Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Best Man


Henry Fonda is the indecisive liberal, Cliff Robertson is the ruthless, scary conservative (back when it meant being against integration), both frontrunners for the presidential nomination of an un-named party, pretty clearly the Democrats. A great script by Gore Vidal from his Broadway hit. Filmed in lovely black and white at the lovely Ambassador Hotel on lovely Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles … an historic location that no longer exists because of the unbelievable insensitivity and stupidity of … wait for it … the unlovely Los Angeles Unified School District. They tore it down a few years ago to put up a new school. Now, LAUSD, I’m all in favor of new schools—though the way you tend to build them, with massive cost overruns, could sure be improved on—but out of all the square miles of LA, this is the only site you could find? Location for hundreds of movies like this one and The Graduate? Site of Bobby Kennedy’s assassination? Okay, nothing to do with the movie, but I just had to rant about that. It is a bit dated, but very interesting to see how much about politics hasn’t changed at all in 47 years, but other aspects have changed a lot. Hard to believe how primitive we were, in some ways, not that long ago. The movie is hijacked—in a nice way—by the appearance about mid-way through of Shelley Berman, best known back then as a stand-up comedian (thought he actually used to sit down, like his picture on the album cover) whose album Inside Shelley Berman was wildly popular. I almost had it memorized in high school. He plays a slimy, obsequious ex-soldier with dirt on Robertson. De-generate dirt, as they used to refer to homosexuality. He just takes the scenes away from the pros, and he’s what I recall most from my first viewing.