Mysteries of the Organism

William Russell (Henry Fonda) sees his own initials in suntan form (lower left). Gore Vidal’s THE BEST MAN, directed by Franklin Schaffner. All the bikini girls look like Pamela Tiffin.

This is a good film to watch right about now (once you’re done with Halloween viewing, anyhow) since it deals with elections and personalities and smearing and such — I recommend. It has a sunny ending which Vidal probably never quite believed in: the bulk of the action suggests that political office in a democracy is denied to the worthy and proffered to the corrupt or mediocre…

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7 Responses to “Mysteries of the Organism”

  1. I’m currently reading Vidal’s LINCOLN, one of the most impressive books ever written about politics.

    My favorite pre-election film is Altman’s TANNER series.

  2. David Boxwell Says:

    My favorite Lee Tracy performance.

  3. Lee Tracy was dying when he gave that performance, and he knew it. Truly remarkable.

    The Best Man brings back an era when conventions were the place were candidates were nominated. Now instead of smoke-filled rooms we’ve got air-conditioned suites were corporate executives move the money around.

    I saw this when it premiered at a special screening with Eugene answering questions afterwards. He was his usual overwhelmingly witty and knowing self.

  4. Tracy is magnificent. But everyone is impressive, from Fonda to Shelley Berman.

    Altman thought Tanner 88 was maybe the best thing he ever did. I loved it at the time. What are often dismissed as RA’s wilderness years saw some fantastic work, including the equally presidential Secret Honor.

  5. Altman did a sequel in 2004, called TANNER ON TANNER which was about political documentaries and the role it can or cannot play. It’s very prescient since it shows the famous speech Obama made at the Democratic Convention that marked the first notices people took of him on a political stage.

    It’s certainly the most penetrating look at campaign politics.

  6. Gore’s initial comments about politicians and actors superbly applies to both Altman Tanners. Real-life politicians shake hands and exchange words with the fictional Tanner believing him to be a candidate while in fact he does not. Bruce Babbitt does a cameo performance at the end of one Tanner 88 episode as if playing in the drama. These Altman TV achievements believe to be better known, especially today.

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