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The Best Man [DVD] [1964]

8 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Actors: Henry Fonda, Cliff Robertson, Edie Adams, Margaret Leighton, Shelley Berman
  • Directors: Franklin J. Schaffner
  • Format: PAL, Black & White, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9 - 1.66:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: PG
  • Studio: Studiocanal
  • DVD Release Date: 20 Oct. 2008
  • Run Time: 98 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001AOHPOE
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 39,422 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Reviews

Oscar-nominated drama based on the slyly subversive play by Gore Vidal. The film is set in the months leading up to a presidential election and stars Henry Fonda as one of five presidential candidates who are willing to do anything to gain an advantage over their fellow contenders. Cliff Robertson stars as Joe Cantwell, another likely candidate and Lee Tracy plays outgoing President, Art Hockstader.

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
The Best Man could be said to form the centrepiece of a fine trio of films that examine the conflicting claims of idealism and cynical opportunism in the jungle of Washington politics. Mr Smith Goes to Washington (1939) has an idealistic young senator discovering the realities of career advancement, and nearly 40 years later All The President's Men (1976) chronicles in absorbing detail the chilling extent to which criminal corruption has taken hold under Nixon.

The Best Man (1964) is set just as an unnamed political party is holding its convention to choose its presidential election candidate from 5 hopefuls (ie not quite as per the present Democrat/Republican procedure). The two front runners, Henry Fonda (liberal, principled) and Cliff Robertson (right-wing populist, ready to get as down and dirty as it takes) are slugging it out while Lee Tracy's ex-President (mysteriously already having stepped down in a departure from present practice) debates whom to endorse. The movie follows the see-sawing of advantage as both battle to grab Tracy's favour while having to make decisions about how far to jettison morality in pursuit of the Big Plum.

This is a classy production in every sense, both gripping and thoughtful, and never too talky which is an easy pitfall for this type of film to take. The stand-out feature is Gore Vidal's script, taken by him from his Broadway play, which is urgent, literate and economical in display of the characters' personalities and viewpoints. It never trivialises the competing pull of ambition and jettisoning of belief. The direction by Franklin Schaffner (Patton, Planet of the Apes, Papillon) is brisk in its movement from the domestic to the public, and though the whole thing is studio-set it never feels cramped or limited in scope.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mark Pack TOP 500 REVIEWER on 7 May 2012
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Until I read about The Best Man in a positive review from a friend, this political thriller has completely passed me by, yet it is one of the best of the genre I have seen. Written by Gore Vidal it unsurprisingly takes a caustic view of politics, but also takes a realistic one. Unlike the cartoon character villans or heroes usually used to depict politicians in fiction, the characters in this film are rounded, subtle, believable and behave like real politicians.

The story is of a National Presidential Convention in 1964 for an unnamed party which has yet to choose between an Adlai Stevenson / John F Kennedy type candidate (William Russell, played by Henry Fonda) and a Richard Nixon type candidate (Joe Cantwell, played by Cliff Robertson). It is good dramatic stuff, with Russell sufficiently flawed that there is no simple good guy to cheer to victory and genuine tension until the very end as to who is going to win.

As you might expect from a Gore Vidal film, it treats themes such as segregation, the role of women in politics and homosexuality in a more modern and liberal way than many of the time. Even so, the portrayal of a key gay character is at times uncomfortably caricatured to contemporary eyes.

Yet much of the dialogue is waspish and benefits from close listening, having the sort of pacy intelligence which the West Wing had at its best. Two comments in particular, from the ex-President being courted by Russell and Cantwell, stuck in my mind. Both were directed at Russell:

"The people like your sort. They figure since you've got so much money of your own, you won't go stealing theirs."

"You've got such a good mind that sometimes you get so busy thinking how complex everything is, that important problems don't get solved."

Great fun to watch.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By gustavus on 2 Jun. 2013
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This is a terrific movie, very clever and funny and true, but this DVD version is incomplete. The film ought to begin with a brief scene-setting. Howard K. Smith, the famous political commentator, appears straight after the credits, looking directly at the camera as if we were his usual television audience, and tells us that the (un-named) political party the film centres on is so far ahead in the polls that whoever gets its Presidential nomination at the convention just starting at San Francisco's Cow Palace (which is just behind him) is almost certain to be inaugurated as President next January. That's more or less it, maybe thirty seconds of film, but now it's gone. The scene had gone the last time I saw the movie on TV, too; that was probably 25 years ago, so it may not exist any more, although Smith's name is still on the credits (he appears briefly, unannounced, in a few other scenes). What's the point of these minuscule shortenings, which occur with DVD releases more often than you'd think? In this case, it doesn't ruin the film, it's just annoying. See the film anyway.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Patrick Selitrenny on 18 May 2010
Format: DVD
In my humble view, one of the best pictures ever made about the mechanics of politics behind closed doors.

All the fancy frills of the Elections in the United States fade away, when one watches this movie about two rivals running for office.

It is like watching "Rocky Balboa", but without gloves, no ring and above all, no rules,... or maybe yes?

The basic story of an honest and straight forward politician who wants to run for his own principles against a pitiless, ruthless and highly opportunistic adversary, who spares no tricks of infamy, in order to get where he wants.

It is about how it is, and not how it should or could be.

It is a very disturbing movie, like a very good thriller, only that there are no dead people (at least no corpses), and the harm done outweighs far more
the outreaches of a single bullet.

It is harm done to the Nation, to the People, to all of us.

Those who know this movie, also know what I am talking about. For those who have never watched it, I can only recommend it, in order to understand how politics work, not just in the United States, but everywhere.

It is also interesting to see how ruthlessness can sometimes be of more value than good intents and honesty.

It is not just about politics and politicians, it is about us, the human race.

Indeed, "The Best Man" is a lesson for us all, to get an insight in what and who we really are.

Forget the Election Parties and embark in this tense and intense social study of "Homo Politicus".

With great names like Henry Fonda and Cliff Robertson in the starring roles, you really cannot get disappointed...
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