The Candidate (1972 film)

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The Candidate
Candidateposter.jpg
Theatrical poster
Directed by Michael Ritchie
Produced by Walter Coblenz
Written by Jeremy Larner
Starring Robert Redford
Peter Boyle
Music by John Rubinstein
Cinematography Victor J. Kemper
John Korty
Edited by Robert Estrin
Richard A. Harris
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
  • June 29, 1972 (1972-06-29)
Running time 109 minutes
Country United States
Language English

The Candidate is a 1972 American satirical comedy-drama film starring Robert Redford and Peter Boyle, and directed by Michael Ritchie. The screenplay, which examines the various facets and machinations involved in political campaigns, was written by Jeremy Larner, a speechwriter for Senator Eugene J. McCarthy during McCarthy's campaign for the 1968 Democratic Presidential nomination.

Plot[edit]

Marvin Lucas (Peter Boyle), a political election specialist, must find a Democratic candidate to oppose California U.S. Senator Crocker Jarmon, a popular Republican. With no big-name Democrat eager to enter the unwinnable race, Lucas seeks out Bill McKay (Robert Redford), the idealistic, charismatic son of former governor John J. McKay (Melvyn Douglas).

Lucas gives McKay a proposition: since Jarmon cannot lose and the race is already decided, McKay is free to campaign saying exactly what he wants. McKay accepts in order to have the chance to spread his values, and hits the trail. With no serious Democratic opposition, McKay cruises to the nomination on his name alone. Lucas then has distressing news: according to the latest election projections, McKay will be defeated by an overwhelming margin. Lucas says the party expected McKay to lose but not to be humiliated, so he moderates his message to appeal to a broader range of voters.

McKay campaigns across the state, his message growing more generic each day. This approach lifts him in the opinion polls, but he has a new problem: Because McKay's father has stayed out of the race, the media speculates his silence is an endorsement of Jarmon. McKay grudgingly meets his father and tells him the problem, and the elder McKay tells the media he is simply honoring his son's wishes to stay out of the race.

McKay continues to gain in the polls until he is only nine points down. Jarmon then proposes a debate. McKay agrees to give answers tailored by Lucas, but just as the debate is ending, McKay has a pang of conscience and blurts out that the debate addressed no real issues, such as poverty and race relations. Lucas is furious, as this will hurt the campaign. The media try to confront McKay backstage, but arrive as his father congratulates him on the debate; instead of reporting on McKay's outburst, the story becomes the reemergence of the former governor to help his son. The positive story, coupled with McKay's father's help on the trail, further closes the polling gap.

On election day, McKay wins. In the final scene, he escapes the victory party and pulls Lucas into a room while throngs of journalists clamor outside. McKay asks Lucas, "Marvin ... What do we do now?" The media throng arrives to drag them out, and McKay never receives an answer.

Cast[edit]

Reception[edit]

The film was critically acclaimed, with most praise going towards the script and lead performance. New York Times reviewer Vincent Canby applauded Redford's performance and commented that "The Candidate is serious, but its tone is coldly comic, as if it had been put together by people who had given up hope."[1] Christopher Null, from filmcritic.com, gave the film 4.5/5, and said that "this satire on an American institution continues to gain relevance instead of lose it."[2] The film holds a 'fresh' score of 95% on review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes, based on eighteen critical reviews. [3]

Awards[edit]

The film won a Best Writing Oscar for Larner and was also nominated for Best Sound (Richard Portman, Gene Cantamessa).[4]

References[edit]

External links[edit]