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With: Spencer Tracy, Jeffrey Hunter, Dianne Foster, Pat O'Brien, Basil Rathbone, Donald Crisp, James Gleason, Edward Brophy, John Carradine, Willis Bouchey, Basil Ruysdael, Ricardo Cortez, Wallace Ford
Written by: Frank S. Nugent, based on a novel by Edwin O'Connor
Directed by: John Ford
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 121
Date: 10/24/1958

The Last Hurrah (1958)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Like Hell I Would

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

John Ford seemed to have been at the height of his powers when he took on this adaptation of Edwin O'Connor's novel. The result feels effortless, not at all preachy about politics, but at the same time timeless (the more things change, the more they stay the same). Spencer Tracy, working with Ford for the first time in 28 years, likewise gives a relaxed, commanding performance as Frank Skeffington, the mayor of a New England city, who decides to run for a fifth term. Frank believes in old-fashioned campaigning, i.e. shaking hands and actually speaking to his constituents, although he's aware that a new kind of politics has arrived and that he might not be able to compete.

Nonetheless, he asks his nephew Adam Caulfield (Jeffrey Hunter), a sports columnist at the local newspaper, to be there to record the campaign. Adam loves his uncle and cheerfully agrees, even though both his editor (John Carradine) and his powerful father-in-law ((Willis Bouchey) violently oppose Frank. The Catholic elite in town (including Basil Rathbone as a banker and Donald Crisp as a cardinal) support the inexperienced Kevin McCluskey (Charles B. Fitzsimons). You might expect The Last Hurrah to be a talky affair, but Ford's poetic skill comes through in his flawless camera placement and storytelling rhythms. The movie's centerpiece is the wake of a man that Frank knew, but was not terribly popular. Frank attends the wake, and it quickly turns into a political arena, with hundreds turning up with separate agendas. The scene is handled smoothly, without too much bite, and with just the right amount of humor and good grace.

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