Saturday, August 23, 2008

Summer Under the Stars: Henry Fonda

Movie Dearest continues our daily previews of Turner Classic Movies' month long "Summer Under the Stars" celebration:

Now Playing Star Profile for Henry Fonda - Stardates: Born May 16, 1905, Grand Island, Nebraska; died 1982. Star Sign: Taurus. Star Qualities: Absolute believability; haunting, slightly spooked face; personification of the American common man. Star definition: "He was a good character actor and a good actor in the American tradition of playing variations on oneself." -- Paul Newman. Galaxy of Characters: Prof. Tommy Turner in The Male Animal, Juror No. 8 in 12 Angry Men, William Russell in The Best Man, Frank Beardsley in Yours, Mine and Ours.

In The Best Man, the timely political drama penned by Gore Vidal (based on his Tony Award nominated play of the same name), Fonda stars as principled presidential candidate William Russell (the role that won Melvyn Douglas a Tony) and Cliff Robertson is Joe Cantwell, his opportunistic opponent. The two rivals are vying for the endorsement of ailing former President Art Hockstader (an Academy Award nominated Lee Tracy, recreating his Tony nominated role). Things get ugly when Russell's men dig up an old army buddy of Cantwell's who claims this GI Joe did a little "don't ask, don't tell" while stationed in Alaska during WWII.

An ironic bit of trivia for you: future President Ronald Reagan was rejected for a part in this film because of "not having the presidential look". Also, watch for an uncredited cameo by Vidal as a delegate.

The Best Man airs early Monday morning on TCM at 12:00 AM EST.

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