Friday, March 08, 2013

Give 'Em Hell, Harry! (1975)

Give ‘Em Hell, Harry!
Directed by Steve Binder
Starring: James Whitmore
Grade: C+

‘Harry’ is a difficult film to judge, given that it’s essentially a videotaped production of a stage play, and not a particularly accomplished one at that; there are many inexplicable close-ups of its actor when he isn’t facing the audience, and when the performance cuts to an interval or ceases it appears as if the cameraman has become lost in the crowd. But this was 1975, and cinema-goers were fortunate to have even seen this on the big screen at all, foremost a vehicle for James Whitmore’s Academy Award nomination but also a canny exploiter of the Watergate scandal as a catalyst for considering the core values of modern American politics. Whitmore’s turn is, quite literally, a tour-de-force, largely successful at expressing the practical habits of Harry Truman and his humanist condemnation of prejudice and bigotry. The humour itself is rather tame, and you can sense the audience laughing before they’ve even had time to digest the joke, the actor’s intense delivery not always lending itself to clarity of thought or consideration. I don’t know enough about Truman to know if this is an accurate or founded portrayal of the man, but as a nostalgic yearn for integrity in Washington, it’s quite an enamouring showcase.

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