Browse all reviews by letter     A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0 - 9

USA 1948
Directed by
Frank Capra
124 minutes
Rated G

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

State Of The Union

I am no fan of Frank Capra’s lightweight populism, most famously enshrined in his Depression-era classics Mr Deeds Goes To Town, 1936, Mr Smith Goes To Washington, 1939, and Meet John Doe, 1941. This return to the form with Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn in the leads lacks even the hokey charms of James Stewart and Gary Cooper. Not only is it  dated in its political context of the late 1940s but the tub-thumping rhetoric about America being the hope of the world makes the film even less appealing today (plus the fact that Adolphe Menjou was a hard-line right-winger who named ames to HUAC..

Adapted from a wordy Broadway play by Russel Crouse and Howard Lindsay, the parts of the film which do still resonate are its take on the machinations involved in the Presidential election process. Republican  fixer, Jim Conover (Menjou), goes about getting the numbers to elect self-made millionaire Grant Matthews (Tracy) who is being set up as puppet for newspaper tycoon Kay Thorndyke (Angela Lansbury) with whom Grant is having an affair, something apparently unquestioningly forborne by his wife, Mary (Hepburn in an atypically subdued performance), who is called on to play the good wife in order to bolster Grant’s image with the hoi polloi.

Little about the film works dramatically, the triangle of Grant and his two loves having about as much spice as a cold rice pudding and Capra’s treatment of "the little guy" too much of the paternalistic past to be credible or even bearable these days. Lansbury makes for an improbable tycoon and femme fatale and if some of the dialogue is nicely acerbic with Menjou getting most of the best lines as the self-seeking campaign manager, it is diluted in equal parts by the sentimentality whilst the first half of the film appears to have been edited with a pair of garden shears.

All up, State Of The Union is largely going to appeal to fans of the Tracy-Hepburn pairing.




Want something different?

random vintage best worst