Plot: Frank Skeffington (Spencer Tracy) is a high profile, old school politician who has served as mayor of his New England town for four terms, but this fifth campaign will be his last. The wheels of social change have turned a lot of late and while Skeffington still has a powerful political machine behind him, he knows times have moved on and this should be his final run. Despite his success in office, the citizens of the town have a quite divided outlook on him, often defined by social position. The poor find him to be a hero and the rich see him as a corrupt official, while the truth lies somewhere in the middle, as it always does. But his opposition is more riled up than usual and rallied all of their muster to thwart his campaign, to ensure it is indeed his last and to make sure it finds him out of office. Will this final election give Frank one last chance to serve or has time already moved much faster than even he realizes?
Entertainment Value: This movie is rooted in old school politics, but of course, some things never change and while Frank Skeffington’s reign was certain to end one way or another, there is still a lot of relevant texture to The Last Hurrah. Our views on those who govern are often swayed by our social situations and we tend to look the other way if “our side” bends the rules here and there, so long as the “greater good” is served in the process. That same benefit is rarely extended to political enemies of course, though it is hard to imagine Skeffington being all that disliked, as he has a certain charm that makes you connect with him. In the end, while The Last Hurrah is centered on politics, it is also a character study on Skeffington and a good deal of the duration is devoted to cultivating the depth of the role. I appreciated that time was also invested to flesh out some of the supporting roles in similar fashion, as that helped emphasize the relationships and how those played into the political process. Of course, it helps when you have Spencer Tracy and a loaded ensemble to back him up, but the writing and direction here are quite good as well, giving the cast ample ammunition to load up with. So even if you’re not one for political themed cinema in general, The Last Hurrah might still be of interest, as it is so well made and stacked with talent.
I was beyond impressed by the cast in this one, as it seems even minor roles were filled with remarkable talents. This ensures all of the political maneuvers are brought to life in grand fashion and for the most part, the ensemble embraces the shadiness and holier than thou mannerisms, which adds some fun to the movie. The lead here is Spencer Tracy and he is an ideal pick to play Frank Skeffington, as he has a hard edge when he needs to, but also shows the charm and soft spoken nature the role demands, not a simple task to pull off. Tracy’s larger than life, but still down to earth persona matches up with the role like a dream, he makes it seem effortless at times. The kind of guy who you know is manipulating you, but you can’t help but like him. The same kind of social tools real life politicians try to employ, with varied results, of course. The impressive cast also includes Basil Rathbone, John Carradine, Jeffrey Hunter, Ricardo Cortez, Wallace Ford, and Pat O’Brien.
The Disc: Twilight Time’s Blu-ray release looks terrific, with a stark, refined presentation that lets the film’s black & white visuals shine through. The print looks very clean and shows minimal signs of age or wear, while clarity is impressive and the depth is better than expected. I found fine detail to be more than solid and when combined with the pitch perfect contrast levels, The Last Hurrah looks better than ever. The extras include an informative audio commentary track with film historians Lem Dobbs, Julie Kirgo, and Nick Redman, as well as the film’s isolated music track and trailer.
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