"The Best, uh, Person"

Is it too late to pitch a remake, no, I'm sorry, a re-imagination of Frank Schaffner's great movie The Best Man -- screenplay by Gore Vidal, starring Henry Fonda and Cliff Robertson -- in time for this year's election? In the 1964 film, as IMDb puts it, "[t]he two front runners for their party's Presidential nomination, one principled and the other ruthless, vie for the ex-President's endorsement." Actually, the story's a lot more complicated and interesting than that, including the presence in the race of one Gov. John Merwin, a being so spectral even the actor who played him (William R. Ebersol) (or is it Eberson?) has vanished into the mists of time.

In the new version, the front runner, a seasoned center-right politician (Meryl Streep), is challenged from her left by an idealistic, small-state U.S. Senator (Larry David, because Sam Elliott or Tom Selleck wouldn't be believable). The race has its ups and downs -- shifting poll numbers, primaries won and lost, petty scandals, social-media hits and misses, staff screw-ups, family embarrassments, yada yada, but as we open act three, the major candidates arrive at the convention unexpectedly neck and neck.

The President (Will Smith), busy with drone targets and blueprints for his presidential library and frankly not really very interested, dithers until the day of the vote, then makes a brilliant address to convention delegates that leaves the decision up to them. The surging enthusiasm of the challengers' supporters seems to be tipping the balance his way.
The former front runner, sensing the tide has turned against her, realizing she must concede, is unable to forgive the competitor who has exposed her feet of clay. In the final moment, she throws her delegates to the third candidate in the race, the chimerical governor (Tim Daly) who is last seen for a heart-stopping ten seconds -- the mood: a new day? a perilous future? the loneliness of power? "Happy Days Are Here Again"? "Gonna Fly Now"? a lot is going to depend on the soundtrack here -- on an escalator to the convention floor to accept the nomination.

Reading list:
Eleven populist points about the Bernie blizzard: Berserk Clinton Bigwigs Launch Nixonian Attack Against Surging Sanders by Brent Budowsky (Observer)

Further viewing:
Theater Talk: Playwright Gore Vidal on "The Best Man" (YouTube).

Buy The Best Man by Gore Vidal, directed by Franklin Schaffner, with Henry Fonda and Cliff Robertson (Amazon).

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