Review: The Best Man - Scathingly scripted and potently played

David Parkinson

Having been idle for three years, Frank Capra was desperate to adapt Gore Vidal's hit play for the screen.

However, Vidal found his script suggestions so ludicrous that the commission went to Franklin J. Schaffner, who opted for a grittily realistic approach that surprised audiences still accustomed to their political leaders being treated with deference.

The jockeying between indecisive man of principle Henry Fonda and recklessly hawkish newcomer Cliff Robertson (each of whom has skeletons in his closet) is scathingly scripted and potently played, as the pair lobby for the support of ailing ex-president Lee Tracy. But the picture really comes alive at the convention, where rumours fly and backs are stabbed with gripping regularity. The process has changed little in five decades. So, while some of the more specific satire might feel somewhat dated and obscure, the human foibles that inform every struggle for power remain relevant and acute.

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