Sunday, 11 December 2011

State Of The Union (1948)

I'd had State Of The Union (1948) stored away in my Katharine Hepburn box-set for a while now, because I'd started it with my family a little way back and we hadn't read the plot summary, so we thought that it was just a but nasty, really. I mean, Spencer Tracy cheating on his loving wife Katharine Hepburn plus getting involved with an immoral section of the Republican party? Of course my initial reaction to Spencer's behaviour was,

but it was actually my sister who said she wanted to give it another go after I read out the plot summary, so we gave it another try.

State Of The Union (1948) Directed by Frank Capra {alternatively titled The World And His Wife}



Grant Mathews is a very successful airplane tycoon, with political views and a strong minded head on his shoulders. He has in intelligent wife, a successful career, and two adorable children. What more could a guy want? Well, evidently just a little more. The trouble with his wife started at a dinner party a few months ago, when newspaper business woman, Kay Thorndyke gets too close to Grant, and Mary slightly drunkenly throws her out of her house. Since, he and Kay have grown quite close, and Grant and Mary are not on good terms. Kay's father dies and leaves his newspaper to her.

Along with Spike McManus, Kay convinces Jim Conover to take on Grant Mathews as a new candidate for the Republican party with long-term plans for him to run for President of The United States. Jim agrees to let Grant come and meet with them, expecting Grant to be wanting to persuade them about how fantastic a president he would be - but is surprised to find that he has to be sold on the idea.

He finally is persuaded, but the whole group are agreed that Mary has to come out and support him because, let's fact it, no one will vote for a man whose wife won't come out to even see him, so they invite Mary over to Washington DC where they are all convening. She gets there, but with no real inkling of the nature of Grant's work. When she finds out, she is initially upset, but decides to stay on with Grant because she admires his honesty and political views, and is still in love with him. They go on tour making speeches across the country. Grant's first speech comes straight from him and signifies exactly what he feels, but Kay and Jim think it's much too outspoken and force him to change his future speeches to fit their agenda, and his speeches inevitably lose their individuality. *Insert a few awesome scenes before a speech, in which Katharine Hepburn wears an awesome dress*

Mary isn't very happy with it, but she leaves the situation alone on the whole. When they get back home, Grant starts to prepare for a family radio and television broadcast in his own home. Mary is told that she absolutely has to invite Kay to the party because otherwise everyone would expect that there was something wrong in that area. Reluctantly Mary agrees and promises not to get drunk and throw her out again, but after finding out about Kay's involvement with her butting in on Grant's campaign and her ongoing affair with Grant, Mary does get drunk. She doesn't care about the broadcast anymore because she knows that her husband has been dealing completely immorally and against his and her wishes. Obviously she can't go on the radio any more, and she forbids her children from going on too. But what will Grant do?


The Verdict:

{Scanned By Me}

I liked this movie a lot more than I expected to. I expected the worst because of the false start that I had watching this film the first time, but I really enjoyed it in the end and - lets face it - you just gotta love that Frank Capra feel. Just to put it out there before anyone goes to watch it, even if you're Tracy & Hepburn fans, this is deep. It's pretty sad and quite complex. It relates to family life in a pretty unhappy family, unlike many other Capra films and I found the way he chose to show it quite heart-breaking. Add to this that it's Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn in an unhappy marriage. Did you hear that UNHAPPY! That's pretty sad. Most of the ones with them I've seen they've either been friends, not friends, married or together at least. There are a few I haven't seen, Without Love, and Sea Of Grass, but from the ones I've seen, when they're unhappy, I'm unhappy. Big time. It just doesn't fit right, ya' know?

{This one isn't mine... but can I just say, that awkward moment when you're searching for photos and Google comes up with your blog? I get that "YAY! I'M ON GOOGLE!" feeling :-D}

Now, Adolphe Menjou (the king of all sleazy immoral people) is quite good in this film, but his character isn't the main focus of the supporting cast, and neither is Angela Lansbury who I expected to be like, WOW - Van Johnson stood out most for me.

Van Johnson is pretty cool, and he's so funny in that scene where Spencer Tracy decides to take them up in his airplane and do loop the loops (as you do). It was really funny and cute :-)

Mary after checking that Grant's parachute did open after he jumped off the plane.

This film had all the hallmarks of a classic Frank Capra film. There is the person who is tempted by a powerful, yet not quite morally correct society and his family or his friends come and save him from the depths of dispair. I don't want to spoil anything for you, but the ending is quite similar to It's A Wonderful Life and I am glad they ended the film happily, I would have cried if they hadn't.

{Scanned By Me}

Yes, the film in the end was probably only a smidgen less depressing than I expected, but it was good, and it wasn't a nasty film. I had thought Angela Lansbury would have a larger role, but in fact the main three actors in the whole film were Spencer Tracy, Van Johnson and Adolphe Menjou.

Spencer Tracy gave a really great performance as Grant Mathews. He never really fails, and he's good at playing roles like this where the success or failure of the film really lies on his shoulders. I've found that also in Keeper Of The Flame (1943). He and Katharine Hepburn are always fabulous to watch. They are one of my favourite on-screen-pairs, and even though they are in an unhappy marriage, they still have some really nice scenes together. Katharine Hepburn is fantastic as Mary Mathews and she gives an air of kindness and genuineness that is really needed in the film. If she wasn't there then the entire film would just be a mass of immorality... and that kind of thing. I particularly thought she was good in the final few scenes and the scene where she gets drunk was really upsetting for me to watch towards the end.

I just have to dedicate a little paragraph here to the whole Spencer Tracy talking-while-Kate Hepburn-is-crying-but-not-quite-crying thing. It's amazing and totally moving. This is actually one of the things that make Guess Who's Coming To Dinner (1967) so sad for me. Spencer tracy starts talking about something really important and it gets so intense that somewhere else in the room, Kate Hepburn is silently crying to herself while he talks to these other people. This is the cue for the director to start cutting from him to her and him to her and then for me to start crying too. By the end of it, lots of people are crying.

Not My GIF, I would have cried making it :'-(

Overall, this wasn't the most enjoyable Tracy/Hepburn film that I've seen (I'll save that award for Woman Of The Year, Adam's Rib, and Pat And Mike) but it is most certainly worth a watch. Frank Capra is a great director and all of his films I've seen (save Mr Deeds Goes To Town, which I just didn't get the appeal of) have been brilliant.


By the way, is Without Love (1945) good? I haven't seen it but really want to... any opinions?


Rianna said...

Nice review - I didn't like this movie all that much, but I agree with a lot of the points you make.

Anyway, I liked Without Love! It has Lucy in it, too, which is one reason for me to really love it, lol. But anyway, it wasn't bad. Not their best movie but it's not a waste of your time or anything, and since you like Kate and Spence, I'd say you should watch it. :)

Post a Comment

Thanks for taking the time to comment. It makes me happy to see people are interested in my posts!