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Margaret Wyndham Chase wants to run for governor and approaches Eddie Ace, local political kingmaker/fringe gangster, to get his support. Ace's belief is that "beautiful women and politics do not mix" and he declines to help. She decides to play the game rough-and-tough without him, but he shows he is even rougher-and-tougher, and she gives up and withdraws from the race. But Ace has fallen in love with her at about the 45-minute mark and, with his new-found ardor for clean politics, he makes some (unclean) manipulations behind the scenes, and she is picked to run on an independent good-government ticket.Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This is an undervalued little political drama from an era when politics on the big screen suddenly became popular. While so many such films are based on saccharine preaching or play cute with the "women in politics" theme, there's not an ounce of sugar here.
Ambitious socialite congresswoman Margaret Chase (Sylvia Sidney) seeks the governor's office, and knows exactly how to use the crooked political system (and even her estranged husband) to get there. One thing she needs is the endorsement of the nefarious Tomahawk Club and its top dog, Mr. Ace (George Raft). Like any seasoned politician with more aspirations than ethics, she has no qualms with buddying up to the shady characters. Ace toys with her but is not one to be manipulated. Watch him watch her as he introduces her to his "friends" as if waiting for her to exhibit the same hypocritical benevolence of any male politician trying to curry favor - and she does. The passionate moral compass of the story is her former professor, Joshua Adams, who (for reasons that differ from Ace's) does not want her to be governor. There is a portrait of modern politics as Margaret believes she and Adams are manipulating Ace when in fact Ace and Adams are conspiring against her.
The script by Fred Finklehoff shows great restraint. We get only as much backstory as we absolutely need. The people are human; nobody is an innocent angel and no political bad guy is cackling into his cloak. As in real politics, everyone is trying to manipulate everyone else. Even in "romancing" each other, Margaret Chase and Eddie Ace are actually testing each other's political wills. No hearts and flowers here. This is a romance of black coffee and hard-boiled eggs.
And how refreshing to see actors of a "certain age" actually acting their ages. Sidney is a mature, dynamic woman, and gets to play one. Being attracted to Mr. Ace does not turn Margaret into a brainless flit, nor does Ace let the attraction drown his cynicism. She's more than willing to use backhanded tactics to get around him politically, and he responds by turning the system against her. Only then does she have a change of heart about the entire campaign. And only her obvious change of heart allows Ace to rethink his own motives.
Take note of Roman Bohnen as Prof. Adams. Amid all the professional politicians and their cold-blooded calculations he is the emotional voice of infuriated idealism. This same year ('46) Bohnen also appeared in the brilliant "The Best Years of Our Lives" as a completely different sort of character (Dana Andrews' soft-spoken, alcoholic father). He's simply remarkable.
"Mr. Ace" was the third of a trilogy of films Raft and Sidney did together. "Pick-Up" brought them together in the early '30s, "You and Me" in the late '30s, and then "Mr. Ace." Their natural chemistry ages like fine wine.
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