Plot: Andrew Jackson (Charlton Heston) is a lawyer with a lot of ambition and a bright future, but his world comes to a standstill when he meets the beautiful Rachel (Susan Hayward). He falls for her the first time the two meet, but as she is a married woman, a future together seems unlikely. But Rachel is miserable in her current marriage to an abusive man (Whitfield Connor), to the point her own mother would like to see her out of that situation. When the time comes for Rachel to protect herself and leave the relationship, Jackson steps in to assist her and on a dangerous trip after, the two begin to bond even more. Meanwhile, he also pursues his legal and political ambitions, finding great success in both fields. He even marries Rachel after she splits from her first husband, but both she and Jackson face serious problems when it is learned her previous partner never filed the divorce papers. Will this scandal end Jackson’s aspirations and a loving marriage?
Entertainment Value: The President’s Lady is a lush period drama with romance, impressive production design values, and of course, Charlton Heston blowing smoke in a baby’s face. The narrative tracks Andrew Jackson’s political rise, but keeps a more intimate scale and invests most of the duration into the relationship between Jackson and his beloved Rachel. So the movie is more about how Jackson’s political endeavors impacted his life and in specific that relationship, so don’t expect a wealth of political content in this case. I still think the events Jackson was involved in on that front are mostly well covered, we’re just shown a more personal side to the toll Jackson’s role in politics took on his life and loved ones. This approach worked quite well for me, as the movie’s investment into the characters pays dividends beyond just the historical biopic style, which is what we’re often given in these cases. I also love the production design in The President’s Lady, as the costumes are beautiful, the sets are well detailed, and the atmosphere is effective. The period feel is on point and that adds a lot to the movie, without question. In the end, this movie has all you could want from a period drama, so it earns an easy recommendation.
The lead here is Charlton Heston and as I mentioned before, he does indeed blow smoke in a baby’s face at one point, which is outlandish, though the rest of the movie is quite serious in nature. One thing I really liked about Heston’s performance is that it conveys how Jackson was a driven, ambitious man, but he keeps things grounded, which keeps the human side intact. Instead of a larger than life, hero worship approach, Heston reels in his performance and projects strength, but also the tender side that is needed to make the personal moments work. Perhaps some of that is due to the general approach, which emphasizes the personal side of Jackson’s side over his political career, but Heston deserves a good deal of the credit as well. While Heston is good, Susan Hayward is able to steal the show often with a wonderful performance of her own. She brings a lot of energy and attitude to the role of Rachel and her chemistry with Heston is on point, so the bond between the characters is effective. I think she was able to get the most of her scenes and especially shines in the more banter driven moments, where she and Heston can play off each other. The cast also includes John McIntire, Fay Bainter, Whitfield Connor, and Nina Varela.
The Disc: The movie arrives on Blu-ray via Twilight Time, who serve up a clean and well detailed transfer that should have fans more than satisfied. The print looks great and the black & white visuals are impressive, allowing us to soak in all the period details and skilled photography involved. I found detail to be quite good throughout and while I haven’t seen The President’s Lady on DVD, I have to think this would offer a substantial improvement in overall visual presentation. The disc’s extras include an isolated music track, a vintage radio show adaptation of The President’s Lady, and the film’s theatrical trailer.