Last Hurrah, The (1958)

The Last Hurrah (1958), produced and directed by John Ford.

Big-city mayor Skeffington faces his last election with wit and keen-eyed craft in rewarding his friends and punishing his enemies. But times are changing and television is taking over from the political machine operations. Are the old-time pols dinosaurs that have outlived their days?

Mayor Skeffington is the Irish leader of a coalition of working class supporters. His enemies are the rich blue-bloods, with memories of Irish vs English enmity. In a funny bit when the mayor invades their exclusive club he takes along his Jewish aide, adding insult to injury.

It's not all graft: the mayor does deliver for his constituents in the large, as with a new housing project, and in the small, as when he makes a funeral director pay for the over-priced service of a poor widow's husband. That's a funny sequence: the wake becomes a political confab.

This is a minor effort from the director, but is something close to a "last hurrah" from a long list of actors from old Hollywood: Spencer Tracy, Pat O'Brien, Basil Rathbone, Donald Crisp, James Gleason, John Carradine, Frank McHugh, Jane Darwell.

I confess that in his later years I always scrutinize Spencer Tracy for evidence of his heavy drinking. Not much sign of that here apart from slight mushiness in pronunciation.

John Ford gave Tracy his first leading role in Up the River (1930).

Available on Blu-ray from Twilight Time with a commentary track by the usual crew: Nick Redman, Julie Kirgo and Lem Dobbs.