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State of the Union (1948)

Approved | | Comedy, Drama | 30 April 1948 (USA)
An industrialist is urged to run for President, but this requires uncomfortable compromises on both political and marital levels.


Frank Capra


Howard Lindsay (play), Russel Crouse (play) | 2 more credits »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Spencer Tracy ... Grant Matthews
Katharine Hepburn ... Mary Matthews
Van Johnson ... 'Spike' McManus
Angela Lansbury ... Kay Thorndyke
Adolphe Menjou ... Jim Conover
Lewis Stone ... Sam Thorndyke
Howard Smith ... Sam I. Parrish
Charles Dingle ... Bill Nolard Hardy
Maidel Turner ... Lulubelle Alexander
Raymond Walburn ... Judge Alexander
Margaret Hamilton ... Norah
Art Baker ... Leith - Radio Announcer
Pierre Watkin ... Senator Lauterback
Florence Auer ... Grace Orval Draper
Irving Bacon ... Buck Swenson


Kay Thordyke loves Grant Matthews and helps him become Republican nominee for President. The party machine begins to worry as Grant begins to speak for himself. At an important dinner his wife Mary condemns corrupt politicians and Grant learns to speak out even more boldly.. Written by Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


How's the State of the Union? It's GREAT!


Comedy | Drama


Approved | See all certifications »






Release Date:

30 April 1948 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Frank Capra's State of the Union See more »


Box Office


$2,600,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Liberty Films (II) See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Frank Capra had helmed the screen versions of two other Broadway hits prior to State of the Union (1948). In both cases -- You Can't Take It With You (1938) and Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) -- he had made significant alterations to the original material (adding an entire layer of social consciousness to the former and lopsiding the latter into a star vehicle for Cary Grant's exaggerated performance). However, there are few if any Capra touches in State of the Union (1948), and he added only one significant scene to the play, the admittedly riotous in-flight drag race in which Spencer Tracy takes the controls of the aircraft while Van Johnson loses his lunch and Katharine Hepburn merely continues her knitting. See more »


A newspaper, meant to be for the current date in the movie, is shown with the date Monday, April 5, 1948. Later, another newspaper, also meant to be for what is now the current date, is shown, and the date is Friday, March 26, 1948. See more »


Mary Matthews: Oh, that's silly. No woman could ever run for President. She'd have to admit she's over 35.
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Crazy Credits

When this film was reissued new titles and credits were printed. Adolphe Menjou's name is misspelled in the reissue's opening credits (as Adolph Menjou). See more »


Featured in Biography: Angela Lansbury: A Balancing Act (1998) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Tracy and Hepburn Wade Through Capra-Corn as Lansbury Sharpens Her Talons
24 July 2007 | by EUyeshimaSee all my reviews

This somewhat forgotten 1948 dramedy is not the undiscovered gem of the Tracy-Hepburn pairings, but the 2006 DVD provides an opportunity to take a look at the political corruption running rampant in Washington at the time, clearly as prescient now as it was relevant then. The subject is well suited to film-making legend Frank Capra, who made the classic "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" a decade earlier and echoes a similar theme of an honest man surrounded by those who tear at his ethics. Adapted by Anthony Veiller and Myles Connolly from a play by Russel Crouse and Howard Lindsay, the plot centers on Grant Matthews, a pulled-from-his-bootstraps industrialist who has not lost touch with the common folks, a quality seized upon by Machiavellian newspaper publisher Kay Thorndyke, who uses her considerable media power to shape him into a viable candidate for the presidency.

Thorndyke also happens to be Matthews' lover, even though he is still married to stoic, disillusioned Mary, his estranged wife who has remained in the marriage not only for the sake of their two children but also in the dimming hope that he will come back to her. Initially, Matthews balks at the idea of becoming President, but he recognizes an ambition to improve the country. At the same time, Thorndyke and her cohort, proto-Karl Rove political adviser Jim Conover convince him to make compromising speeches to win the votes of powerful lobbies. If you know Capra films, you know how it will all turn out. The main problem I had with the film is the pacing and the relative inconsistency in tone. Much of the time, it feels truncated with little transition between scenes, and farcical moments are mixed with more serious ones in ways that make the film feel emotionally askew at times.

The performances can't be faulted. Spencer Tracy is well cast as the plainspoken Matthews, while Katharine Hepburn lends her much-needed verve and snap to the cautiously hopeful Mary. All of 22 but looking far more commanding and mature, Angela Lansbury almost steals the picture as Kay, even though her character is so venal and humorless that it is hard not to hiss when she's on screen, especially with her dragon-lady cigarette holder. It's easy to see the future Mrs. Iselin in John Frankenheimer's "The Manchurian Candidate". Adolphe Menjou plays Conover in his typical blowhard manner, while Van Johnson is unctuous in a likable sort of way as reporter Spike McManus. Capra lays out his familiar flag-waving cornpone thickly here, sometimes quite effectively, but the attempts at slapstick humor are pretty laborious. This remains an interesting curio in his canon. The DVD provides a fairly clean print but has absolutely no extras, not even chapter stops.

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