State of the Union (film)

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State of the Union
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Frank Capra
Produced by Frank Capra
Anthony Veiller
Written by Russel Crouse (play)
Howard Lindsay (play)
Myles Connolly
Anthony Veiller (screenplay)
Starring Spencer Tracy
Katharine Hepburn
Music by Victor Young
Cinematography George Folsey
Edited by William W. Hornbeck
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • April 30, 1948 (1948-04-30)
Running time
111 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $2,439,000[1][2]
Box office $3.5 million (US rentals)[3][4]

State of the Union is a 1948 film adaptation written by Myles Connolly and Anthony Veiller of the Russel Crouse, Howard Lindsay play of the same name. Directed by Frank Capra and starring Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, the film is Capra's first and only project for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The screenplay, about a man's run for president, abandoned the play's more controversial themes.


Republican newspaper magnate Kay Thorndyke (Angela Lansbury) intends to make her lover, aircraft tycoon Grant Matthews (Spencer Tracy), President of the United States 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 Dewey, Taft, or another.

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 run. Matthews reunites with 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 Thorndyke's role in the campaign.

The politically naïve Matthews makes a controversial speech in Wichita denouncing big labor. Before he makes another controversial speech in Detroit denouncing big business, Thorndyke secretly persuades him to moderate his tone to help his chances for the nomination. With her and Conover's help, Matthews makes deals with various special interests for their support.

Before a nationwide fireside chat from the Matthews' home, Mary learns of Thorndyke's continuing relationship with her husband and sees the deals that he has made. Matthews realizes that he has betrayed his and Mary's ideals. On live radio, he denounces both his backers and himself as frauds, withdraws as a candidate while promising to seek bipartisan reform, and asks for his wife's forgiveness. When his backers attempt to turn off the speech, he angrily calls out, "Don't cut me off, I paid for this broadcast!"


Film Role Play
Spencer Tracy Grant Matthews Ralph Bellamy
Katharine Hepburn Mary Matthews Ruth Hussey
Van Johnson Spike McManus Myron McCormick
Angela Lansbury Kay Thorndyke Margalo Gillmore
Adolphe Menjou Jim Conover Minor Watson
Lewis Stone Sam Thorndyke not featured
Howard Smith Sam I. Parrish Herbert Heyes
Charles Dingle Bill Noland Hardy Victor Sutherland
Maidel Turner Lulubelle Alexander Maidel Turner
Raymond Walburn Judge Alexander G. Albert Smith
Margaret Hamilton Norah Helen Ray
Art Baker Radio Announcer not featured
Florence Auer Grace Orval Draper Aline McDermott
Irving Bacon Buck Swenson not featured


Actress Claudette Colbert was originally cast as Mary, the wife of Grant Matthews, but rumors of disagreements with Capra led Colbert to abandon the picture. 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 McCarthyist group Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals and she had allied herself with the rival Committee for the First Amendment.

The film was produced entirely by Capra's own company, Liberty Films. In order to cast MGM contract player Tracy in the film, the latter studio bought the distribution rights. Most of the major actors in the film were under contract to MGM also.

The movie was originally budgeted at $2.6 million and came in $450,000 under budget.[3]


The film reportedly helped convince Harry Truman to run for office again.[5]

Home video[edit]

Capra bought the film after its initial theatrical release. After Capra's company folded, Liberty Films' assets were acquired by Paramount Pictures. It has since had limited availability on VHS home video and until recently has been unavailable on DVD. 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. Universal Studios Home Entertainment released a DVD version on August 29, 2006.


  1. ^ The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study .
  3. ^ a b James Curtis, Spencer Tracy: A Biography, Alfred Knopf, 2011 p562-564
  4. ^ "Top Grossers of 1948", Variety 5 January 1949 p 46
  5. ^

External links[edit]