The Best Man


The Best Man

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Average Rating: 3.9/5

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Movie Info

Gore Vidal adapted his biting and bitter political satire from his hit Broadway play. Franklin J. Schaffner directed and Haskell Wexler provided the sharp-edged cinematography. The story concerns the political back-biting and smear politics involved in a presidential election year scramble by potential presidential party nominees. Lee Tracy (in an Oscar-nominated performance and his final screen role) is Art Hockstader, a dying president who refuses to throw his support behind any of his party's presidential hopefuls. Hoping to get the nod as the party's presidential candidate is liberal do-gooder William Russell (Henry Fonda). His wife Alice (Margaret Leighton) wants to get a divorce from Russell but is delaying the divorce proceedings until after the party convention. Opposing Russell for the nomination is Joe Cantwell (Cliff Robertson), a slick and unscrupulous political monster who will use any bit of dirt to get ahead in the party. When he discovers that Russell once suffered from mental problems, he threatens to use it against him. Russell then finds out that Cantwell once had a homosexual relationship. Russell, who abhors smear politics, now has to decide whether to use the information against Cantwell or bury the secret and risk losing the nomination.


Henry Fonda
as William Russell
Cliff Robertson
as Joe Cantwell
Edie Adams
as Mabel Cantwell
Lee Tracy
as President Art Hockstader
Margaret Leighton
as Alice Russell
Ann Sothern
as Sue Ellen Gamadge
Shelley Berman
as Sheldon Bascomb
Gene Raymond
as Dan Cantwell
Kevin McCarthy
as Dick Jensen
John Henry Faulk
as T.T. Claypoole
Richard Arlen
as Oscar Anderson
Penny Singleton
as Mrs. Claypoole
George Kirgo
as Speechwriter
Mary Lawrence
as Mrs. Merwin
H.E. West
as Sen. Lazarus
William R. Eberson
as Gov. Merwin
Natalie Masters
as Mrs. Anderson
Marie Blake
as Cleaning woman
Bill Stout
as Himself
Tyler McVey
as Chairman
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Critic Reviews for The Best Man

All Critics (2)

It's hard to be educational while being poignant, but this film does both easily.

Aug 15, 2011 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…

Mostrando como os bastidores da política podem ser sujos, o filme conta com ótimas atuações de Fonda, Robertson e Tracy (indicado ao Oscar) e, escrito por Gore Vidal, traz diálogos afiados e inteligentes.

Jul 25, 2003 | Rating: 4/5

Audience Reviews for The Best Man

After seeing a documentary about Gore Vidal and reading one book in his Narratives of Empire series I read this stage play. I think the play itself is 5 stars with thought-provoking writing about politics. The play was nominated for multiple Tonys in 1960. Vidal adapted the screenplay himself for this 1964 picture. The director Franklin Schaffner had already worked directing in the early years of television and I really enjoy the innovations later in the original Planet of the Apes, but here I don't think he did much to elevate the words with striking visuals. Yes, you believe you are watching television coverage of a political convention of the era. Schaffner was known for getting the camera moving rather than keeping it stationary in TV and he even has Haskell Wexler working for him. It was early in Wexler's career. Visually it is not terrible at all, but the realism of the setting becomes a bit dull. And the smear campaign at the center loses its edge at the same time that it hits too close to real events then and in our current political climate. It is intriguing that Vidal never specifies the political party. He has poisoned darts to shoot into both parties. I wish I knew more about politics of this decade to better recognize Vidal's references. From IMDb trivia I learned Henry Fonda's Russell is based on Adlai Stevenson. Cliff Robertson's Cantwell is based on Richard Nixon (with a bit of Joseph McCarthy, and the two Kennedy brothers). While Lee Tracy's former president Hockstader combined parts of Eisenhower and Truman. As the two front runners along with their wives compete and determine how dirty the fight will be, it seemed clear that one is more conservative while the other is more liberal. The conceit is that they are competing within the same party, but that doesn't really hold up with the way it is acted and presented here.

Byron Brubaker
Byron Brubaker

Super Reviewer


The Best Man starts off with all the promise of being a biting political satire minus the humor. As it goes on it looks like its going to draw blood, but by the end you're drenched in saliva from getting gummed for the last 20 minutes. This movie had a great cast and a simple premise with plenty of minute details that could've made the movie but a weak third act keep The Best Man from being a Henry Fonda movie you've actually heard of. Worth the watch though.

Michael Gildea
Michael Gildea

Super Reviewer

A great movie from 1964 that shows what goes on behind the door in politics and the running for president of the United States/ Henry Fonda is Mr. Nice Guy do everything by the book, Cliff Robertson played the cutthroat role. Its presidential Primary time, watch what both do to become the next president of the United States. What I found interesting was the statement made in the movie we don't want another Nixon problem.. Remember this was filmed in 1964 long before Nixon became president. Another interesting item was the meeting between both candidates where one promises the other anything to stop running against him, reminded me of the meeting between Hilary Clinton and Obama. Film in B&W which was another surprise for 1964, Watched this one instantly on Netflix, which is a awesome deal, video quality as good as having the DVD. 4 Stars for this one.

Bruce Bruce
Bruce Bruce

Super Reviewer

Great political film that really translates into politics today. Its about 2 men running for the president, Fonda is a rich intellectual who uses reason to get ahead. Robertson is a brute who uses fear and threats to get ahead. It's pretty much Bush vs Kerry. The acting is great and Gore Vidal's script is flawless and Wexler's cinematography is stunning as usual.

cody franklin
cody franklin

Super Reviewer

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