State of the Union (film)

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State of the Union
Directed byFrank Capra
Produced by
Written by
Based onState of the Union
by Russel Crouse and Howard Lindsay
Music byVictor Young
CinematographyGeorge J. Folsey
Edited byWilliam W. Hornbeck
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • April 30, 1948 (1948-04-30)
Running time
124 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$3.5 million (US rentals)[3][4]

State of the Union is a 1948 drama film written by Myles Connolly and Anthony Veiller of the Russel Crouse, Howard Lindsay play of the same name. Directed by Frank Capra and starring Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, the film is Capra's first and only project for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The screenplay, about a man's run for president, abandoned the play's more controversial themes. It is also the second and final film to be made by Liberty Films before it dissolved forever in 1951.


Republican newspaper magnate Kay Thorndyke (Angela Lansbury) intends to make her lover, aircraft tycoon Grant Matthews (Spencer Tracy), president with her as the power behind the throne. Thorndyke plans to use her newspaper chain's influence to deadlock the 1948 Republican National Convention, so it will choose Matthews as a compromise dark horse candidate instead of Thomas E. Dewey, Robert A. Taft, or former Governor of Minnesota, Harold Stassen.

Matthews is skeptical of the idea of running for president, but Thorndyke, Republican strategist Jim Conover (Adolphe Menjou), and campaign manager Spike McManus (Van Johnson) persuade him to run. Matthews reunites with his estranged wife, Mary (Katharine Hepburn), for the campaign. Despite knowing about Thorndyke and her husband's affair, Mary agrees to support him in public because of his idealism and honesty, and because she is unaware of Thorndyke's role in the campaign.

The politically naïve Matthews makes a controversial speech in Wichita, denouncing big labor. Before he makes another controversial speech in Detroit denouncing big business, Thorndyke secretly persuades him to moderate his tone to help his chances for the nomination. With her and Conover's help, Matthews makes deals with various special interests for their support.

At a nationwide fireside chat from the Matthews' home, Mary learns of Thorndyke's continuing relationship with her husband and discovers the deals that he has made. Matthews realizes that he has betrayed his and Mary's ideals. While promising to seek bipartisan reform, he denounces as frauds both his backers and himself on live radio, and withdraws as a candidate. Matthews also asks for his wife's forgiveness.



Actress Claudette Colbert was originally cast as Mary, the wife of Grant Matthews; disagreements with Capra led Colbert to abandon the picture.[5] Hepburn was chosen as her replacement only days before filming began. She had been helping Tracy with the script, and so was already familiar with the part. There was tension between Adolphe Menjou and Hepburn during the filming, as he was a member of the McCarthyist group Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals and she had allied herself with the rival Committee for the First Amendment.[6][Note 1]

In order to cast Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer contract player Tracy in the film, MGM bought the distribution rights to State of the Union. While most of the major actors in the film were under contract to MGM, Capra's own company, Liberty Films produced the film.[8]

State of the Union was originally budgeted at $2.6 million and came in $450,000 under budget.[3] Principal photography took place between September 20 and December 6, 1947.[9]


The State of the Union was critically reviewed by Bosley Crowther in The New York Times. He noted: "... regardless of partisan reactions—and there are bound to be plenty of those, in view of the frank and intensely topical nature of the yarn—it cannot be denied that this picture which Frank Capra has made from the popular Lindsay-Crouse stage play, is a slick piece of screen satire."[10]

Shortly after completion, the State of the Union was screened exclusively for President Harry Truman and reportedly helped convince him to run for office again.[11]

Home media[edit]

Capra bought the rights of State of the Union after its initial theatrical release. After Capra's company folded, Liberty Films' assets were acquired by Paramount Pictures. It has since had limited availability on VHS and LaserDisc home video and until recently has been unavailable on DVD. EMKA, Ltd./Universal Television currently owns the rights to the film due to it being a part of Paramount's pre-1950 sound feature film library. Universal Studios Home Entertainment released a DVD version on August 29, 2006.[12]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ The conflict between Menjou and Hepburn was enough to compel Capra to keep media from the set.[7]


  1. ^ "The Eddie Mannix Ledger." Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study (Los Angeles).
  2. ^ Brady, Thomas R. "Hollywood thrift: Capra saves on 'State of the Union'." The New York Times, February 15, 1948, p. X5.
  3. ^ a b Curtis 2011, pp. 562–564.
  4. ^ "Top Grossers of 1948." Variety, January 5, 1949, p. 46.
  5. ^ Scherle and Levy 1977, p. 233.
  6. ^ McBride 1992, p. 547.
  7. ^ McBride 1992, pp. 544–545.
  8. ^ Capra 1971, p. 388.
  9. ^ "Original print Information: 'State of the Union'." TCM. Retrieved: February 5, 2017.
  10. ^ Crowther, Bosley. "'State of the Union,' with Tracy and Hepburn, makes bow at the Music Hall." The New York Times, April 23, 1948.
  11. ^ Alldredge, Charles. "Film that changed history?" Variety, January 5, 1949, p. 5.
  12. ^ Bacharach, Phil. "Review: 'State of the Union'." DVDtalk, August 29, 2006. Retrieved: February 5, 2017.


  • Capra, Frank. Frank Capra, The Name Above the Title: An Autobiography. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1971. ISBN 0-306-80771-8.
  • Curtis, James. Spencer Tracy: A Biography. New York: Alfred Knopf, 2011. ISN 978-0-0917-8524-6.
  • McBride, Joseph. Frank Capra: The Catastrophe of Success. New York: Touchstone Books, 1992. ISBN 0-671-79788-3.
  • Scherle, Victor and William Turner Levy. The Films of Frank Capra. Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1977.

External links[edit]