Friday, December 18, 2015

Movie review - "Mr Ace" (1946) *** (warning: spoilers)

A fascinating drama - not a film noir and definitely not a comedy but a drama - about a female congresswoman who wants to be governor. It's refreshingly cynical in a lot of places - she's only a contender because she's rich (dad was a self made man), her husband cheats on her but she wants to hang on to him for political purposes, and she realises she needs the support of "political boss" Mr Ace. America is thus depicted as a place where you need crooks and cash to get elected anywhere so its just as relevant today in some ways.

The congresswoman is Sylvia Sidney who is okay - the film would have been better with someone more charismatic (Tallulah Bankhead was discussed and she would've been perfect) but Sidney is solid and professional. George Raft is perfectly cast as Ace; never the most expressive actor in the world, but he's age appropriate, and you believe him in the part and his chemistry with Sidney is good.

In terms of gender politics the film is iffy in a lot of places. Raft tells Sidney she's too beautiful to go into politics and Sidney's mentor Roman Bohnen (playing a political science professor) is this horrible bossy misogynist in the Lionel Barrymore mode who tells Sidney to have a baby and get married and that she shouldn't run. Admittedly he's saying it because he thinks Sidney is a bit too much of a hard arse and would make a good governor if she just chilled out - a little like the lead in The Philadelphia Story. It's just a bit yuck because there aren't any other female politicians running around.

Good for Sidney though she ignores Raft and Bohnen and approaches Raft's old crony Stanley Ridges instead and he gets her through the nomination. Then she has a crisis of confidence and quits. Raft and Bohnen get together and engineer things so Sidney runs as a reformist candidate. She still gets to win, but only because the guys made it so. But anyway she gets to win - it's not Gloria Steinem but it's a lot more than many movies around this time. And how many films end with the governor of a state making out with George Raft? I found this genuinely watchable.

No comments: