Review: State of the Union
Blu-ray: State of the Union (1948)
I’ve never been a huge Spencer Tracy fan. To me he always seems to play himself; a somewhat grumpy American middle aged male, and more or less overshadowed here by the talent of his ‘girlfriend’ Katherine Hepburn.
Unfortunately I feel the same about his performance in Frank Capra’s State of the Union.
Beautiful Republican newspaper magnate Kay Thorndyke (the wonderful Angela Lansbury) intends to make her lover, aircraft tycoon Grant Matthews (Spencer Tracy), President of America with her as the Lady Macbeth type ‘power behind the throne’ by using the her newspaper left to her by her dad as the way to influence the voters (nothing’s changed!).
Matthews is at first not interested, but then begins to like the idea as his ego is bolstered. His campaign manager Spike McManus (Van Johnson) persuades him go on tour meeting the people, but to do that he must take his Mary (Katharine Hepburn) with him. She knows about his affair and although heartbroken she agrees to support him in public because of his idealism. ‘Selflessley’ Thorndyke tells Matthews that scandal will ruin his chances, so they must no longer meet as lovers.
Hepburn, Johnson and Lansbury give stirling performances in the slick film (billed as a comedy but…it’s not), Lansbury epitomises the rich, clever woman who’ll never truly rise to what she deserves simply because she’s a woman and must shag boring old men to get some semblance of the power she deserves. Johnson is chirpy yet empathetic, while Hepburn’s look of genuine hurt at knowing her husband is dallying with Lansbury, her eyes constantly teary, is magnificent and saves the film from grumpy Spencer’s usual performance (by now he was a chronic alcoholic).
In true Capra style, Matthews finally realizes that he’s betrayed his and Mary’s ideals. and confesses to the American people live on TV and withdraws as a candidate. He then embraces his wife, because, yeah, he’s good now and they all live happily ever after.
Yet another Hollywood ending with no multimillion dollar divorce.
INDICATOR LIMITED EDITION BLU-RAY SPECIAL FEATURES:
- High Definition remaster
- Original mono audio
- Audio commentary with critics and writers Claire Kenny, Glenn Kenny and Farran Smith Nehme (2023)
- The John Player Lecture with Angela Lansbury (1973, 89 mins): archival audio recording of the celebrated star of film, stage and television in conversation with Rex Reed at London’s National Film Theatre
- National Treasure (2023, 29 mins): academic Lucy Bolton discusses the life and eventful career of the much-loved performer Angela Lansbury
- Original opening and closing titles
- Original theatrical trailer
- Image gallery: promotional and publicity materials
- New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Limited edition exclusive 40-page booklet with a new essay by Raquel Stecher, archival interviews with director Frank Capra, an account of the working relationship and contrasting politics of co-stars Katharine Hepburn and Adolphe Menjou, an overview of contemporary critical responses, and full film credits
- UK premiere on Blu-ray
- Limited edition of 3,000 copies for the UK
Review by Tina from a disc kindly supplied by Powerhouse Films.