State of the Union – DVD Review

DVD available at

Frank Capra

Spencer Tracy….Grant Matthews
Katherine Hepburn….Mary Matthews
Van Johnson….”Spike” McManus
Angela Lansbury….Kay Thorndyke
Adolphe Manjou….Jim Conover
Lewis Stone….Sam Thorndyke
Margaret Hamilton….Norah
Charles Lane….Blink Moran
Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer….Bellboy

Universal Home Entertainment/Batjac presents State of the Union. Screenplay by Myles Connolly and Arthur Veiller. Running time: 123 minutes. Unrated. Theatrical release 1948. DVD released June 6, 2006.

Do not confuse this film with Ice Cube’s XXX: State of the Union. Although they are similar in that Spencer Tracy does kick a lot of ass to save America from the political machines that have destroyed democracy and are attacking his soul. But Tracy does his damage with guts instead of Samuel L. Jackson’s gadgets.

Kay Thorndyke, a rich newspaper heiress (Angela Lansbury) flexes her power by fielding her choice for the Republican presidential nomination. She picks Grant Matthews (Spencer Tracy), a rich and daring man that’s an outsider to party politics. He isn’t an outsider to Kay’s bedroom. She figures this little character snag can be covered up since she controls the press. The big kink to her plans is that she needs to market Matthews as the happy husband with the wonderful wife and adorable kids. Mrs. Matthews (Katherine Hepburn) isn’t delighted that her husband’s mistress is directing his destiny. But the Matthews’ trip on the pre-campaign trail rejuvenates their marriage to the dismay of Kay.

Matthews displeases his political handlers when he blows off the party speaking points and talks from the gut. While these moments of truth attract a following amongst the masses, it alienates the party insiders that control the convention. But as he moves up the food chain, he falls in line with the prepared speeches. He learns the lesson of Jesse Venture: Wrestling is real. Politics is rigged. He also has to deal with juggling his wife and mistress.

Since this is a Frank Capra pic, there’s nothing too gritty about the mix of sex and politics. Nothing too torrid. Even thought there’s a squeaky clean tone, the film still resonates truth. America is right now in that “who is running for president” stage and so many of the potential candidates are facing Matthews’ situation. Their asses are tightening up, they’re making friends with groups the would normally rail against, and they’re doing stupid stunts to suck up to delegates in Iowa. Capra might want us to think that we can overcome the political machine, but it’s still chunking out presidential candidates that stick to the party speaking points.

There should be bonus features on this DVD. It would have been nice if NBC-Universal had their political pundits debating how this film reflects our current political process. Where’s Chris Matthews or Tucker Carlson? President Ronald Reagan cribbed his persona as a presidential candidate from this film. He borrowed the movie’s memorable quote, “Don’t you shut me off, I’m paying for these broadcasts” line when in the middle of a New Hampshire primary debate Reagan shouted, “I paid for this microphone!” This film deserves a couple bells and whistles for inspiring that moment. Nearly 60 years later, it’s still giving us a glimpse of what goes on in smoke filled backrooms.

The DVD:

The Video:

The film is Full Frame 1.33:1. The transfer is a very good for its age.

The Audio:

This film is presented in English Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono with only English subtitles.

Special Features:


Inside Pulse’s Ratings for State of the Union
(OUT OF 10)






The Inside Pulse
This is one of the Frank Capra films that doesn’t get rerun to death. But it is one whose theme about how a presidential candidate is created is still valid. You could subsititue Spencer Tracy with John McCain and see how he’s embraced the mantra that the only way you can win the office is to serve the political machine.