In fact, I believe I was shocked for a second time, the first time being when, having been accused of being a member of a Communist cell in his youth, Leffingwell denies it, perjuring himself. When Fonda lies on screen, to who else can you turn to believe? True to form, the Fonda character admits to the President that he has lied and asks him to withdraw his nomination. But knowing an honest and capable man when he sees him, the dying President refuses to do so, creating the rather flimsy device of this movie’s plot.
Seeing this played out again, as I did the other day, I couldn’t but be reminded of the partisan politics of today’s Senatorial body. But, at least, the five decades earlier fictional event suggested that most Senators (the cast also includes Will Greer, Paul Ford, Peter Lawford, George Grizzard, and Betty White) were men and women of good-will, while even the villains back in those days had more fun. In fact, if anything, Preminger’s vision of US politics takes itself a bit too seriously, as did the original Allen Drury, published in 1959. My high school friend, David Ray, however, tells me he was very moved by the original book when he read it that year.