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: