Convention Drama Lives Here

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 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.

Medium Cool

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:

About Les Luchter

Les Luchter is a former managing editor of Multichannel News, editor-in-chief of Cable Marketing, and news editor of Broadcast Week.

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