The Last Hurrah


2h 1m 1958
The Last Hurrah

Brief Synopsis

A political boss faces changing times as he runs for re-election.

Photos & Videos

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Political
Adaptation
Release Date
Nov 1958
Premiere Information
New York opening: 23 Oct 1958; Los Angeles opening: 29 Oct 1958
Production Company
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel The Last Hurrah by Edwin O'Connor (Boston, 1956).

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 1m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1
Film Length
12,000ft (12 reels)

Synopsis

Frank Skeffington, the Irish-American mayor of a large New England city, descends his staircase, pausing, as he does every morning, to place a fresh rose by the portrait of his deceased wife. At the bottom of the stairs wait his secretary, the city wardheelers and various aides, and outside the office door is the usual crowd of noisy constituents. Skeffington's staff notes that Amos Force's newspaper opposes the mayor's recently announced bid for a fifth term, even though the two major opposing candidates are unimpressive: Charles J. Hennessey, a longtime but harmless opponent, and Kevin McCluskey, a young naval hero with few ideas of his own. In Force's newsroom, the sour old publisher is planning a series of articles in support of McCluskey, not because he respects the younger candidate but because he despises Skeffington. Adam Caulfield, the writer of the paper's popular sports column and Skeffington's nephew, asks his uncle why Force so dislikes him. Skeffington reveals that his own mother, once a maid in the home of Force's father, was humiliated and then fired by the elder Force for stealing two overripe bananas and a small apple, a "crime" usually accepted by the wealthy Yankees who employed poor Irish immigrants. The Force family had never forgiven their maid's son for becoming mayor of the city. During this conversation, Skeffington asks Adam to cover his re-election campaign "from the inside." Uninterested in politics, but fascinated by his sometimes unethical but always humane uncle, Adam agrees, much to the chagrin of his wife Maeve and her father, Roger Sugrue. Nevertheless, Adam's respect and affection for his uncle, emotions not expressed by Skeffington's playboy son "Junior," increase as he attends rallies and other campaign events. At the wake of Knocko Minihan, Adam is at first outraged when Skeffington fills the widow's house with his supporters, who hand out cigars while conducting ward business. Skeffington's manager, John Gorman, explains that while admittedly trying to promote his campaign, Skeffington has nonetheless succeeded in packing the wake of the universally disliked Minihan with well-wishers, a fact that deeply touches the grieving widow. When Adam later hears Skeffington threaten to take greedy undertaker Johnny Degnan before his licensing board unless he reduces the high cost of the services, Adam becomes his uncle's avid supporter. After the funeral, Skeffington learns that the city's bankers have decided not to provide the loan needed to clean up one of the city's worst slums. Furious, he and his cronies invade the exclusive Plymouth Club, where banker Norman Cass, Sr. is lunching with a group of Skeffington detractors, among them Force and Bishop Gardner. Skeffington begs the men not to use the housing project as a political football, but Cass and his associates remain adamant. That afternoon, Skeffington flatters Cass's simpering son into becoming the fire commissioner. The next day, the mayor shows the elder Cass a photograph of his son, looking particularly foolish in his fireman's helmet, and asks, "Do I announce the appointment?" Cass agrees to provide the loan in exchange for the embarrassing photograph. Soon the Plymouth Club becomes the site of McCluskey's campaign headquarters, and the young candidate begins to make numerous television appearances. On the night before the election, Skeffington has dinner with Adam and Maeve and finally succeeds in charming the young woman. After the couple votes, however, she smilingly refuses to reveal her choice to her husband. As the returns begin to come in, Skeffington's campaign headquarters is noisy and upbeat, but it soon becomes apparent that McCluskey has won the election by a landslide. After hearing the television reporter describe the election as the biggest political upset in the city's history, Skeffington warmly congratulates his opponent and announces that he now plans to run for governor. The mayor then walks home alone as McCluskey's raucous victory parade fills the streets. Shrugging sheepishly at the portrait of his wife, Skeffington begins to climb the stairs but suddenly suffers a heart attack and collapses. The next day, as Skeffington rests in bed, scores of well-wishers appear outside the mayor's residence. Though his doctor orders him to see no one, Skeffington insists on saying goodbye to his old friends. Sugrue disdainfully asserts that if he had it to do over again, Skeffington would surely live his life differently. Barely able to open his eyes, Skeffington exclaims, "Like hell I would!" and dies.

Cast

Spencer Tracy

Frank Skeffington

Jeffrey Hunter

Adam Caulfield

Dianne Foster

Maeve Caulfield

Pat O'brien

John Gorman

Basil Rathbone

Norman Cass, Sr.

Donald Crisp

Cardinal Martin Burke

James Gleason

Cuke Gillen

Edward Brophy

Ditto Boland

John Carradine

Amos Force

Willis Bouchey

Roger Sugrue

Basil Ruysdael

Bishop Gardner

Ricardo Cortez

Sam Weinberg

Wallace Ford

Charles J. Hennessey

Frank Mchugh

Festus Garvey

Carleton Young

Mr. Winslow

Frank Albertson

Jack Mangan

Bob Sweeney

Johnny Degnan

William Leslie

Dan Herlihy

Anna Lee

Gert Minihan

Ken Curtis

Monsignor Killian

Jane Darwell

Delia Boylan

O. Z. Whitehead

Norman Cass, Jr.

Arthur Walsh

Frank Skeffington, Jr.

Edmund Lowe

Johnny Byrne

Charles Fitzsimons

Kevin McCluskey

Helen Westcott

Mrs. McCluskey

Ruth Warren

Ellen Davin

Mimi Doyle

Mamie Burns

Dan Borzage

Pete

James Flavin

Police captain

William Forrest

Doctor

Frank Sully

Fire captain

Charlie Sullivan

Chauffeur

Bill Henry

Young politician

Rand Brooks

Young politician

Harry Lauter

Young politician

William Neff

Young politician

John Bryant

Young politician

William Hudson

Young politician

Jack Pennick

Riley

Ruth Clifford

Nurse

Richard Deacon

Club secretary

Harry Tyler

Elderly retainer

Robert Levin

Jules Kowalsky

Julius Tannen

Mr. Kowalsky

Hal K. Dawson

Managing editor

Harry Tenbrook

Footsie

Clete Roberts

News commentator

Tommy Earwood

Gregory McCluskey

Harriet Wollis

McCluskey twin

Helaine Wollis

McCluskey twin

Debbie Cooney

McCluskey daughter

Sam Harris

Banker

Frank Baker

Banker

Raoul Freeman

Banker

Jimmy Murphy

Office boy

Joe Forte

Managing editor

Helen Gereghty

Carmichael sister

Millie Fitzgerald

Carmichael sister

Molly Roden

Neighbor woman

Eve March

Neighbor woman

Ed "skipper" Mcnally

Wardrobe heeler

Bobette Bentley

Blonde

June Kirby

Blonde

Roy Jenson

Fighter

Charles Hicks

Fighter

Edward Featherstone

Frank Marlowe

Jack Henderson

Gail Bonney

Dick Ryan

Ted Stanhope

Joe Mcguinn

George Spaulding

Joe Devlin

Tommy Jackson

Harry Strang

Brian O'hara

Frank Scannell

Phil Tully

Charles Trowbridge

Charles Anthony Hughes

Edmund Cobb

Dick Keene

William H. O'brien

Webster La Grange

Wilbur Mack

Stuart Holmes

Clint Dorrington

Victor Romito

Buck Russell

Johnny Leone

Alex Akimoff

Rolland Jones

Emma Palmese

Cosmo Sardo

Chuck Howard

Frank Magrin

Charles Cirillo

Mike Jeffers

Phillip Adams

Bud Cokes

James Dime

Stephen Soldi

Lenny Smith

Richard Dale Clark

John Deauville

William Janssen

George Ford

Bob Perry

Jordan Shelley

Dick Cherney

Hank Mann

Anna Stein

Sue Shannon

Fred Kennedy

Harvey Perry

Steve Benton

Claire Dellatorre

Photo Collections

The Last Hurrah - Movie Posters
The Last Hurrah - Movie Posters
The Last Hurrah - Lobby Card Set
The Last Hurrah - Lobby Card Set

Videos

Movie Clip

Hosted Intro

Promo

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Political
Adaptation
Release Date
Nov 1958
Premiere Information
New York opening: 23 Oct 1958; Los Angeles opening: 29 Oct 1958
Production Company
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel The Last Hurrah by Edwin O'Connor (Boston, 1956).

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 1m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1
Film Length
12,000ft (12 reels)

Articles

The Last Hurrah


We tend to forget that actors are people just like us; they get up in the morning and do their job. It may be a very public job, and big stars are extremely well compensated for their work. But it's still work, and sometimes it's not much fun - in fact, sometimes you want to quit. To you and me, The Last Hurrah (1958) is a nostalgic, leisurely paced John Ford picture starring Spencer Tracy. But to Tracy, it served as a therapeutic experience after the rigors of his previous film, The Old Man and the Sea (1958), which went way over budget and generated an on-going argument between Tracy and Old Man novelist, Ernest Hemingway. After that ordeal, Tracy felt he had had enough, and seriously considered making The Last Hurrah the final film of his illustrious career.

In The Last Hurrah, Tracy plays Frank Skeffington, the long-time mayor of a city that's an obvious stand-in for Boston. (The city's actual mayor, James M. Curley, later sued the producers for "invasion of privacy," because he felt the Skeffington character too closely resembled him. He didn't win the case.) Skeffington is a widower, and has a no-good son (Arthur Walsh) who does little except play jazz and try to pick up girls. Skeffington's nephew, Adam Caulfield (Jeffrey Hunter), writes for a local newspaper, and winds up covering what will become Skeffington's final bid for office, one that doesn't proceed smoothly. The film is overly sentimental at times, but Ford brings a visual elegance to this vanished world of Irish-American politicking. And Tracy is as wonderful as you expect him to be in the role.

"I've joked about retiring but this could be the picture," Tracy said while filming The Last Hurrah. "I'm superstitious – you know that's a part of being Irish – and I'm back with John Ford again, for the first time since I started out with him twenty-eight years ago [in Up the River in 1930]. I feel this is the proper place for me to end. Even the title is prophetic."

The shoot for The Last Hurrah was as calm as The Old Man and the Sea was tense. Tracy found himself surrounded by old friends and fellow actors from Ford's unofficial repertory such as Donald Crisp, John Carradine, Wallace Ford, Jane Darwell, James Gleason, Ricardo Cortez, Basil Rathbone, Edmund Lowe and Pat O'Brien, who hadn't worked with Ford since the 1932 film, Airmail. In Print the Legend: The Life and Times of John Ford by Scott Eyman, O'Brien recalled that on the set of The Last Hurrah, Ford "would never talk the part you were playing, he'd just tell you what he wanted. 'I hope you can get it,' he'd say, chewing on that handkerchief he always had. When you failed, he'd say, 'That wasn't what I wanted. Try to get what I wanted. We're going to take another whack at it and it better be good.' And after you finally got it he'd come over and put his arms around you. 'Why the hell didn't you get it in the first place?' he'd say. Ford was the genius of them all. He was an artist drawing a portrait in oil."

The only potentially disruptive incident that occurred during the filming was when someone showed up with a case of whiskey in celebration of St. Patrick's Day. Ford, who was a heavy drinker like most of the Irish cast and crew members, exploded in anger, "Jesus Christ, what do you want to do, shut down the picture?" and the booze was carted off.

By 1958, Tracy had already won two Academy Awards for Best Actor, and many people in the film industry wanted him to get another one before he hung it up. Given its literary pedigree, insiders felt that he stood a good chance to win with The Old Man and the Sea. Tracy, on the other hand, believed that he delivered far superior work in The Last Hurrah. He would have been happy to simply forget about The Old Man and the Sea and move on. The same went for Hemingway, who called Tracy's performance in the film, the work of, "a rich, fat actor". (Time magazine seemed to agree with a review that stated, "in The Old Man and the Sea [Tracy] sulked at the director and hardly bothered to act at all".)

Tracy WAS nominated for an Oscar®, all right. But it was for The Old Man and the Sea. He was watching from the comfort of his living room when David Niven walked away with that year's award for Best Actor, for his memorable work in Separate Tables (1958). Tracy was especially pleased that he didn't have to climb on-stage, as many of his peers were forced to do, and help Jerry Lewis fill an extra 20 minutes of TV time when the ceremony wrapped earlier than expected! Apparently, in those days, winners knew how to keep their speeches short. Tracy, by the way, postponed his retirement and would appear in six more pictures before death ended his glorious career in 1967.

As for John Ford, The Last Hurrah was not one of his more successful films, despite being honored as Best Director of the year by the National Board of Review. The director, like Frank Skeffington in his film, no longer seemed interested in keeping up with the modern world. Now in his middle sixties, his desire and creative drive for picture making was on the decline: "I don't want to make great sprawling pictures," he stated. "I want to make films in a kitchen...The old enthusiasm has gone, maybe. But don't quote that - oh, hell, you can quote it."

Producer: John Ford
Director: John Ford
Screenplay: Frank S. Nugent, based on the novel by Edwin O'Connor
Cinematography: Charles Lawton, Jr.
Editing: Jack Murray
Art Design: Robert Peterson
Set Designer: William Kiernan
Gowns: Jean Louis
Sound: John Livadary, Harry Mills
Cast: Spencer Tracy (Frank Skeffington), Jeffrey Hunter (Adam Caulfield), Dianne Foster (Maeve Caulfield), Pat O'Brien (John Gorman), Basil Rathbone (Norman Cass, Sr.), Donald Crisp (The Cardinal), James Gleason (Duke Gillen),Edward Brophy (Ditto Boland), John Carradine (Amos Force), Willis Bouchey (Roger Sugrue), Basil Ruysdael (Bishop Gardner), Ricardo Cortez (Sam Weinberg).
BW-121m. Letterboxed.

by Paul Tatara
The Last Hurrah

The Last Hurrah

We tend to forget that actors are people just like us; they get up in the morning and do their job. It may be a very public job, and big stars are extremely well compensated for their work. But it's still work, and sometimes it's not much fun - in fact, sometimes you want to quit. To you and me, The Last Hurrah (1958) is a nostalgic, leisurely paced John Ford picture starring Spencer Tracy. But to Tracy, it served as a therapeutic experience after the rigors of his previous film, The Old Man and the Sea (1958), which went way over budget and generated an on-going argument between Tracy and Old Man novelist, Ernest Hemingway. After that ordeal, Tracy felt he had had enough, and seriously considered making The Last Hurrah the final film of his illustrious career. In The Last Hurrah, Tracy plays Frank Skeffington, the long-time mayor of a city that's an obvious stand-in for Boston. (The city's actual mayor, James M. Curley, later sued the producers for "invasion of privacy," because he felt the Skeffington character too closely resembled him. He didn't win the case.) Skeffington is a widower, and has a no-good son (Arthur Walsh) who does little except play jazz and try to pick up girls. Skeffington's nephew, Adam Caulfield (Jeffrey Hunter), writes for a local newspaper, and winds up covering what will become Skeffington's final bid for office, one that doesn't proceed smoothly. The film is overly sentimental at times, but Ford brings a visual elegance to this vanished world of Irish-American politicking. And Tracy is as wonderful as you expect him to be in the role. "I've joked about retiring but this could be the picture," Tracy said while filming The Last Hurrah. "I'm superstitious – you know that's a part of being Irish – and I'm back with John Ford again, for the first time since I started out with him twenty-eight years ago [in Up the River in 1930]. I feel this is the proper place for me to end. Even the title is prophetic." The shoot for The Last Hurrah was as calm as The Old Man and the Sea was tense. Tracy found himself surrounded by old friends and fellow actors from Ford's unofficial repertory such as Donald Crisp, John Carradine, Wallace Ford, Jane Darwell, James Gleason, Ricardo Cortez, Basil Rathbone, Edmund Lowe and Pat O'Brien, who hadn't worked with Ford since the 1932 film, Airmail. In Print the Legend: The Life and Times of John Ford by Scott Eyman, O'Brien recalled that on the set of The Last Hurrah, Ford "would never talk the part you were playing, he'd just tell you what he wanted. 'I hope you can get it,' he'd say, chewing on that handkerchief he always had. When you failed, he'd say, 'That wasn't what I wanted. Try to get what I wanted. We're going to take another whack at it and it better be good.' And after you finally got it he'd come over and put his arms around you. 'Why the hell didn't you get it in the first place?' he'd say. Ford was the genius of them all. He was an artist drawing a portrait in oil." The only potentially disruptive incident that occurred during the filming was when someone showed up with a case of whiskey in celebration of St. Patrick's Day. Ford, who was a heavy drinker like most of the Irish cast and crew members, exploded in anger, "Jesus Christ, what do you want to do, shut down the picture?" and the booze was carted off. By 1958, Tracy had already won two Academy Awards for Best Actor, and many people in the film industry wanted him to get another one before he hung it up. Given its literary pedigree, insiders felt that he stood a good chance to win with The Old Man and the Sea. Tracy, on the other hand, believed that he delivered far superior work in The Last Hurrah. He would have been happy to simply forget about The Old Man and the Sea and move on. The same went for Hemingway, who called Tracy's performance in the film, the work of, "a rich, fat actor". (Time magazine seemed to agree with a review that stated, "in The Old Man and the Sea [Tracy] sulked at the director and hardly bothered to act at all".) Tracy WAS nominated for an Oscar®, all right. But it was for The Old Man and the Sea. He was watching from the comfort of his living room when David Niven walked away with that year's award for Best Actor, for his memorable work in Separate Tables (1958). Tracy was especially pleased that he didn't have to climb on-stage, as many of his peers were forced to do, and help Jerry Lewis fill an extra 20 minutes of TV time when the ceremony wrapped earlier than expected! Apparently, in those days, winners knew how to keep their speeches short. Tracy, by the way, postponed his retirement and would appear in six more pictures before death ended his glorious career in 1967. As for John Ford, The Last Hurrah was not one of his more successful films, despite being honored as Best Director of the year by the National Board of Review. The director, like Frank Skeffington in his film, no longer seemed interested in keeping up with the modern world. Now in his middle sixties, his desire and creative drive for picture making was on the decline: "I don't want to make great sprawling pictures," he stated. "I want to make films in a kitchen...The old enthusiasm has gone, maybe. But don't quote that - oh, hell, you can quote it." Producer: John Ford Director: John Ford Screenplay: Frank S. Nugent, based on the novel by Edwin O'Connor Cinematography: Charles Lawton, Jr. Editing: Jack Murray Art Design: Robert Peterson Set Designer: William Kiernan Gowns: Jean Louis Sound: John Livadary, Harry Mills Cast: Spencer Tracy (Frank Skeffington), Jeffrey Hunter (Adam Caulfield), Dianne Foster (Maeve Caulfield), Pat O'Brien (John Gorman), Basil Rathbone (Norman Cass, Sr.), Donald Crisp (The Cardinal), James Gleason (Duke Gillen),Edward Brophy (Ditto Boland), John Carradine (Amos Force), Willis Bouchey (Roger Sugrue), Basil Ruysdael (Bishop Gardner), Ricardo Cortez (Sam Weinberg). BW-121m. Letterboxed. by Paul Tatara

Quotes

Trivia

Orson Welles was Ford's original choice to play Frank Skeffington but the offer did not reach Welles in time for him to agree to the part. Welles and Ford were fans of each other's work.

Notes

Edwin O'Connor's novel was loosely based on the life of Boston's Irish-American political boss, James M. Curley (1874-1958). Colorful and shrewd, Curley was the four-term Democratic mayor of Boston, the governor of Massachusetts and a two-term Congressman. Even though he was convicted of mail fraud in 1947, he continued to serve as mayor, and in 1950 received a full pardon from President Harry S. Truman. O'Connor's novel was purportedly based on Curley's failed 1949 mayoral campaign.
       The publication of the novel generated considerable controversy and a lawsuit. In August 1958, Los Angeles Times reported that Curley filed a lawsuit against Columbia, arguing that the film would constitute an invasion of privacy, as well as damage the prospects of any film adaptation of his autobiography, I'd Do It Again. According to Variety, Columbia argued in court that it had a signed and notarized agreement with Curley releasing the studio from any liability in connection with the film in exchange for $25,000. Curley denied signing the agreement, and both the notary and Curley's agent, James E. Sullivan, to whom the studio made the payment, had disappeared. In its review, Motion Picture Herald Prod Digest pointed out that the two sides later settled the lawsuit out of court.
       Hollywood Reporter news items yield the following information about the film: In September 1956, James Cagney was mentioned to star. A March 21, 1958 item noted that veteran producer-director David Butler was to play the part of "Jack Mangan," but had to withdraw because of previous commitments. Although various news items from February-April 1958 place Paul Behrer, Stubby Kruger, Larry Wallace, Harvey Lopez, Snub Pollard, Sam O'Reilly, Irving Schwartz, Rod Gray Eagle, Suzanne Maurer, Sven Thommsen and Hans Gerhardt in the cast, their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. Jeffrey Hunter was borrowed from Twentieth Century-Fox to appear in the film. Long-time character actor James Gleason (1886-1959) made his final feature film appearance in The Last Hurrah. According to Daily Variety, the film was produced for $2,500,000. Modern sources include James Waters in the cast. O'Connor's novel was also the basis for a 1977 television film of the same name, starring Carroll O'Connor and directed by Vincent Sherman.

Miscellaneous Notes

Best Amercian Films by the 1958 National Board of Review.

Voted Best Director, Best Actor (Tracy) and One of the Ten

Released in United States 1999

Released in United States Fall November 1958

Released in United States on Video June 16, 1988

Released in United States 1999 (Shown in New York City (Film Forum) as part of program "Columbia 75" November 19 - January 13, 1999.)

Released in United States on Video June 16, 1988

Released in United States Fall November 1958