Coincident with election year, Hollywood has come up with a time-honored favorite son. And so long as Frank Capra sticks to the original Crouse and Lindsey stage play, his treatment is entertaining. The story of the airplane builder who runs for president and discovers that "he must approve everything except sin" has been filmed true to script. Spencer Tracy blusters sufficiently for a man who jumps into politics over his neck and gradually discovers that handing out golden platitudes on silver platters is a tricky business. He winces effectively as his managers tell him that people are nice but they don't count--only votes matter and they come from Machines. Tracy comes of age after his initial political junket across the country; he decides for the people and throws the votes out the window. He'd rather be pristine than president.
So far so good. But Capra comes to grief in over-playing Tracy's love for people, a remarkable love that is shown swelling up within him as he gossips with a barber and watches a radio technician chewing gum. But the most fantastic demonstration of earthy affection appears when Tracy plays wing-tip tag with a business underling over an airfield. They barrel-roll among the clouds for all the world like long lost brothers. This is during the people-are-everything stage. A little later, when Tracy momentarily shifts to the votes-are-everything viewpoint, he tells the same underling to stop playing and get back to building airplanes. All in all an amazing sequence.
However, deviations from the Lindsey and Crouse satire are fortunately few, and though the "State of the Union" doesn't always succeed, it never quite sceedes. Adolphe Menjou has apparently profited from his recent star-chamber experience for he is convincing as a machine politician. Whether machines are as harmless as Tracy suggests is still unclear. Yet though his head is in the clouds, his toes are down among the grass roots, and no self-respectin' man or woman can failed to be moved. No sir.