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Thursday, May 5, 2011

STATE OF THE UNION (1948)

Frank Capra would have been just the guy to adapt this slick B’way hit to the screen . . . once upon a time. Spencer Tracy stars as a self-made captain of industry who reluctantly starts a run for the White House at the instigation of his mistress, right-wing news baron Angela Lansbury. (Only 22 at the time and damn convincing.) But when his estranged wife (Katharine Hepburn) joins the campaign, politics gets complicated with rekindled romance. The plot mechanics are impeccable, and Capra gins up considerable steam for his overcooked finale, a national broadcast that turns into a group catharsis, but too much of the film is just going thru the motions. Scenes have a stagebound rhythm, even with the cast encouraged to talk fast & loud, and the few original sequences (one in front of the White House and a joy-ride in a plane) are embarrassments. And how to explain all the mismatched edits in the first act? Capra in the ‘30s was the most confident of filmmakers, now he second-guesses every shot. He still put his name over the title, but he’d never be in charge again.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Wait’ll you hear what constituted a Republican philosophy in 1948! They all sound like Teddy Roosevelt Bull Moose Progressives. Fox News would tear them to pieces.

CONTEST: Two important creative names are misspelled in the opening credits. Name them both to win a MAKSQUIBS Write-Up of the NetFlix DVD of your choice. (Earn an added point by pointing out the famous bit Ronald Reagan stole from Spencer Tracy in here.)

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