Whether or not any drama occurs at the Republican and Democratic conventions over the next couple of weeks remains to be seen. So we recommend seeing a couple of great movies — The Best Man (1964) and Medium Cool (1969) – set during truly dramatic Presidential conventions.
Unfortunately, you can’t stream The Best Man or Medium Cool anywhere unless you get Turner Classic Movies (TCM) through a cable, satellite or telco TV subscription. TCM has scheduled both movies for Sunday night starting at 8 pm ET, and will then likely offer them on demand at TCM.com and via the Watch TCM app, for subscribers only. You can also order the films on DVD from Amazon for around $20 each.
Here’s why we recommend each of them – plus a related film we thought you might like — with supporting video evidence:
The Best Man
Not to be confused with the 1999 rom-com of the same name, The Best Man was written by Gore Vidal and stars Henry Fonda and Cliff Robertson as two Presidential contenders maneuvering for their party’s nomination at a fictional Los Angeles convention. One candidate’s a “ruthless opportunist willing to go to any lengths to get the nomination,” notes Wikipedia. The other is a former Secretary of State who’s a “principled intellectual.” Things get heated, to say the least. Here’s the original trailer.
Haskell Wexler, with a background largely in documentaries, was cinematographer for The Best Man, his first Hollywood film. A few years later, he made Medium Cool, his first foray into writing and directing a fictional film. Or was it a documentary?
Sort of both, as a look at the clip below will confirm. Wexler filmed Medium Cool in the parks and streets of Chicago as demonstrators gathered to protest the 1968 Democratic Convention – and as cops and National Guardsmen gathered to confront the protesters in what a Federal commission later labeled a “police riot.” This clip contains a pivotal 11-minute segment late in the film with actress Verna Bloom (in a yellow dress that helps you follow her in the crowd) playing an innocent who inadvertently wanders into the violent real-life confrontation:
A jarring moment in the above clip is when tear gas is fired and a voice warns the director, “Look out Haskell, it’s real!” That’s also the name of this 2001 “Making Of” documentary:
Conspiracy: The Trial of the Chicago 8
As a companion to Medium Cool, we present Conspiracy: The Trial of the Chicago 8.
Some background: Despite the Federal report concluding there had been a “police riot,” a Federal grand jury indicted eight protesters for inciting the Chicago riots, resulting in the infamous “Chicago Eight” (aka Chicago Seven) trial of 1969-70.
The trial was dramatized in a 1987 HBO movie, Conspiracy: The Trial of the Chicago 8, with a script coming mostly from the original trial transcripts. The cast, which includes Elliott Gould, Peter Boyle, Robert Loggia (pictured below as attorney William Kunstler) and Robert Carradine, has their real-life counterparts popup now and again to provide commentary. Here, in a Savvy Screener exclusive, is Conspiracy: The Trial of the Chicago 8:
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