Advise & Consent (film): Wikis


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Advise and Consent

Theatrical release poster by Saul Bass
Directed by Otto Preminger
Produced by Otto Preminger
Written by Story:
Allen Drury
Wendell Mayes
Starring Henry Fonda
Charles Laughton
Don Murray
Walter Pidgeon
Peter Lawford
Gene Tierney
Music by Jerry Fielding
Cinematography Sam Leavitt
Editing by Louis R. Loeffler
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date(s) June 6, 1962
Running time 139 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Advise & Consent is a 1962 American motion picture based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name by Allen Drury, published in 1959. The movie was adapted for the screen by Wendell Mayes and was directed by Otto Preminger. The ensemble cast features Henry Fonda, Charles Laughton, Don Murray, Walter Pidgeon, Peter Lawford, Gene Tierney, Franchot Tone, Lew Ayres, Burgess Meredith, Eddie Hodges, Paul Ford, George Grizzard, Inga Swenson, Betty White and others.[1]

The film is a fictional behind-the-scenes look at politics and governance in Washington, D.C.. The story follows the machinations set into play in the United States Senate when a second-term president surprises his political party by nominating a liberal with a hidden past for Secretary of State.



Robert A. Leffingwell (Henry Fonda) is nominated to be Secretary of State of the United States. Leffingwell has been hand-picked by a second-term President (Franchot Tone), who is seriously ill.

The Senate, using its advise and consent powers, must either approve or deny the appointment. Under the watchful eye of Vice President Harley Hudson (Lew Ayres), there is a heated battle on the Senate floor between supporters and opponents of the President.

The senators fighting it out in public and in private include the veteran Dixiecrat-like Senator Seabright Cooley (Charles Laughton) of South Carolina, who despises Leffingwell for personal as well as political reasons, and Majority Leader Senator Bob Munson (Walter Pidgeon) of Michigan, the president's strongest ally. A committee appointed to assess the nominee is headed by freshman Utah Senator Brigham Anderson (Don Murray), who finds himself blackmailed by Wyoming Senator Fred Van Ackerman (George Grizzard). To neutralize Anderson, who wants Leffingwell's name to be withdrawn, Van Ackerman threatens to dredge up a homosexual incident in Anderson's past, which results in Anderson's suicide.

Herbert Gelman (Burgess Meredith) is a witness who testifies that Leffingwell has a Communist past.



  • Appearing in two scenes as Senator McCafferty, who whenever awakened from a deep sleep automatically responds "Opposed, sir! Opposed!", was 87-year-old Henry F. Ashurst, who was one of the first senators elected by the state of Arizona and served five terms. Ashurst died on May 31, 1962, a week before the film's premiere.


Secretary of State nominee Robert A. Leffingwell (Fonda) appears before the Senate Committee.

The film's and novel's title comes from the United States Constitution's Article II, Sec. 2, cl. 2, which provides that the President of the United States "shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consults, Judges of the Supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States".

Many scenes were filmed on real locations in Washington D.C., including the Capitol, the canteen of the Treasury Building, the Washington Monument and the Crystal Room of the Sheraton Carlton Hotel[2].

Preminger offered Dr Martin Luther King Jr. a cameo role as a U.S. Senator from Georgia;[3], although there were no serving African-American Senators at the time. King reportedly gave the offer serious consideration but eventually turned it down, feeling that it might cause hostility and hurt the civil rights movement[4].

Advise and Consent was one of a sequence of Preminger films that challenged both the Motion Picture Association of America's Production Code and the notorious Hollywood blacklist. It pushed censorship boundaries with its depiction of a married US Senator who is being blackmailed over a wartime homosexual affair, and it was the first mainstream American movie after World War II to show a gay bar.[3]. Preminger confronted the blacklist by casting left-wing actors Will Geer[5] and Burgess Meredith[6], with the added ironic twist that Meredith's character accuses Fonda's character of having been part of a Communist cell in his youth. This was the first of five films in which Preminger cast Burgess Meredith and, coincidentally, both men subsequently guest-starred as super-villains in the 1960s Batman TV series (Meredith in his famous role as The Penguin, and Preminger as Mr Freeze).

It also marked the screen comeback of Gene Tierney, whose breakthrough to major stardom came in Preminger's 1944 film Laura. Tierney had withdrawn from acting for several years because of her ongoing struggle with bipolar disorder; Advise and Consent was the last of four films she made for Preminger and one of her last major film roles.

Actress Betty White (best known for her role in the sitcom The Golden Girls) made her film debut in Advise and Consent, playing a young Senator from Kansas.[7] Actress Inga Swenson (who played Ellen Anderson) also later worked with Golden Girls creator Susan Harris, playing the role of the villainous Ingrid Svenson in Harris' cult 1970s comedy series Soap, as well as appearing once on The Golden Girls as White's sister.

This was Charles Laughton's last film; he was suffering from cancer during filming, and died six months after the film's release.

Peter Lawford was John F. Kennedy's brother-in-law when the story was filmed. He plays Lafe Smith, identified as a senator from Rhode Island, although in Drury's book the character represents Iowa.

In the roll-call vote scene near the end, Munson erroneously tells Van Ackerman that he will "censor" him as punishment for his actions. The correct word for admonishing a senator is censure, not censor.

Critical reception

The staff of Variety liked the acting but believed the screenplay was problematic. They wrote, "As interpreted by producer-director Otto Preminger and scripter Wendell Mayes, Advise and Consent is intermittently well dialogued and too talky, and, strangely, arrested in its development and illogical… Preminger has endowed his production with wholly capable performers… The characterizations come through with fine clarity."[8]

The film critic for The New York Times, Bosley Crowther, did not like the contrived storyline of the script, and he wrote, "Without even giving the appearance of trying to be accurate and fair about the existence of a reasonable balance of good men and rogues in government, Mr. Preminger and Wendell Mayes, his writer, taking their cue from Mr. Drury's book, have loaded their drama with rascals to show the types in Washington." Crowther also was bothered by the use of the "homosexual affair." He wrote, "It is in this latter complication that the nature of the drama is finally exposed for the deliberately scandalous, sensational and caustic thing it is. Mr. Preminger has his character go through a lurid and seamy encounter with his old friend before cutting his throat, an act that seems unrealistic, except as a splashy high point for the film."[9]





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