State of the Union (film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
State of the Union
Sotu1948.jpg
Directed byFrank Capra
Produced by
Written by
Based onState of the Union
by Russel Crouse and Howard Lindsay
Starring
Music byVictor Young
CinematographyGeorge J. Folsey
Edited byWilliam W. Hornbeck
Production
company
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • April 30, 1948 (1948-04-30)
Running time
124 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$2,439,000[1][2]
Box office$3.5 million (US rentals)[3][4]

State of the Union is a 1948 drama film about a man’s desire to run for the nomination as the Republican candidate for President, and the machinations of those around him. The New York Times described it as “a slick piece of screen satire...sharper in its knife-edged slicing at the hides of pachyderm schemers and connivers than was the original.”[5] The film was written by Myles Connolly and Anthony Veiller based on the 1945 Russel Crouse, Howard Lindsay Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name. Director Frank Capra and his screenwriters remained extremely faithful to the play, and, as the authors of the play had done during its two-year run, updated the script during filming to keep it timely.[6] Spencer Tracy was the first choice of both Capra and the authors of the play to play the lead.[7] Katharine Hepburn costars, and Adolphe Menjou, Van Johnson and Angela Lansbury play key roles. The film is Capra's only project for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. It is also the second and final film to be made by Liberty Films before it dissolved forever in 1951.

Plot[edit]

Republican newspaper magnate Kay Thorndyke (Angela Lansbury) intends to make her lover, aircraft tycoon Grant Matthews (Spencer Tracy), president with her as the power behind the throne. Thorndyke plans to use her newspaper chain's influence to deadlock the 1948 Republican National Convention, so it will choose Matthews as a compromise dark horse candidate instead of Thomas E. Dewey, Robert A. Taft, or former Governor of Minnesota, Harold Stassen.

Matthews is skeptical of the idea of running for president, but Thorndyke, Republican strategist Jim Conover (Adolphe Menjou), and campaign manager Spike McManus (Van Johnson) persuade him to test the waters by going on a speaking tour. Thorndyke believes that ambition and success will soon convince him. Matthews reunites with his estranged wife, Mary (Katharine Hepburn), for the campaign. Despite knowing about Thorndyke and her husband's affair, Mary agrees to support him in public because of his idealism and honesty, and because she is unaware of the extent of Thorndyke's role in the campaign. Thorndyke tells Matthews that scandal will ruin his chances, so they must no longer meet as lovers.

Wherever Matthews speaks, he appeals to the regular people; floods of telegrams from “ordinary” citizens pour in, thanking him for his message. But the powers and would-be influencers behind the political scenes are very unhappy. Matthews makes a controversial speech in Wichita, calling big labor to account. Before he makes another speech in Detroit giving big business the same treatment, Thorndyke comes to the hotel secretly and persuades him to use a prepared speech to help his chances for the nomination. Again, there are floods of telegrams, this time from people who can deliver votes in the primaries. Matthews becomes obsessed with becoming president and surrenders completely to anything Conover wants him to do. Kaye remains in the background, because knowledge of their affair would destroy Grant’s chances for the nomination, much less the Presidency. Matthews makes deals with various repugnant special interests for their support.

A nationwide fireside chat, broadcast live on radio and television from the Matthews' home, is intended to officially launch Grant’s candidacy. Mary is supposed to give a speech introducing Grant. At the last minute, she learns that Thorndyke intervened in Detroit to change her husband and witnesses Thorndyke telling a group of influence peddlers that she is the power behind Matthews and will continue in that role—any questions or any further deals and they are not to bother Matthews, they are to come to her—or she will destroy them in her newspapers. Mary knew about the moral compromises Grant had made, but not the extent of Kaye’s role. Confronted with this evidence that she has lost him forever, she refuses to give the speech and runs from the room in tears. Spike, who has grown genuinely fond of her, follows and tries to persuade her to come back and help Grant become President because the White House is the one place Kay Thorndyke cannot follow him.

Mary begins to read the speech prepared for her. Grant, who came to the broadcast from a meeting (off camera) of local people where his one-time friends, neighbors and supporters let him have it, sees Mary succumbing to the corruption and something in him breaks. He realizes that he has betrayed his and Mary's ideals. He steps to the microphone before the cameras, and confesses to the American people. While promising to seek bipartisan reform—and challenging the voters to vote—he denounces as frauds both his backers and himself and withdraws as a candidate for any political office. He also asks for his wife's forgiveness, and they embrace.

Thorndyke fires Spike, but Conover immediately hires him.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Actress Claudette Colbert was originally cast as Mary, the wife of Grant Matthews; disagreements with Capra led Colbert to abandon the picture.[8] Hepburn was chosen as her replacement only days before filming began. She had been helping Tracy with the script, and so was already familiar with the part. There was tension between Adolphe Menjou and Hepburn during the filming, as he was a member of the politically conservative group Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals and she had allied herself with the rival Committee for the First Amendment.[9][Note 1] During filming, Menjou testified as a friendly witness before the House UnAmerican Activities Committee. Many sources reported that on set, Hepburn was “cordial” to Menjou when they had scenes together but otherwise would not acknowledge him.[11]

In order to cast Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer contract player Tracy in the film, MGM bought the distribution rights to State of the Union. While most of the major actors in the film were under contract to MGM, Capra's own company, Liberty Films produced the film.[12]

State of the Union was originally budgeted at $2.6 million and came in $450,000 under budget.[3] Principal photography took place between September 20 and December 6, 1947.[13]

Reception[edit]

State of the Union was critically reviewed by Bosley Crowther in The New York Times. He noted: "... regardless of partisan reactions—and there are bound to be plenty of those, in view of the frank and intensely topical nature of the yarn—it cannot be denied that this picture which Frank Capra has made from the popular Lindsay-Crouse stage play, is a slick piece of screen satire."[14]

Shortly after completion, the State of the Union was screened exclusively for President Harry Truman and reportedly helped convince him to run for office again.[15]

Home video[edit]

Capra bought the rights of State of the Union after its initial theatrical release and after his company folded, Liberty Films' assets were acquired by Paramount Pictures. EMKA, Ltd./Universal Television currently owns the rights to the film due to it being a part of Paramount's pre-1950 sound feature film library. It has been released in the US on VHS, LaserDisc and DVD, and various other territories on the latter format. In 2017, french company Movinside released a remastered edition on Blu-ray and DVD.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The conflict between Menjou and Hepburn was enough to compel Capra to keep media from the set.[10]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ "The Eddie Mannix Ledger." Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study (Los Angeles).
  2. ^ Brady, Thomas R. "Hollywood thrift: Capra saves on 'State of the Union'." The New York Times, February 15, 1948, p. X5.
  3. ^ a b Curtis 2011, pp. 562–564.
  4. ^ "Top Grossers of 1948." Variety, January 5, 1949, p. 46.
  5. ^ Crowther, Bosley (1948-04-23). "' State of the Union,' With Tracy and Hepburn, Makes Bow at the Music Hall". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-09-26.
  6. ^ "State of the Union (1948) - Notes - TCM.com". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 2019-09-26.
  7. ^ "State of the Union (1948) - Notes - TCM.com". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 2019-09-26.
  8. ^ Scherle and Levy 1977, p. 233.
  9. ^ McBride 1992, p. 547.
  10. ^ McBride 1992, pp. 544–545.
  11. ^ "State of the Union (1948) - Notes - TCM.com". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 2019-09-26.
  12. ^ Capra 1971, p. 388.
  13. ^ "Original print Information: 'State of the Union'." TCM. Retrieved: February 5, 2017.
  14. ^ Crowther, Bosley. "'State of the Union,' with Tracy and Hepburn, makes bow at the Music Hall." The New York Times, April 23, 1948.
  15. ^ Alldredge, Charles. "Film that changed history?" Variety, January 5, 1949, p. 5.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Capra, Frank. Frank Capra, The Name Above the Title: An Autobiography. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1971. ISBN 0-306-80771-8.
  • Curtis, James. Spencer Tracy: A Biography. New York: Alfred Knopf, 2011. ISN 978-0-0917-8524-6.
  • McBride, Joseph. Frank Capra: The Catastrophe of Success. New York: Touchstone Books, 1992. ISBN 0-671-79788-3.
  • Scherle, Victor and William Turner Levy. The Films of Frank Capra. Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1977.

External links[edit]