The Best Man DVD
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Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner
Produced in 1964
Main Language - English
Countries & Regions - American film
Gore Vidal's fast-paced, witty political drama. It’s election time in 1964 and intellectual front-runner William Russell (Henry Fonda) finds himself pitted against down-to-earth Senator Joe Cantwell (Cliff Robertson).
In 1964, audiences watching this adaptation of Gore Vidal's scathing Broadway assault on the Washington élite would have readily understood the jibes at the leading figures on the American political scene.
The names may not be so familiar today, but the horse trading that Vidal exposes around the nominating convention remains recognisable, as does the emphasis on personality over principle and policy. Consequently, five decades on, Franklin J. Schaffner's drama remains sharp and compelling, as well as erudite and eminently entertaining.
Henry Fonda's principled candidate (modelled on Adlai Stevenson) has skeletons in his closet regarding mental fragility and a recent affair. Brash rival Cliff Robertson and his ambitious brother, Gene Raymond (based on John and Bobby Kennedy) are quite prepared to use skullduggery to secure the support of ex-president Lee Tracy (recalling Harry S. Truman) and win the prize.
The bargaining in the corridors of power is slickly presented, but Schaffner captures the fizzing convention speculation and paranoia with even greater acuity. The performances are exemplary and it's only a shame Fonda and Roberton didn't get to go head to head more often. And, how different it might have been if Vidal hadn't vetoed Frank Capra's appointment as director.
David Parkinson on 17th February 2015
Author of 237 reviews
The 1964 film version of Gore Vidal's play, The Best Man (1964) takes place at the National Presidential Convention of an unnamed political party. A front runner has not yet emerged, and a number of candidates are jockeying for delegates as well as the support of the former President. Unfortunately, the former President is withholding his support until the last minute, so the candidates start to develop alternate and more devious strategies.
The film boasts a fabulous cast: Henry Fonda as the good, liberal, Kennedyesque candidate, Cliff Robertson stars as the sour, right-wing, Nixonian candidate and Lee Tracy as the former President. In addition, The Best Man’s characters and situations remain relevant to today's politics.
Publisher: Studio Canal
Length: 97 mins
Aspect ratio: 1.66:1
Format: DVD B&W
Released: 20th October 2008
Cat No: OPTD1331