Advise And Consent | 1962
The President (Franchot Tone) runs into trouble when he attempts to appoint liberal Robert Leffingwell (Henry Fonda) as Secretary of State. A cracking cast, including Charles Laughton in his last role, relish the political chicanery, blackmail and closet homosexuality around Washington DC.
The movie was filmed almost entirely on real Washington DC locations. The only purpose-built set is the thoroughly convincing, full-size recreation of the Senate Chamber (a long-standing rule forbids photography here), constructed at Columbia Studios on Gower Street in Hollywood.
Considering the content of the film, director Otto Preminger managed get to an astonishing amount of co-operation from government departments for location filming.
The centre of all the game-playing and manipulating is, of course, the Capitol itself, home of the US Congress, where scenes were filmed in the Great Rotunda beneath the capitol’s dome, and in the historic Reception Room just off the Senate Chamber. Despite heightened security, the building is open to the public for guided tours: Visiting the Capitol.
You can get free tickets for tours on a first-come, first-served basis, at the Capitol Guide Service kiosk on the curved sidewalk southwest of the Capitol (near the intersection of First Street, SW, and Independence Avenue). Ticket distribution begins at 9.00 a.m. daily, and ticketholders are directed to the South Visitor Receiving Facility, south of the Capitol. (metro: Capitol South, Union Station).
Scheming Southern senator Seabright Cooley (Laughton) arranges a clandestine meeting with the mysterious ‘Mr Fletcher’ on the Ellipse of the Mall, the two-mile stretch of lawn neatly separating DC into north and south, in front of the Washington Monument, the 555-foot obelisk – sorry, that’s 555 feet, five-and-one-eighth inches – on the Mall at 15th Street (there’s a free elevator to the top if you’re willing to queue) (metro: Smithsonian).
He investigates the employment record of weaselly Herbert Gelman (Burgess Meredith) at the Treasury Building, Pennsylvania Avenue NW at 15th Street. If you book in advance you can tour the magnificent interior of this imposing Greek Revival building (metro: Farragut West, McPherson Square).
The canteen, where Senator Brigham Anderson (Don Murray) receives one of the series of threatening phone calls, is also in the Treasury Building.
The hearing of the ‘Sub-committee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’ – which tries, unsuccessfully, to discredit Leffingwell – was filmed in the Caucus Room.
The airport, used by Anderson for his stealthy trip to New York, was DCA, now Reagan National Airport, over the Potomac, three and a half miles south of downtown on the George Washington Memorial Parkway.
The President’s address to the White House Press Corps was shot in the ballroom of the Sheraton-Park Hotel, now the St Regis Washington DC, 923 16th Street at K Street (metro: Farragut West, McPherson Square), in the Crystal Room, where DC journos do regularly interview politicians.