New York opening: 6 Jun 1962
Production Company
Alpha--Alpina S. A.
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures
Country
United States
Location
Washington, DC, USA
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Advise and Consent by Allen Drury (Garden City, New York, 1959).

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 19m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Synopsis

Washington is thrown into a turmoil when the seriously ill President of the United States asks the Senate to "advise and consent" to the appointment of Robert Leffingwell, a highly controversial figure, as the new Secretary of State. The President's chief support comes from Bob Munson, the Senate Majority Leader, while the principal opposition is raised by Seab Cooley, a southern senator who uses the testimony of a mentally unbalanced clerk, Herbert Gelman, to brand Leffingwell an ex-Communist. Although Leffingwell confesses the truth of the accusation to the President, his Communist affiliation is dismissed as a youthful indiscretion, and Leffingwell denies the accusation while testifying under oath before the Senate subcommittee. The committee chairman, Brigham Anderson, learns of the perjury and demands the withdrawal of Leffingwell's nomination. When the President refuses, Anderson decides that for the good of the country he must make the truth public. Before he can do so, however, he is threatened with blackmail by Fred Van Ackerman, an overambitious senator who warns Anderson that if he fails to approve the nomination, his own youthful indiscretion (a wartime homosexual experience in Hawaii) will be exposed. Unable to face the shame of his own past and unable to confess the truth to his wife, Anderson slashes his throat with a razor. Following the arrival of the tragic news, the Senate votes on Leffingwell's nomination. It ends in a deadlock, with the decisive vote going to the Vice President. As he ponders his decision, word arrives that the President has died. The once ineffectual Vice President is suddenly inspired by the monumental responsibility of his new office and announces that he will appoint his own Secretary of State.

Cast

Henry Fonda

Robert Leffingwell

Charles Laughton

Sen. Seabright Cooley

Don Murray

Sen. Brigham Anderson

Walter Pidgeon

Sen. Bob Munson

Peter Lawford

Sen. Lafe Smith

Gene Tierney

Dolly Harrison

Franchot Tone

The President

Lew Ayres

The Vice President

Burgess Meredith

Herbert Gelman

Eddie Hodges

Johnny Leffingwell

Paul Ford

Sen. Stanley Danta

George Grizzard

Sen. Fred Van Ackerman

Inga Swenson

Ellen Anderson

Paul Mcgrath

Hardiman Fletcher

Will Geer

The Senate Minority Leader

Edward Andrews

Sen. Orrin Knox

Betty White

Sen. Bessie Adams

Malcolm Atterbury

Sen. Tom August

J. Edward Mckinley

Sen. Powell Hanson

William Quinn

Sen. Paul Hendershot

Tiki Santos

Senator Kanaho

Raoul Deleon

Senator Velez

Tom Helmore

British ambassador

Hilary Eaves

Lady Maudulayne

Rene Paul

French ambassador

Michele Montau

Celestine Barre

Raj Mallick

Indian ambassador

Russ Brown

Night watchman

Paul Stevens

Louis Newborn

Janet Jane Carty

Pidge Anderson

Chet Stratton

Rev. Carney Birch

Larry Tucker

Manuel

John Granger

Ray Shaff

Sid Gould

Bartender

Bettie Johnson

Lafe's girl

Cay Forester

President's secretary

William H. Y. Knighton Jr.

President of White House Correspondents Association

Henry F. Ashurst

Senator McCafferty

Guy M. Gillette

Senator Harper

Irv Kupcinet

Robert C. Wilson

Alan Emory

Jessie Stearns Buscher

Milton Berliner

Allan W. Cromley

Bruce Zortmann

Wayne Tucker

Journalists

Al Mcgranary

Joe Baird

Harry Denny

Leon Alton

George Denormand

Ed Haskett

Virgil Johannsen

Paul Power

Maxwell Reed

Mario Cimino

Edwin K. Baker

Clive L. Halliday

Roger Clark

Robert Malcolm

Dick Ryan

Gene Matthews

Leoda Richards

Bernard Sell

Brandon Beach

Hal Taggart

Senators

White House Correspondents Association

White House Press Photographers Association

Meyer Davis And His Orchestra

Photo Collections

Advise & Consent - Movie Poster
Advise & Consent - Movie Poster

Videos

Movie Clip

Advise & Consent (1962) - A Vice President Shouldn't Ask First scene for Washington hostess Dolly (Gene Tierney), joining senator Munson (Walter Pidgeon), who's managing a nomination fight, making time for anxious colleague Van Ackerman (George Grizzard), and visiting the timid Vice President (Lew Ayres), in Otto Preminger's Advise & Consent, 1962.
Advise & Consent (1962) - Widowers And Bachelors Senators Munson (Walter Pidgeon) and Danta (Paul Ford) check in to make sure the president (Franchot Tone) is serious about his nominee for Secretary Of State, before recruiting playboy senator Smith (Peter Lawford), early in Otto Preminger's Advise & Consent, 1962.
Advise & Consent (1962) - It's Worth A Try Senators Munson (Walter Pidgeon) and Danta (Paul Ford) try to get Leffingwell (Henry Fonda, his first scene), their president's nominee for Secretary Of State, on the phone, his son (Eddie Hodges) taking the call, in Otto Preminger's Advise & Consent, 1962.
Advise & Consent (1962) - Cockpit Of Angry Emotion Director Otto Preminger's view of the U.S. Senate in session, senators Munson (Walter Pidgeon), Knox (Edward Andrews), colorful Cooley (Charles Laughton) Danta (Paul Ford) and Smith (Peter Lawford) taking positions on the president's nominee for Secretary of State, in Advise & Consent, 1962.
Advise & Consent (1962) - Are You Loyal To The United States? Chairman Anderson (Don Murray) opens the much anticipated senate testimony of Secretary Of State nominee Leffingwell (Henry Fonda), Knox (Edward Andrews) taking a shot before guest Cooley (Charles Laughton) steals the spotlight, in Otto Preminger's Advise & Consent, 1962.

Hosted Intro

Promo

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Political
Adaptation
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Jan 1962
Premiere Information
New York opening: 6 Jun 1962
Production Company
Alpha--Alpina S. A.
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures
Country
United States
Location
Washington, DC, USA
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Advise and Consent by Allen Drury (Garden City, New York, 1959).

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 19m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Articles

Advise & Consent (1962)


The passage of time turns every film into two films. Apart from what its narrative may yield, it becomes an inadvertent documentary as well. So it is, in spades, in Advise & Consent (1962), Otto Preminger's Kennedy-era look at the post-McCarthy Senate. As rejiggered in Alan Drury's best-selling 1959 novel about political wheeling and dealing, the film takes on new life by preserving the details and minutiae, as if in amber, of D.C. life in the '50s. While not the only fascination in this lumpy but rich pudding of a film, it's a pungent ingredient.

As much as we're caught up in the machinations of the high-rolling Senate wheelers and dealers, we're charmed by the simplicity and Harry Truman-like plainness of the lifestyles of those same makers and shakers. Perhaps intentionally, the only senator seen with an entourage is George Grizzard's Joseph McCarthy-like heavy, who needs henchmen because he spends so much time doing bad deeds in the name of good - digging up dirt to strong-arm a Senate committee chairman (Don Murray) into confirming Henry Fonda's statesmanlike, global-thinking, Adlai Stevensonesque appointee, Robert Leffingwell, as secretary of state.

But the other senators in Advise & Consent's plummy gallery of character actors take what today seems an amazingly direct do-it-yourself approach. Paul Ford, as the Senate whip, stuffs a newspaper into his pocket, walks to a curb, and hails his own taxi. When Charles Laughton's foxy Dixiecrat, who steals the film, decides to do a little detective work, he plunks his wide-brimmed hat on his head and determinedly plods to the office that has the info he's looking for. When Murray's senator flies the shuttle from NYC to DC, his seatmate is Lew Ayres' vice president. Each is traveling not only alone, but anonymously.

The titillating promise of insider hardball in the corridors of power, dished up to a public not yet inured to hearing negative things about government, made the novel a hit. The drama is heightened by steering the confirmation process from a sub-committee to an open hearing, where the opposing sides can grandstand, and do, with many a flourish. With a Congress that's anything but a rubber stamp for the executive branch, the nomination seems shaky because Leffingwell's internationalism and belief in building consensus with allies is assailed as softness on communism. One of the witnesses against him, distortedly testifying to and exaggerating Leffingwell's youthfully idealistic flirtation with communism, is Burgess Meredith, delivering a masterly turn as a Whitaker Chambers-like echo of the House Committee on un-American Activities' pursuit of Alger Hiss.

Although there was no doubt about the liberal tilt of Preminger's politics (he and various company members, including Gene Tierney, who had known JFK in his pre-Jackie days, lunched with JFK on the presidential yacht), Advise & Consent is an equal-opportunity piece of cynicism, augmented by bits of visual authenticity - the Senate canteen, the trolley that brings the senators through underground passages. The closest it comes to dignifying the Senate is in the grace, patience and stature of Walter Pidgeon as the Senate Majority Leader. Franchot Tone's president is a dying man. But he still seems paler, dramatically, than he ought to be. Although perhaps superficially modeled on FDR, he lacks size and presence. Surprisingly, the usually quietly powerful Fonda also comes up short on presence, too, as the nominee. He seems wooden, a bit recessive, embalmed by what we're told is the man's stature, but is never communicated to us as felt knowledge.

The film belongs to Laughton, on whom the role of the flamboyant Dixiecrat is not wasted. With his pale moon face rising mischievously over the proceedings, he shrewdly exercises power from behind a lava flow of flowery cornpone locutions that he compels us to relish as much as he does. Like most of the leads, Laughton was a practiced stage actor, with a respect for craft that exceeded the Hollywood norm. To prepare, he went to an unimpeachable source - John Stennis (D-Mississippi), who succeeded Senator Theodore Bilbo in 1947, never lost an election in 60 years, and retired from the Senate in 1989, bedecked with honors. No great friend of civil rights, although he softened in his later years, he was less racist than his Senate colleague, James Eastland, and was the first Democrat to publicly criticize Joseph McCarthy, denouncing him on the Senate floor for pouring "slush and slime" on it. Although Laughton provides most of the entertainment value, public interest was heightened by speculation about which actual senators the characters were modeled on. JFK was widely viewed as the model for the film's senator from Rhode Island, played by his real-life brother-in-law, Peter Lawford.

Preminger was a practiced provocateur, expert at tweaking taboos and guardians of public morality. In The Moon Is Blue (1953), it was sex. In The Man with the Golden Arm (1955), it was drugs. In Anatomy of a Murder (1959), it was rape. Not only sensing that under changing times and public pressure Hollywood's dreaded Production Code was relaxing, but believing himself to have played a part in its weakening, he flaunts here a hitherto forbidden depiction of homosexuality. In the film, a homosexual affair in Hawaii with a wartime service buddy makes the committee chairman vulnerable to blackmail. In a desperate lunge at damage control, he flies to New York, where he's steered by a flouncingly fey pimp to a sewer of a gay club. There he finds his former lover among the cruising clientele, has an unsatisfactory non-meeting of minds, and leaves angrily, emblematically shoving the old acquaintance into a wet gutter, face down. Conventionally married and embedded in the straight world, the Mormon senator from Utah would rather cut his own throat than live with the consequences of his gay affair.

There's a great irony in the film's lurid homophobia. Now that portraying homosexuality was once more permitted, it resulted not so much in sympathetic views of gay life and issues, but in rampant displays of (mostly) figurative gay-bashing. One of the things that makes Laughton's portrayal compelling is that his dramatic sense correctly told him not to let his characterization stop at mostly roguish rascality, but to push it the extra distance into allowing flashes of ugly power-tripping to emerge from behind the façade. Preminger seems not to have been aware that the stereotyped caricaturing of the gay element in Advise & Consent embodied the very kind of witch-hunting hysteria he thought he was decrying. This tarnishes the film just as the film thought it was exposing a tarnished government. In the end, it doesn't keep the promise of its poster depicting the lid being lifted off the Capitol dome, as if exposing a can of worms. Advise & Consent doesn't really question the system, readily accepting it with platitudes about the republic somehow muddling through despite the mediocrity of some of its elected officials. Shortcomings in the governmental process are ascribed not to flaws in the institution, but to personality and character shortfall - the bad-apple theory. Preminger's muckraking agenda is more zealously pursued in the depiction of gays. In the end, his views of the Senate and the gay underworld have in common the image of the proverbial sausage -- tasty so long as you don't look too closely at what goes into it. Letting the Senate and the political process off easy, its real message seems to be Mr. Smith can be queer and still go to Washington, but is better off staying in the closet.

Producer: Otto Preminger
Director: Otto Preminger
Screenplay: Wendell Mayes, Allen Drury (novel)
Cinematography: Sam Leavitt
Film Editing: Louis R. Loeffler
Art Direction: Lyle Wheeler
Music: Jerry Fielding
Cast: Henry Fonda (Robert A. Leffingwell), Charles Laughton (Senator Seabright Cooley), Don Murray (Senator Brigham Anderson), Walter Pidgeon (Senate Majority Leader), Peter Lawford (Senator Lafe Smith), Gene Tierney (Dolly Harrison).
BW-139m. Letterboxed.

by Jay Carr

Sources:
American Film Institute catalogue
Otto Preminger: An Autobiography
John Springer: The Fondas: The Films and Careers, of Henry, Jane and Peter Fonda
Burgess Meredith: So Far, So Good: A Memoir
Richard Barrios: Screened Out: Playing Gay in Hollywood from Edison to Stonewall
IMDb
The New York Times, November 13, 1954
Variety, January 1, 1962
Advise & Consent (1962)

Advise & Consent (1962)

The passage of time turns every film into two films. Apart from what its narrative may yield, it becomes an inadvertent documentary as well. So it is, in spades, in Advise & Consent (1962), Otto Preminger's Kennedy-era look at the post-McCarthy Senate. As rejiggered in Alan Drury's best-selling 1959 novel about political wheeling and dealing, the film takes on new life by preserving the details and minutiae, as if in amber, of D.C. life in the '50s. While not the only fascination in this lumpy but rich pudding of a film, it's a pungent ingredient. As much as we're caught up in the machinations of the high-rolling Senate wheelers and dealers, we're charmed by the simplicity and Harry Truman-like plainness of the lifestyles of those same makers and shakers. Perhaps intentionally, the only senator seen with an entourage is George Grizzard's Joseph McCarthy-like heavy, who needs henchmen because he spends so much time doing bad deeds in the name of good - digging up dirt to strong-arm a Senate committee chairman (Don Murray) into confirming Henry Fonda's statesmanlike, global-thinking, Adlai Stevensonesque appointee, Robert Leffingwell, as secretary of state. But the other senators in Advise & Consent's plummy gallery of character actors take what today seems an amazingly direct do-it-yourself approach. Paul Ford, as the Senate whip, stuffs a newspaper into his pocket, walks to a curb, and hails his own taxi. When Charles Laughton's foxy Dixiecrat, who steals the film, decides to do a little detective work, he plunks his wide-brimmed hat on his head and determinedly plods to the office that has the info he's looking for. When Murray's senator flies the shuttle from NYC to DC, his seatmate is Lew Ayres' vice president. Each is traveling not only alone, but anonymously. The titillating promise of insider hardball in the corridors of power, dished up to a public not yet inured to hearing negative things about government, made the novel a hit. The drama is heightened by steering the confirmation process from a sub-committee to an open hearing, where the opposing sides can grandstand, and do, with many a flourish. With a Congress that's anything but a rubber stamp for the executive branch, the nomination seems shaky because Leffingwell's internationalism and belief in building consensus with allies is assailed as softness on communism. One of the witnesses against him, distortedly testifying to and exaggerating Leffingwell's youthfully idealistic flirtation with communism, is Burgess Meredith, delivering a masterly turn as a Whitaker Chambers-like echo of the House Committee on un-American Activities' pursuit of Alger Hiss. Although there was no doubt about the liberal tilt of Preminger's politics (he and various company members, including Gene Tierney, who had known JFK in his pre-Jackie days, lunched with JFK on the presidential yacht), Advise & Consent is an equal-opportunity piece of cynicism, augmented by bits of visual authenticity - the Senate canteen, the trolley that brings the senators through underground passages. The closest it comes to dignifying the Senate is in the grace, patience and stature of Walter Pidgeon as the Senate Majority Leader. Franchot Tone's president is a dying man. But he still seems paler, dramatically, than he ought to be. Although perhaps superficially modeled on FDR, he lacks size and presence. Surprisingly, the usually quietly powerful Fonda also comes up short on presence, too, as the nominee. He seems wooden, a bit recessive, embalmed by what we're told is the man's stature, but is never communicated to us as felt knowledge. The film belongs to Laughton, on whom the role of the flamboyant Dixiecrat is not wasted. With his pale moon face rising mischievously over the proceedings, he shrewdly exercises power from behind a lava flow of flowery cornpone locutions that he compels us to relish as much as he does. Like most of the leads, Laughton was a practiced stage actor, with a respect for craft that exceeded the Hollywood norm. To prepare, he went to an unimpeachable source - John Stennis (D-Mississippi), who succeeded Senator Theodore Bilbo in 1947, never lost an election in 60 years, and retired from the Senate in 1989, bedecked with honors. No great friend of civil rights, although he softened in his later years, he was less racist than his Senate colleague, James Eastland, and was the first Democrat to publicly criticize Joseph McCarthy, denouncing him on the Senate floor for pouring "slush and slime" on it. Although Laughton provides most of the entertainment value, public interest was heightened by speculation about which actual senators the characters were modeled on. JFK was widely viewed as the model for the film's senator from Rhode Island, played by his real-life brother-in-law, Peter Lawford. Preminger was a practiced provocateur, expert at tweaking taboos and guardians of public morality. In The Moon Is Blue (1953), it was sex. In The Man with the Golden Arm (1955), it was drugs. In Anatomy of a Murder (1959), it was rape. Not only sensing that under changing times and public pressure Hollywood's dreaded Production Code was relaxing, but believing himself to have played a part in its weakening, he flaunts here a hitherto forbidden depiction of homosexuality. In the film, a homosexual affair in Hawaii with a wartime service buddy makes the committee chairman vulnerable to blackmail. In a desperate lunge at damage control, he flies to New York, where he's steered by a flouncingly fey pimp to a sewer of a gay club. There he finds his former lover among the cruising clientele, has an unsatisfactory non-meeting of minds, and leaves angrily, emblematically shoving the old acquaintance into a wet gutter, face down. Conventionally married and embedded in the straight world, the Mormon senator from Utah would rather cut his own throat than live with the consequences of his gay affair. There's a great irony in the film's lurid homophobia. Now that portraying homosexuality was once more permitted, it resulted not so much in sympathetic views of gay life and issues, but in rampant displays of (mostly) figurative gay-bashing. One of the things that makes Laughton's portrayal compelling is that his dramatic sense correctly told him not to let his characterization stop at mostly roguish rascality, but to push it the extra distance into allowing flashes of ugly power-tripping to emerge from behind the façade. Preminger seems not to have been aware that the stereotyped caricaturing of the gay element in Advise & Consent embodied the very kind of witch-hunting hysteria he thought he was decrying. This tarnishes the film just as the film thought it was exposing a tarnished government. In the end, it doesn't keep the promise of its poster depicting the lid being lifted off the Capitol dome, as if exposing a can of worms. Advise & Consent doesn't really question the system, readily accepting it with platitudes about the republic somehow muddling through despite the mediocrity of some of its elected officials. Shortcomings in the governmental process are ascribed not to flaws in the institution, but to personality and character shortfall - the bad-apple theory. Preminger's muckraking agenda is more zealously pursued in the depiction of gays. In the end, his views of the Senate and the gay underworld have in common the image of the proverbial sausage -- tasty so long as you don't look too closely at what goes into it. Letting the Senate and the political process off easy, its real message seems to be Mr. Smith can be queer and still go to Washington, but is better off staying in the closet. Producer: Otto Preminger Director: Otto Preminger Screenplay: Wendell Mayes, Allen Drury (novel) Cinematography: Sam Leavitt Film Editing: Louis R. Loeffler Art Direction: Lyle Wheeler Music: Jerry Fielding Cast: Henry Fonda (Robert A. Leffingwell), Charles Laughton (Senator Seabright Cooley), Don Murray (Senator Brigham Anderson), Walter Pidgeon (Senate Majority Leader), Peter Lawford (Senator Lafe Smith), Gene Tierney (Dolly Harrison). BW-139m. Letterboxed. by Jay Carr Sources: American Film Institute catalogue Otto Preminger: An Autobiography John Springer: The Fondas: The Films and Careers, of Henry, Jane and Peter Fonda Burgess Meredith: So Far, So Good: A Memoir Richard Barrios: Screened Out: Playing Gay in Hollywood from Edison to Stonewall IMDb The New York Times, November 13, 1954 Variety, January 1, 1962

Quotes

Son, this is a Washington, D.C. kind of lie. It's when the other person knows you're lying and also knows you know he knows.
- Robert Leffingwell
What I did was for the good of the country.
- Fred Van Ackerman
Fortunately our country always manages to survive patriots like you.
- Bob Munson

Trivia

Director Otto Preminger offered the role of a southern Senator to Martin Luther King, Jr., believing that the casting could have a positive impact (despite the fact that there were no black senators at the time). King declined after serious consideration, as he felt playing the role could cause hostility and hurt the civil rights movement.

Notes

Location scenes filmed in Washington, D. C.

Miscellaneous Notes

Burgess Meredith voted Best Supporting Actor by the 1962 National Board of Review.

Released in United States June 6, 1962

Released in United States on Video July 13, 1994

Released in United States Summer June 1, 1962

Released in United States Summer June 1, 1962

Released in United States June 6, 1962

Released in United States on Video July 13, 1994