"The State of the Union" (1948) | WisCommunity

"The State of the Union" (1948)

[img_assist|nid=75570|title=State of the Union|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=206|height=319]In the Frank Capra film "State of the Union," Republicans hoping to unseat Harry Truman recruit wealthy industrialist Grant Matthews (played by Spencer Tracy) to run for the 1948 GOP presidential nomination. Matthews gets talked into it, but soon decides he'll be different by telling people exactly what he thinks. This horrifies his veteran campaign team. They want him, for example, to talk to a conference of business executives about the "binding shackles of government," and promise to fix that if elected. Matthews calls that doubletalk.

He thinks Americans hunger for the truth, and he aims to let voters know exactly what his views are. No, no, no, say his staff. People are too lazy to vote in the primaries, they say, so Matthews has to be mealy-mouthed, sort of like an early Mitt Romney. "We've got to bring you into that convention without any enemies," insists campaign strategist Jim Conover (Adolph Menjou).

Matthews eventually caves, but not before letting his team know exactly what he thinks post-WWII America needs to do. He tells Conover:

Now look here, Jim. You know just as well as I do that there are men at that banquet who will be rooting for a depression just so they can slap labor's ears back. You better not worry so much about tax reduction until we accomplish some of the things we have to accomplish.

I'm going to tell them that the wealthiest nation on earth is a failure unless it's also the healthiest nation on earth. That means the highest medical care for the lowest income groups. And That goes for housing too. One thing this nation is not rich enough to afford is not having a roof over our heads.

And I'm going to tell them that the American Dream is not making money. it's the well being and freedom of the individual throughout the world, from Patagonia to Detroit. We can't be an island of plenty in a world of starvation.

There is one way the fictional GOP politics of 1948 and the real GOP politics of today intersect. Asks a character: Is there any difference between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party? "A world of difference," Republican strategist Conover replies. "They're in, and we're out!"

Everything you need to know about American politic is in this smart, sixty year old movie that almost could not be made today, if any film studio even thought a film like this could make money in the first place. "State of the Union" is on DVD, and not to be confused with a much more recent movie by the same name.


September 26, 2011 - 3:17pm