Release Date(s)1958 (September 18, 2018)
Studio(s)Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (Twilight Time)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: D
Movies that contain corrupt politicians, whether they’re featured as the main theme or as a subplot, make for fascinating cinema. Director John Ford’s 1958 film The Last Hurrah is a political drama that occurs during election season, with the focus on two politicians with questionable ethics who will stop at nothing to get elected.
Based upon the novel of the same name by Edwin O’Connor, The Last Hurrah stars Spencer Tracy as Frank Skeffington, an older Irish-American politician running for re-election as mayor of a New England city. In the novel, the story is about Boston mayor James Michael Curley, but in the film, names were changed and locations were never revealed at any point in the event of Hollywood making a biography of Curley’s life someday. In a nutshell, Skeffington is the film’s version of Curley. Skeffington’s nephew, Adam Caulfield (Jeffrey Hunter), is on hand to help and observe his uncle’s campaign. Skeffington is soon met with a great deal of opposition, including newspaper publisher Amos Force (John Carradine), banker Norman Cass (Basil Rathbone), the Catholic cardinal (Donald Crisp), and plenty of others who despise him. Instead, they’re all in favor of candidate Kevin McCluskey (Charles B. Fitzsimons), who is also going all-out, doing what he feels is necessary in order to win. The tension mounts until election night when both candidates anticipate a victory, but only one can be declared a winner.
Produced and directed by John Ford, who loved making films based on American history, The Last Hurrah is a powerful and touching film. In a role that was originally intended for Orson Welles (his lawyer wrongfully turned down the role, which upset him), Spencer Tracy is phenomenal as Skeffington, once again giving a great deal of depth to a character and making him larger than life. The supporting cast features a wealth of veteran acting talent including Pat O’Brien, James Gleason, Ricardo Cortez, Edward Brophy, Dianne Foster, Frank McHugh, Wallace Ford, O.Z. Whitehead, and Carleton Young, all of whom hand in superior performances. The film also boasts some fantastic cinematography, courtesy of Charles Lawton, Jr. It’s also worth nothing that John Ford won the Best Director award and Spencer Tracy won the Best Actor award at the National Board of Review for their work on the film.
The timing of The Last Hurrah being released on Blu-ray by Twilight Time couldn’t be any more impeccable, due to the current state of the world. The HD master provided by Sony is simply spectacular, with terrific grayscale, deep black levels, and excellent contrast. Film grain is present but unobtrusive, and no DNR has been applied. It’s a crisp, clear, and impressive image. The audio is included in English 2.0 DTS-HD, which is rather pleasant. The levels of dialogue, with people shouting amongst the score, are perfectly fine. No dropouts or other problems were detected. Optional subtitles in English SDH are also offered for those who need them.
The special features include an audio commentary with film historians Lem Dobbs, Julie Kirgo, and Nick Redman (which is highly informative), an isolated music track, the original theatrical trailer, a scroll-through of the current Twilight Time catalogue, and an 8-page insert booklet with liner notes by Julie Kirgo.
The Last Hurrah is a must-see film. Whether politics is your favorite subject or not, John Ford fans should unquestionably give this gem a spin. Twilight Time has given the film the respect that it deserves with a splendid and highly recommended release!
– David Steigman