ARE THE MEN AND WOMEN OF WASHINGTON REALLY LIKE THIS?
When the U.S. President nominates Robert Leffingwell (Henry Fonda) as the next Secretary of State, the Senate is immediately divided and a contentious committee hearing begins. A classic political drama, and also one of director Otto Preminger’s most controversial films, one that deals with the Communist witch-hunt of the 1950s and homosexuality. The filmmakers regard the men of the Senate very darkly, the most colorful example grandly played by Charles Laughton in his final role. There are lighter moments as well, but still handled in sober fashion. The running time is a minor challenge, but the genuine D.C. locations are a plus.
1962-U.S. 139 min. B/W. Widescreen. Produced and directed by Otto Preminger. Screenplay: Wendell Mayes. Novel: Allen Drury. Cast: Henry Fonda (Robert Leffingwell), Don Murray (Brigham Anderson), Charles Laughton (Seabright Cooley), Walter Pidgeon, Peter Lawford, Gene Tierney… Franchot Tone, Lew Ayres, Burgess Meredith, Betty White.
Trivia: Preminger allegedly offered Martin Luther King, Jr. a role.
Last word: “The author of the novel, Allen Drury, hated the picture. He’s very conservative – as a matter of fact, he’s an archconservative – and Otto and I are liberals, so we didn’t do justice to his conservative point of view. His character of Leffingwell, the part Fonda played, was not a sympathetic man; he was a crook. I believe that Drury was immensely more sympathetic to the Charles Laughton character. Don Murray’s [character’s] problem of homosexuality was in the novel, but the scene where he goes to the gay bar was mine, that was original. I did that, rather than use dialogue exposition of what the situation was, because we could show it. In the novel, someone told it. I don’t think he ever encountered the man who had been his lover at all. But, still and all, it told the same story.” (Mayes, interview by Rui Nogueira)