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Film / Advise & Consent

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A 1962 political drama film based on the bestselling, Pulitzer Prize-winning 1959 novel of the same name by Allen Drury. Directed by Otto Preminger, the film stars Henry Fonda, Charles Laughton, Don Murray, Walter Pidgeon, Peter Lawford, Gene Tierney, and Franchot Tone, among others.

The President makes a controversial nomination for Secretary of State, one Robert Leffingwell (Fonda), a man who advocates a more conciliatory approach to the Soviet Union with the hope of thawing the Cold War. Political machinations ensue to get the U.S. Senate to "advise and consent" to the nomination.

The novel is not a Roman à Clef, but it does depict incidents and character traits that would have been familiar to Americans who followed politics at the time. Most obviously, a President who is hiding the extent of his illness and who serves with an honest but out-of-the-loop Vice President would have evoked Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman.

Notable as the last film appearance for Laughton, who plays Sen. Seab Cooley, the leader of the opposition to the President and to Leffingwell. And look for Betty White, who was not always old, in a small part as the Senate's lone female member.

Drury followed the novel with five sequels, but they were neither as popular nor as acclaimed as the original, and subsequently were never made into films. There was also a stage adaptation of the first novel in 1960.

This movie provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Heroism:
    • Leffingwell, who if not exactly a hero, is much less villainous than the book's Leffingwell. He lies about his past but is highly conflicted about it, viewing it as Necessarily Evil to achieve his high-minded goals and ultimately going through with it only to protect a friend whose reputation will also be ruined by the news. He also gets several Pet the Dog scenes with his family. In the novel, Leffingwell is both a liberal caricature and a Villain with Good Publicity; he shows no remorse for lying and actively participates in the conspiracy against Brig Anderson, which, in the film, takes place long after he has withdrawn from the public eye until after the confirmation. As noted in the Character Development entry, later on in the series the series, Leffingwell changes his mind significantly about issues of foreign policy, leading to a Heel–Face Turn, which ends up in his becoming Orrin Knox's Secretary of State in the series' last book, The Promise of Joy.
    • The President is largely unchanged except, in his private meeting with Senator Anderson, he's upfront that he won't withdraw the nomination. In the book, he lies and says he will, then proceeds to give the blackmail information to Van Ackerman.
    • In the book, Bob Munson was unwillingly involved in the scheme to blackmail Brig Anderson, while in the movie he has nothing to do with it.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Seab Cooley is much more of a slimy character in the movie than he is in the book, because few of his Pet the Dog moments made into the film, and his wanting revenge over a relatively minor slight Leffingwell once paid him personally is given as much weight as his actual political disagreement with Leffingwell's dovish politics. In the series' second novel, A Shade of Difference, Seab, notwithstanding his racially retrogade ideas, is very much respected by everyone, including the black Representative who is his chief antagonist, and the filibuster that causes his death is treated as a tragedy.
  • Ambition is Evil: Bob Leffingwell is a genuinely adept administrator and has the characteristics of a good Secretary of State. But his desire to achieve the office overrides his sense of ethics and he lies to the Senate and goes along with the scheme to blackmail Brig Anderson.
  • Artistic Title: Designed by Saul Bass.
  • Author Tract: Again, averted by the adaptation. The book overtly villainizes the President and Leffingwell, and Drury's conservative, "Cold Warrior" politics dominate the story. Preminger offers a more nuanced, though still cynical take on Washington politics. Drury's Author Tract tendencies get even more pronounced as the series goes on, to the point of becoming, on some occasions, an Author Filibuster.
  • Beware the Silly Ones: In the book, Seab Cooley deliberately plays up the image of being a Large Ham Fat, Sweaty Southerner in a White Suit who is out for petty revenge of a minor insult years prior from Bob Leffingwell. In actuality, even at his advanced age, Cooley is still one of the sharpest members of the Senate, manages to figure out who the third man was in Leffingwell's communist cell simply through logical deduction, and does have concerns with Leffingwell's politics, legitimate or not.
  • Bittersweet Ending: With the Senate vote tied, VP Hudson is poised to break the tie and confirm Leffingwell, but doesn't because the President has just died and technically Hudson isn't Vice President anymore. He could probably still make the vote, but abstains, instead deciding to choose his own Secretary of State, ironically showing exactly the kind of initiative and leadership that would've made the president less determined to get Leffingwell in the first place. The Senate breaks with a friendly air of competitors having no ill-will towards one another, except for Van Ackerman who is going to be deservedly ostracized for his part in the blackmail plot.
  • Blackmail: Brig Anderson, who as chairman of the committee is holding up Leffingwell's nomination, is blackmailed by Sen. Van Ackerman (George Grizzard), who learns of a homosexual dalliance Anderson had in his youth in the armed forces.
  • Canon Foreigner: Leffingwell's son, who is added in order to emphasize him and Anderson being similar.
  • Casting Gag: Elderly Sen. McCaffrey, who keeps dozing off, only to shout "Opposed, sir, opposed!" when woken, was played by Henry F. Ashurst. Ashurst actually was a United States Senator from Arizona for 29 years, 1912-1941. He died one week before the movie opened. Another real-life ex-Senator, Guy M. Gillette of Iowa, has a minor role as Senator Harper.
  • The Chains of Commanding: The President is burdened with the knowledge that he must live up to the examples left by his predecessors and not allow the United States to fall lest the sacrifices of past generations of Americans be for nothing. It's gotten so bad that the burden is literally killing him.
  • Character Development: In the books, Bob Leffingwell comes to realize what he helped do to Brig Anderson was wrong and that he didn't deserve to be Secretary of State. He becomes much more level-headed and honest, eventually earning the respect of Orrin Knox and, ironically, is appointed his Secretary of State.
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: As unpleasant as Ackerman is, the fact remains that if Munson had given him the chairmanship in the first place like he wanted, then Leffingwell's confirmation wouldn't have encountered as much difficulty and Ackerman would have had no reason to blackmail Andrson.
  • Crapsack World: A key element of the novel absent from the movie that distinctly shifts the tone. In the novel, the Soviet Union is the ascendant world power while the U.S. has largely fallen behind with virtually no hope of catching up. The Soviets achieve the first moon landing, have nuclear and conventional supremacy, and have turned almost the entire UN against America. One of the alternate series endings, in Come Nineveh, Come Tyre, sees the Soviets achieve complete world domination - with only China left as a possibly effective opponent - with the last U.S. President committing suicide out of guilt for letting it happen. In the other alternate ending, in The Promise of Joy, both the USSR and the PRC collapse, but this happens because of a nuclear war which kills millions of people, sends clouds of radiation drifting around the world, and at the end of the book has started up again, leaving the future of the human in race very much in doubt - and dependent on the decisions of President Knox.
  • Cruel Mercy: Van Ackerman receives this from Munson and Danta. They don't want to bring up Brig Anderson's "old sin" by censuring Van Ackerman for his blackmail. So, they tell him he can remain in the Senate, but it's clear he'll be a non-entity, shunned by both parties and considered a disgrace.
  • Cut-and-Paste Note: The threatening notes sent to both Sen. Anderson and his wife.
  • Decided by One Vote: Leffingwell's nomination fails on a 47-47 tie. Averted in the novel in which the nomination goes down in flames.
  • Death by Adaptation: In the movie, Leffingwell is nominated because the previous Secretary of State had died. In the book, the previous Secretary was still alive and instead was forcibly retired by the President to clear the way for Leffingwell. He even testifies before the Senate in favor of the nomination in exchange for a cushy NATO job to retire on.
  • Death By Genre Savvy: Senator Anderson knows full well that playing your cards close to your chest is a good idea in Washington. Too bad it's this secrecy that leads to his death.
  • Democracy Is Flawed: Some venal characters and some self-serving motivations on display.
  • Demoted to Extra: Senator Knox is one of the novel's protagonists. He's a minor character in the movie, with his meatier speeches given to Cooley.
  • Dirty Communists: Played very straight in the novel with the Soviet ambassador, who all but maniacally cackles that the U.S. is losing the Cold War. Unsurprising given that Allen Drury was an ardent anti-communist.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: In the novel, it's implied the real reason Fred Van Ackerman helped blackmail Brig Anderson is because he was jealous of the respect Brig commanded among the senior leadership of the Senate.
  • Downer Ending: If you like the first novel and the movie, don't read Come Nineveh, Come Tyre. In it, Harley Hudson and Orrin Knox get assassinated, Beth Knox is murdered by pro-communist terrorists, Bob Munson and Speaker Abbott lose their positions in Congress, and Ted Jason sells out the country to the Soviet Union after imprisoning Bob Leffingwell and the Joint Chiefs of Staff for opposing his plan. Then Jason commits suicide and Fred Van Ackerman is on the cusp of becoming a collaborationist dictator. Even the alternate ending, The Promise of Joy, is at best a Bittersweet Ending since it concludes with a nuclear war between China and Russia that leaves millions of people of dead, and now-President Knox weighing whether or not to intervene. The very last paragraphs of the book indicate that he has indeed ordered the United States' military to carry out an intervention, but it is deliberately left vague for the reader to think about and decide what they would do in his place; we don't know which side he decided to come in on, or whether he decided to carry out a "neutral" intervention, possibly, for instance, by destroying both sides' nuclear arsenals.
  • Driven to Suicide: Sen. Anderson kills himself to avoid exposure, while his lover commits suicide out of guilt for telling his story to the blackmailers.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: In the last pages of Capable of Honor, President Harley Hudson dies when Air Force One crashes on approach to Andrews AFB. It's rather annoying since Drury had spent the past two books turning Hudson into a generally awesome character.
  • Eagleland: A decidedly mixed flavor is on display in this series. America is portrayed as well-meaning country that is doing its best to counter the aggression of the Soviets, while at the same time dealing with its own flaws. However, it's often held back by those very flaws which allow terrible people like Fred Van Ackerman and later Ted Jason to infest its government. The American people and media are similarly shown with mixed flavor. Most people and journalists, while biased, are honest and hardworking, but they're overshadowed by groups like NAWAC and journalists who are so in favor of peace at any price with the Soviets that they border on being collaborators.
  • Enemy Mine: In the later books, the political coalition that opposes President Harley Hudson and later Orrin Knox is made up of American communists, black nationalists, and right-wing isolationists, all of whom have their own reasons for opposing the U.S. interventions in Africa and Panama.
  • Everyone Has Standards:
    • Once Senator Anderson's homosexual affair comes to light, the editor of the Washington paper personally visits him to inform him that they won't be printing the story because it amounts to little more than petty character assassination. However, he also warns Anderson that someone, somewhere won't have any standards and will print it.
    • The President was fully willing to blackmail Senator Anderson with the evidence of his affair, but he never actually meant for the information to go public. He's genuinely disgusted by Senator Van Ackerman's demagoguery and refuses to have anything more to do with him after Anderson's suicide.
  • Fat, Sweaty Southerner in a White Suit: "Seab" Cooley. Somewhat averted later, when he puts on a regular suit, and does the honorable thing at the end.
  • The Film of the Book: A Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Allen Drury.
  • Gayngst-Induced Suicide: Sen. Anderson's gay romance while he was in the Army is about to be exposed, so he kills himself.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Otto Preminger was in charge of the Hays Office at the time, but he barely bothered to do his job because the Code was already on its way out. As such, a good number of suggestive lines and scenes manage to get in.
    • An attractive woman is seen leaving a senator's hotel room first thing in the morning, wearing the same Little Black Dress and mink stole she was presumably wearing the night before. The majority leader then enters, finds the senator still in his bathrobe, and gently suggests that perhaps a senator should project more stability by getting married. (Violates Section II)
    • This is the first American movie with a scene inside what is obviously a gay bar; while the Code never specifically mentions homosexuality, it does forbid "sex perversion", under which homosexuality would have falled in 1962. (Violates Section II)
    • In a mild Precision F-Strike, Dolly jokingly refers to herself as "an old bitch" in one scene. (Violates Section V)
  • Government Procedural: Not the first, but certainly codified the tropes and conventions associated with the genre today.
  • Gray-and-Grey Morality: Pretty much no one has clean hands in this one. But, with the exception of Van Ackerman and his cronies, everyone also wants what they believe is best for the country rather than "just" to advance their own political careers.
  • Hauled Before A Senate Subcommittee: Leffingwell has to testify about his past and political views.
  • Hidden Depths: In the novel, once Harley Hudson realizes that the President is indeed going to die soon and that the country will need him, he promptly takes a level in badass and becomes much more competent. He even manages to stare down the Jerkass Soviet ambassador. The ending of the novel implies that Hudson will be a capable if perhaps not extraordinary president. The film has a similar scene where he meets Sen. Anderson on his fateful plane ride to New York, and leaves him with the admiring impression that the VP is "the most underestimated man in Washington."
  • Honor Before Reason:
    • Subverted in the film, where Munson releases all the senators from the obligation of their pledged votes right before the final call. To the untrained eye of Van Ackerman, this looks like a clear-cut case, but to the rest of the cast it's apparent that without this magnanimous gesture distancing the nomination from the scandal surrounding Anderson's blackmail and suicide, the nomination would've gone down in flames like it does in the book. Thus, this is instead a case of the honorable thing also being the reasonable one.
    • This is why Senator Anderson commits suicide. The blackmailers would have been willing to let him off the hook if he'd allowed the nomination to proceed, but Anderson's personal honor couldn't abide a liar like Leffingwell becoming Secretary of State. He also couldn't allow his family to be shamed for his actions, so he decides to take his life to spare them.
  • Hope Spot: Brig Anderson coincidentally meets up with Harley Hudson on the plane ride back from New York. Hudson can tell something's bothering him and tries to convince Brig to open up to him about it. It almost works.
  • It's Personal: In the novel, the entire Senate takes the blackmail induced suicide of Senator Anderson as a personal affront from the President. It results in the Leffingwell nomination going from being an even split to having almost zero supporters in less than a day. In the film, it at least ruins Van Ackerman's career. They tolerate a lot of things there, but not destroying one of their own.
  • I've Come Too Far: Even after the revelation that Leffingwell lied to the Senate and Senator Anderson's blackmail-induced suicde, the President refuses to withdraw the nomination. He explains to Bob Munson (in the film) and Orrin Knox (in the book) that he's expended too much political capital, having staked both his own personal reputation and the reputation of the United States, to withdraw it at the eleventh hour. Munson commiserates with the President, while Orrin Knox derides this as an egoistical decision.
  • I Warned You: As sad as Senator Anderson's suicide is, it can't be forgotten that it's a result of him doing the one thing Orrin Knox warned him not to do: he trusted the President to keep his word.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Seab Cooley. In the book, he and Senator Anderson make a pact to stop Leffingwell's nomination, with the unstated position that, if Anderson backed out, Cooley would be obligated to destroy him politically. But, later on, when Cooley visits Anderson and sees how he's coming apart at the seams due to the blackmail, Cooley offers to let him back out without cost. It's a huge moment for him, since Cooley had been gunning to destroy Leffingwell for a decade, but he'd rather lose this fight than lose Anderson as a friend. The film omits this scene but retains the characterization due to Cooley's remorseful self-admonition and apology after Anderson's suicide.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: Van Ackerman is introduced in the movie as ambitious, and seeming to lack conviction in his offerings of support and saying he can be chairman of the committee. Once Anderson is made chairman instead of him Ackerman is unhappy, but tells the others that he does believe in peace and they have his vote and support anyway. Then of course he gets involved in blackmailing Anderson.
  • Large Ham: The novel notes that pretty much every senator, barring a few less-than-gifted orators, are capable of hamming it when needed. The more veteran ones only do so when they know it's appropriate, while the freshman do it constantly because they don't know any better. That said, nobody, but nobody, does it like Seab Cooley.
  • Mirror Character: Orrin Knox and the President absolutely loathe each other yet the novel routinely shows that the two men are very alike. Both love their country with a passion and both have a vision in mind for her future. Both are also absolutely sure that their vision is best and won't compromise on it. Their final Oval Office conversation makes it clear that if they had been willing to set aside their differences they could have been a great team.
  • Mr. Exposition: Or rather Ms. Exposition: several diplomats' wives appear at the first Senate hearing to explain and discuss the verities of American politics.
  • My Country, Right or Wrong: Almost everyone in the novel and film has this viewpoint. The problems arise when the different definitions of 'right' and 'wrong' clash with each other.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Almost every single person involved in the scheme to blackmail Senator Anderson has this reaction once he commits suicide.
  • Next Sunday A.D.: The novels take place an indeterminate time in the future, with references to contemporary presidents and politicians sprinkled throughout the series. A minor subplot in the original book (written in 1959) involves the Soviets landing on the Moon, and in A Shade of Difference and Capable of Honor the still-ongoing Vietnam War is mentioned as concluded. Drury uses a sliding chronological scale, as the book's President succeeds whoever the real-world president was at the time it was written. Protect and Defend implies the books take place in the late 1980s or early 90s as the Speaker of the House is said to have been in Congress for forty years and his predecessor left his House seat to take a judgeship offered by President Truman. The series' later books also make numerous references to Picturephones, a very early form of video telephony, and what appears to be hand-held laser weapons which are used in several assassinations.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: All the characters are fictional, but they are all clearly inspired by Real Life individuals.
    • As noted above, the President who is dying, but concealing that from the public, and the Vice President who is ignored by the administration, are patterned after Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman. While the parties wouldn't be right, it could also describe Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon's relationship.
    • Playboy Senator Lafe Smith is modeled after John F. Kennedy (and it may be a Casting Gag that Peter Lawford, Kennedy's brother-in-law, plays Smith in the movie).
    • Van Ackerman is based on Joe McCarthy (although Van Ackerman is a left-wing extremist rather than a right-winger). After the Army-McCarthy hearings and the censure vote of December 1954 against McCarthy, he was shunned in the Senate for the remaining two years of his term, must as Van Ackerman's colleagues promise they will do in this film.
    • Anderson's suicide is inspired by the real-life story of Sen. Lester C. Hunt, who killed himself in the Capitol building after being blackmailed over his son's homosexuality.
    • Seab Cooley is patterned after Georgia powerbroker Richard Russell. In the book, he's closer to Kenneth McKellar, the Tennessee Senator whose longstanding rivalry with TVA director David E. Lilienthal inspired Cooley's grudge against Leffingwell.
    • Orrin Knox is supposedly based on Ohio Senator Robert Taft.
    • The loyal, friendly whip Stanley Danta seems to resemble Hubert Humphrey.
    • Betty White's Sen. Bessie Adams is inspired by Margaret Chase Smith.
    • Dolly Harrison, Munson's mistress, is loosely based on Perle Mesta, a Washington socialite who served as Harry Truman's Ambassador to Luxembourg.
    • Leffingwell, a nominee for Secretary of State that is controversial for his conciliatory approach to the Soviet Union, seem to be drawn from Alger Hiss, the American government official who was accused of spying for the Soviet Union. The cross-examination of Leffingwell by the Senate subcommittee is strongly reminiscent of the Alger Hiss hearings.
    • Senate Majority Leader Bob Munson is inspired by Alben Barkley, who served as Senate Majority Leader during the FDR years and who also resigned from the post and was unanimously reelected by his fellow senators after having a major break with the President.
    • Long serving Speaker of the House William Abbott of Colorado is an obvious stand in for long serving Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn of Texas.
  • No Name Given:
    • The President's name is never mentioned, although Sen. Munson does once call him "Russ".
    • In the novel, the name of Senator Anderson's lover is never revealed. It's rather sad since no one, not even the reader, will ever know who he was beyond the fact that he was gay.
  • No Party Given: One character is the Senate majority leader, another is the Senate minority leader, but party names are never mentioned. Justified, as both Democrats and Republicans had their own liberal and conservative wings at the time, so party identification isn't important to the story. That said, the novel averts this if one pays close attention. Seab Cooley is mentioned in passing as having been first elected to the House on the same platform as Woodrow Wilson. That would make the Senate majority and the President Democrats and the Senate minority Republicans.
  • Oh, Crap!: Harley Hudson has a subdued but noticeable reaction when, during the confirmation vote, he's given a letter informing him the President has died and he's succeeded to the Oval Office.
  • Ominous Legal Phrase Title: In the US, the Senate's constitutional role toward executive-branch nominees. In the UK, part of the formal enacting clause of all Acts of Parliament.
  • Our Presidents Are Different: In the first book and movie, the unnamed President is the Scheming variety, although he's sincerely motivated to do what he thinks is best for the country. In the later books, President Hudson is Personable, President Abbott and Orrin Knox are President Iron, and Ted Jason is President Evil.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • Senate Majority Leader Munson (Pidgeon) gives two, one to Cooley for his scheming and a more forceful one to Van Ackerman for his role in the blackmail scheme.
    • In the novel, the entire Senate hands one out to Van Ackerman when they vote to censure him for his involvement in Senator Anderson's suicide.
  • Red Herring: Sen. Munson, a widower, is carrying on an affair with a Washington society lady, Dolly Harrison (Gene Tierney). This seems like it will be important. It isn't.
  • Romancing the Widow: In the later books, Lafe Smith begins seeing Mabel Anderson. He's decidely uncomfortable about it at first, not wanting to dishonor the memory of his friend Brig. She, on the other hand, is perfectly okay with it.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: The whole movie is about how the Senate could approve the nomination of Leffingwell as Secretary of State. In the end, the vote is a 47-47 tie and Vice President Hudson decides not to cast a tie-breaking vote because the president has died and Hudson wants to nominate his own Secretary of State. So it was all for nothing.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: The President tries to bribe Senator Knox into supporting the Leffingwell nomination by offering to deliver the nomination at the next party convention. Knox, who desperately wants to be President himself someday, never seriously considers the offer and instead leads the charge to destroy Leffingwell's political career.
  • Secretly Dying: The President's health is rapidly declining after a surgery failed. He wants to get Leffingwell confirmed while he still has the chance. Except it's not that much of a secret. By the time the novel starts, most of the government is already aware of this and preparing to help Vice President Hudson as much as they can when he has to step up to the plate.
  • The Sociopath: The first novel hints that Fred Van Ackerman is one and the later novels basically confirm it.
  • Stealth Sequel: Drury's later novel A Thing of State is a very indirect sequel that takes place decades after Advise & Consent. The plots are unrelated with the only thing connecting this series and A Thing of State being an appearance by the now elderly, widowed, but still lively Dolly Munson. It also seems to create a third timeline as there's no mention of a nuclear war between Russia and China or a Soviet takeover of the United States.
  • Straight Gay: Senator Anderson is either this or just bisexual, it's unclear which. He had a male lover while serving in the military, but he later broke it off with him and married his wife Mabel before running for senator. He does love his wife, but it's in a detached sort of way and his final thoughts before committing suicide are of the beach where he and his lover met.
  • Title Drop: When Sen. Munson moves to proceed with the vote on Leffingwell's nomination.
  • Tragic Villain: The later books document how California Governor Ted Jason slowly becomes a President Evil. He's shown to be genuinely well-intended, but is ambitious and easily manipulated by Fred Van Ackerman and his ilk. When confronted by the fact that the Soviets have overtaken the United States, he is basically presented with no option but surrendering and takes no pleasure in imprisoning Bob Leffingwell and the Joint Chiefs. His ultimate suicide is presented as a tragedy.
  • Unexpected Successor: Discussed. Harley Hudson was given the vice presidency as a reward for delivering Michigan's critical votes at the party convention and was kept around for the second term because no one wanted to make a fuss. No one thought he'd have to step up to the plate but by the end of the movie and book he does. Then after Air Force One crashes, the Speaker of the House becomes the new president and holds the office until Ted Jason or Orrin Knox is sworn in. Remember, the books were written before the the ratification of the 25th Amendment, so Hudson never had a vice president of his own.
  • The Unfettered: The President. In the book, when Bob Munson unwillingly hands over the blackmail material, his one request is that the President not actually use it publicly. The President smacks him down, noting he will do anything he has to in order to secure the future of the United States, including blackmailing a U.S. Senator. He does show sadness and some small remorse after Anderson's suicide, but only privately, and he continues to support the Leffingwell nomination to its, and his, bitter end.
  • The Unreveal: In the book, it's never revealed whether or not Leffingwell is still a communist sympathizer. By the end it no longer really matters. Later novels go with the film-specific backstory, and reveal that Leffingwell was a communist sympathizer in his younger years, but turned away from it before he entered government service.
  • Vice President Who?: Harley Hudson is ineffectual, mild-mannered, and terrified at the prospect of becoming President. He is generally ignored by the administration. The President, who is gravely ill, wants Leffingwell as Secretary of State because he doesn't think Hudson can handle foreign policy.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: The book version of Bob Leffingwell is a Jerkass Smug Snake who lies to a Senate committee and is complicit in the blackmail of a U.S. Senator with the aim of becoming the next Secretary of State. He's also beloved by the press because of his anti-war stance. The film version is a far, far more impressively nuanced character. Interestingly, later novels in the series, written after the movie adaptation, go with the film's version of Leffingwell's character.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist:
    • Van Ackerman, who takes some extreme measures to get Leffingwell confirmed. Although it is strongly implied that he's equally motivated by a desire to be a major player in the Senate and hit in with the more prominent senators.
    • The President would be a more straight example of this. He's willing to get his hands very dirty to get the job done but a chapter in the novel makes it clear that he's motivated by nothing more than the continued security and prosperity of his country.
  • What Does She See in Him?: A non-romantic version. Nobody can understand why the President nominated Leffingwell in the first place, as they are polar opposites when it comes to confronting the Soviets.
  • Where Everybody Knows Your Flame: It is the first mainstream American film after World War II to show a gay bar. It is sufficiently stereotypical (for example, the barman's tone is effeminate) to make Brig and the viewer immediately realize that it is a gay bar.
  • Worthy Opponent: In the novel, the President realizes too late that it would have been better to reveal Leffingwell's past to the public at large and defeat Senator Anderson in a open fight, as he had come to respect Anderson's honesty and tenacity.
  • Your Days Are Numbered: The President (see Secretly Dying above).

Alternative Title(s): Advise And Consent