Film Review: The Best Man (1964)

Also known as: Gore Vidal’s Best Man (complete title)
Release Date: April 5th, 1964 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Frank J. Schaffner
Written by: Gore Vidal
Music by: Mort Lindsey
Cast: Henry Fonda, Cliff Robertson, Edie Adams, Margaret Leighton, Shelley Berman, Lee Tracy, Ann Sothern, Gore Vidal (cameo, uncredited)

Millar/Turman Productions, United Artists, 102 Minutes

Review:

“Y’know, it’s not that I object to your being a bastard, don’t get me wrong there. It’s your being such a stupid bastard that I object to.” – President Art Hockstader

Today is Election Day, so I wanted to watch a film about the subject. Yesterday, I reviewed 2011’s George Clooney directed The Ides of March and was fairly disappointed by it. This film, written by the legendary Gore Vidal, was at least a better experience.

One big selling point on me choosing this film to watch was due to it coming out in ’64, a year that featured one of the most interesting presidential races of all-time and because it starred two greats: Henry Fonda and Cliff Robertson. Plus, I’ve never seen this and have been meaning to check it out for years.

While I can’t call this an impressive film, as I did anticipate it to be really good, it’s still engaging and it explores morality at the highest level of American politics in the time that this was made. Frankly, things were nowhere near as bad as they have become nearly sixty years later. But that’s okay, we lived in a politically charged and changing world back then but something about it was more wholesome and honest.

The performances in this movie were top notch but honestly, I was more captivated by the political debates and candidates’ platforms. It’s funny because the core things behind their issues aren’t that different from what we’re dealing with today. Although, in modern times, people are a lot more extreme and there is a widening divide that feels like it could lead to institutional collapse. But let’s not dwell on that.

The Best Man is thought provoking and engaging and it makes me wish that politicians in 2020 were in the game for the right reasons. Obviously, there were opportunists and assholes in 1964 but at least it felt more pure, less divided and both sides appeared as if they wanted to work together in some regard.

If anything, this film just made me yearn for a simpler, more unified time where our differences didn’t tear us apart but instead opened up genuine debate in an effort to make the world better.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other films about presidential elections.

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