Source: This piece was originally posted at FRS Daily Press
Advise and Consent was a movie about the presidential nomination process in the U.S. Senate and what presidential appointments are put through by senators both in the opposition, but also from senators who are at least inclined to vote for the nominee. Whether the nominee comes from their party or not. In this movie the party in power also has a majority of the Senate. But if you are familiar with American politics back in the 1960s, the parties back then weren’t always united ideologically. Which is one of the reasons why Henry Fonda who played the nominee for Secretary of State faced such a tough time.
This movie came out in 1962 and was based on current times and back then the Democratic Party controlled Congress as well as the White House, but had what was called a Southern Caucus made up of right-wing senators who didn’t vote with their Leadership on everything to put it mildly and would even vote with Senate Republicans to block legislation as well as presidential nominations from their own Leadership and this movie portrays that with Charles Laughton playing this Southern senator who was a right-winger and against his own President’s nomination for Secretary of State. Charles Laughton playing a character that reminds me of former Sen. Dick Russell of Georgia who was the Leader of the Southern Caucus in the 1960s.
Back in the early 1960s of course there wasn’t any cable TV or C-SPAN and Congress didn’t allow for broadcast media to broadcast what was going on in the House or Senate so a lot of Americans weren’t aware of even what the House and Senate looked like inside so this movie sort of opened that up for a lot of Americans. But Advise and Consent wasn’t just about the Senate nominating process as far as the Senate debating nominations there was a lot of inside Washington aspects of this movie of course, with the President played by Franchot Tone calling the Leader of the Senate played by Walter Pidgeon and then the Leader calling the Senate Minority Leader. To get and idea of how many Senate Republicans would vote for the nomination.
But there was also a look at what happened in Washington on the party scene, where members of Congress in both parties would get together, there was a playboy senator in the movie played by Peter Lawford who reminds me of Senator Jack Kennedy. There was a somewhat bored and lonely Vice President with not enough work to do, so he would spend his time actually presiding over the Senate played by Lew Ayers. Back then Vice President’s weren’t very powerful or important, of course that changed a long time ago where today they are basically the Chief Counsel of the Administration.
Advise and Consent was one of the first looks that Americans got to see in how the U.S. Senate operates and how they deal with the White House and how each caucus deals with each other and how the majority party deals with its own members and how the Senate Leader finds ways to get enough votes for the President’s nominations, as well as how Washington works. And is a very good movie, especially if you’re a political junky like myself, but an entertaining movie especially if you like dramas with great writing, cast and clever humor like myself as well.