State Of The Union [DVD] 
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Frank Capra directs Spender Tracy and Katharine Hepburn in this classic satirical comedy. Tracy plays Grant Matthews, a prospective candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, backed by his mistress, newspaper mogul Kay Thorndyke (Angela Lansbury). In order to present a more wholesome image, Matthews convinces his estranged wife Mary (Hepburn) to pose as his devoted spouse. Mary agrees because she thinks he might make a good president, but when Matthews corrupts his principles for votes, Mary realises she has made a mistake. Only when Matthews publicly admits his dishonesty does he prove himself worthy of Mary's respect - and her love.
State of the Union is somewhat better as a Spencer Tracy-Katharine Hepburn movie than it is as a Frank Capra picture. No doubt about it, these are two good roles for the smitten stars: Tracy is a self-made businessman reluctantly drafted into a dark-horse presidential candidacy; Hepburn is his estranged but whip-smart wife, who joins him on the campaign trail. Adding intrigue is the newspaper heiress (played with relish by baby-faced Angela Lansbury) who's the cause of their marital problems. She's also the one who convinces a longtime political horse-trader (Adolphe Menjou) to take up the campaign--which leads to a series of compromises for the candidate.
The Capra flavor is here, in the paeans to liberty and the American Way, and in the crackling pacing of dialogue scenes. Capra's affection for supporting players is also evident, with standout stuff from Menjou, Van Johnson (as a cynical aide), Lewis Stone, and Raymond Walburn. But the film's roots as a hit play (by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse) are a little too evident, and the film as a whole doesn't feel as bracingly Capraesque as the director's 1930s work. Having said that, the political satire is as relevant today as it was in 1948, although the rapid-fire topical references might be puzzling to non-campaign buffs. Note for bloopers collectors: Hepburn's name is spelled "Katherine" in the opening credits. --Robert Horton
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There can't be many films which spell the lead actress's name wrong in the credits ("Katherine" for "Katharine" Hepburn), though otherwise this is a film of high production quality, even if the sharp camera cuts within scenes do sometimes jar to an eye used to modern editing.
The film tells the story of a self-made businessman (Spencer Tracy) who is lured into politics by a young looking Angela Lansbury and others. He then faces a battle between staying true to himself or shifting his political views in order to win the support of key individuals.
Although the script is heavily laden with references to 1940s American politics, this is done mostly in the form of passing references to names such as Truman, Roosevelt and Taft. If you don't recognise all the names, it doesn't hinder understanding the overall meaning of what is being said.
The quick-fire dialogue and political rhetoric still sparkle today, particularly the exchanges over extending health care to all Americans - which could have been uttered by an American politician on the stump in the last few years.
Films of this vintage often show their age in their attitude towards women. However, not only are there two strong female characters courtesy of Hepburn and Lansbury, but the humour still raises a laugh rather than a cringe - such as when one man explains why there will never be a female President: "Because no woman would want to admit to being over 35" (the minimum age for standing for President).
The ending is very Capra, by which I mean the main character discovers a heart of gold and gives a rousing speech about how great America can be. Very saccharine but also a logical extension of the plot up to that point.
All in all, an enjoyable 110 minutes, particularly as the plot manages to speed along at quite a pace without the direction ever being too predictable - most notably when there is an interlude for aeroplane acrobatics, dramatically shot.
The film, like most of Capra's films is a bit too moralistic for my taste, which is only works against it. It isn't as good as "Mr Smith goes to Washington" but it's in the same line. Spencer Tracy is good, Katharine Hepburn isn't as memorable as in most of her films and Adolph Menjou and Van Johnson are quite good supporting characters. But the best of the film is undoubtedly Angela Lansbury. Her scheming character is but a sample of what she would later do so well in "The Manchurian Candidate".
The DVD is presented in a bare bone release with a very nice print. And just out of the trivia bag: the reason why you hear MGM's lion's roar over a black screen is because the film was originally distributed (but not produced) by MGM, but the rights later on change hands and possibly they didn't want to use (couldn't use?) the lion anymore.
Fans of the more comedic Tracy/Hepburn films may find it a struggle but as always they perform with consummate skill, as do the rest of the cast, with Lansbury and Menjou outstanding.
New World Order conspiracy theorists will be surprised by the Tracy character's call for one world government, though it is clear that he sees it as a Utopian ideal rather than a means of universal subjugation.
I noted, by the way, that at the end Hepburn listens to Tracy's passionate, liberating speech with tears brimming in her eyes, just as she was to do some twenty years later in their touching farewell, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner.
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