review for The Best Man on AllMovie

The Best Man (1964)
by Richard Gilliam review

The Best Man was writer Gore Vidal's liberal counterpoint to Allen Drury's conservative Advise and Consent. Both stories hinge on the potential for blackmail in the political arena, specifically in regard to homosexual relationships. Vidal's dialogue is sharp and insightful, and the film features superb performances from Henry Fonda, Lee Tracy, and Cliff Robertson. Director Franklin J. Schaffner carefully underplays key moments to build toward the film's dramatic payoff. Much of the film's brooding atmosphere is courtesy of Haskell Wexler's expressive black & white cinematography. Both Best Man and Advise represented a small but important step away from the film industry's self-censorship, resulting in the abandonment of the Hays Code and the establishment of the MPAA ratings system. Though Hollywood was still years away from presenting realistic portrayals of gay men, any overt reference at all to homosexuality was unusual in a film of the early 1960s.