Oldies but goldies: State of the Union (1948)


Director: Frank Capra; Main Cast: Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Van JohnsonAngela LansburyAdolphe Menjou;

Formidable Kay Thorndyke (Lansbury) has a mind to use her clout as important press publisher to convince the Republicans to nominate her lover, Grant Matthews (Tracy),  a principled industrialist, as the presidential candidate to the 1948 elections. After the first, small hurl of convincing Grant himself that he would be a great President, for which Kay enlists Jim Conover (Menjou), eminence grise of the party, and Spike McManus (Johnson), political journalist and campaign expert, the next big step is to obtain his wife’s support. Mary (Hepburn) should join her husband on the campaign trail for the primaries to help sell the image of wholesome family man. Up to this point, Hepburn’s character has not been seen yet, but it comes out as an outspoken and strong woman, which is fully confirmed by her sudden arrival and settling in in a whirlwind of talk and action. The perfect description of this introductory scene is the exchange between Spike and Kay while she stealthily goes out:

Kay: Has she moved in there?

Spike: She established a beachhead!

What follows is Grant’s journey, both physical and spiritual, in which he slowly compromises himself to win over the party delegates while he loses the admiration and respect of his wife and the common people. The best angels of his nature will in the end prevail (of course!) and he will regains his self-respect and the love of his wife. This is the only film in which the talents of Capra, Hepburn and Tracy are joined and it’s also the first one that tells a story about political campaigning and the complex mechanism and back room maneuvers of American power. It’s both a captivating and mordant tale that sapiently blends the tones of comedy, of satire and human drama, in Capra’s unique style. The script is simply brilliant and it’s one of the stronger points of the film: witty and touching at the same time. Clearly the cast has a lot to sink their teeth in and they all give solid performances. Tracy has three outstanding monologues, but Hepburn has amazingly sassy rejoinders that make her a scene stealer. My favorite of all is: ” No woman could ever run for President. She’d have to admit she’s over 35″. Inspiring —8.5/10

This post is my contribution to The Great Katharine Hepburn Blogathon (2015 edition, my last year entry can be found here), organised by the lovely Margaret of  margaretperry.org. Go to her site to read all the other amazing entries to this blogaton:



Filed under Oldies but goldies, Seen at home

9 responses to “Oldies but goldies: State of the Union (1948)

  1. I loved Hepburn in State of the Union! That was one of my favorite lines in the film too:) Lansbury was brilliant in it–I love the two of them in action. I just wish we had more of Hepburn, fewer of the speeches:) Since I didn’t find his character likeable, it was hard for me to be inspired by them, as I typically am by Capra.

    • She is indeed brilliant! And Lansbury too, I also admired her stunning outfits. As to the speeches, the one Grant gives in front of the White House was remarkable.

  2. Pingback: #TheGreatKH Blogathon 2015 Has Arrived! | Margaret Perry

  3. Knife Ink

    Katharine Hepburn is the best part of this movie! My personal favorite line is “Don’t worry about me, I’m a very thick quinker.”

    Here’s my contribution to the blogathon! Loved reading yours!


  4. One of the few Capra movies I have yet to see, unless I have and simply forgotten. Great review!

  5. It’s been a while since I’ve seen this, but your fab review made it fresh again in my mind. This film ought to be more well known, wouldn’t you agree? That’s why it absolutely needed to be part of the blogathon. Great post!

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