“The world needs honest men today — more than it needs presidents.”
A well-liked industrialist (Spencer Tracy) is urged to run for president as a Republican candidate by his power-hungry, newspaper-owning lover (Angela Lansbury), who is eager to manipulate his candidacy for her own purposes — but will Tracy’s estranged wife (Katharine Hepburn) help or hinder the process?
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Adolph Menjou Films
- Angela Lansbury Films
- Frank Capra Films
- Katharine Hepburn Films
- Marital Problems
- Play Adaptation
- Political Corruption
- Spencer Tracy Films
- Van Johnson Films
Frank Capra’s stagy adaptation of Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play (loosely based upon a notorious affair between Republican nominee Wendell Willkie and newspaper editor Irita Van Doren) isn’t nearly as well-known or beloved as Capra’s two most famous political dramas, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) and Meet John Doe (1941) — perhaps due to a number of real-life political references which situate it a bit too firmly within its specific era. The film also suffers from both an uneven tone and an overly simplistic storyline: while it’s no surprise that a powerful man like Tracy’s aviation industrialist might be estranged from his wife and carrying on an affair with a much younger woman, Hepburn is simply too radiant, smart, and loyal for us to understand (without additional context) why nice-guy Tracy would stray from her. Sure, men are lured away from amazing women all the time — but despite Lansbury’s youth, she simply can’t hold a candle to Hepburn, either in appearance or personality. Indeed, as written (and acted), Lansbury’s “Kay Thorndyke” (what a name!) is a decidedly one-dimensional villainess (complete with a “Cruella De Vil” streak in her frosted hair), and ultimately comes across as little more than the personification of female power run amok.
Despite these serious caveats, however, the bulk of the storyline remains as relevant as ever in its exposé of the corrupt machinations behind any presidential campaign; and there’s plenty of smart dialogue sprinkled throughout to enjoy:
“No woman could ever run for President. She’d have to admit she’s over 35.”
“You politicians have stayed professionals only because the voters have remained amateurs.”
Indeed, one can’t help getting caught up in the story, and typically fine lead performances by Hepburn and Tracy add to its appeal. However, this one is only must-see for Hepburn-Tracy and/or Capra completists.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Katharine Hepburn as Mary Matthews
- Spencer Tracy as Grant Matthews
No, though it’s worth a one-time look.