Advise and Consent is a American motion picture based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name by Allen Drury, published in 1959. The movie was adapted for the screen by Wendell Mayes and was directed by Otto Preminger. The ensemble cast features Henry Fonda, Charles Laughton, Don Murray, Walter Pidgeon, Peter Lawford, Gene Tierney, Franchot Tone, Lew Ayres, Burgess Meredith, Eddie Hodges, Paul Ford, George Grizzard, Inga Swenson, Betty White and others.
The film is a fictional behind-the-scenes look at politics and governance in Washington, D.C.. The story follows the machinations set into play in the United States Senate when a second-term president surprises his political party by nominating a liberal with a hidden past for Secretary of State.
The senators fighting it out in public and in private include the veteran Dixiecrat-like Senator Seabright Cooley (Charles Laughton) of South Carolina and Majority Leader Senator Bob Munson (Walter Pidgeon) of Michigan. A committee appointed to assess the nominee is headed by freshman Utah Senator Brigham Anderson (Don Murray), who finds himself blackmailed by power-seeking Wyoming Senator Fred Van Ackerman (George Grizzard).
Herbert Gelman (Burgess Meredith) is a witness who testifies that Leffingwell has a Communist past. To neutralize Senator Anderson, Senator Van Ackerman threatens to dredge up a homosexual incident in Anderson's past, which results in a suicide.
Preminger tried but failed to recruit Martin Luther King Jr. to play a black U.S. Senator from Georgia; at the time there were no African-Americans in the Senate. The film marked the first time a post-World War II American audience saw a gay bar in a movie, and actress Betty White made her film debut as a young Senator from Kansas.
The film, which was released in early June 1962, depicts near the end the death of the President of the United States in the Oval Office of natural causes. The real President at the time, John F. Kennedy, would die at the hand of an assassin some year and a half later in November 1963.
The film critic for The New York Times, Bosley Crowther, did not like the contrived storyline of the script, and he wrote, "Without even giving the appearance of trying to be accurate and fair about the existence of a reasonable balance of good men and rogues in government, Mr. Preminger and Wendell Mayes, his writer, taking their cue from Mr. Drury's book, have loaded their drama with rascals to show the types in Washington." Crowther also was bothered by the use of the "homosexual affair." He wrote, "It is in this latter complication that the nature of the drama is finally exposed for the deliberately scandalous, sensational and caustic thing it is. Mr. Preminger has his character go through a lurid and seamy encounter with his old friend before cutting his throat, an act that seems unrealistic, except as a splashy high point for the film.