What better movie to talk about during Fictional Presidents day on TCM than the 1964 Warner Brothers comedy ‘Kisses for my President’? TCM is featuring the men. During our current strange campaign for president it seems appropriate to feature an obscure 52 year old movie that had the novel idea that a woman could be president.
Polly Bergen as President (34 at the time) and Fred MacMurray as 1st Lady (56 at the time) a teenage daughter and a conniving middle grade son what’s not to be funny about this scenario? Being president is a serious job and Polly as President is one to be proud of. Her credentials: daughter of an Ambassador, niece of a Senator, a former Judge, a wife, mother and a graduate of Radcliff.
Most of this movie is Fred dealing with the comedic male point of view as the husband of the President: the first night in the White House Fred being shown to his adjoining First Lady Bedroom decorated to the hilt in French provincial decor (including the telephone). Fred & Polly’s first night alone together in three months interrupted by a phone call from the Secretary of State (two phones at the President’s bedside one white/one red). Fred in pajamas and robe wandering the halls encountering White House tours while looking for the family dining room and breakfast. Fred being shown to the First Ladies office where he contends with his Personal and Social Secretaries (Fred has three phones) who rattle off the charity drives he will be heading: Ship Christenings, Dedications, and Honorary Chairmanships to various ladies groups, banquets, teas and receptions. A definite challenge for a man forced to sell his electronics research company because of government contracts and ethics. As he looks at the former first ladies portraits on the wall of the office he imagines seeing his face in place of Mrs. William Howard Taft hat and all.
Polly…well she has to deal with her opponent Senator Walsh played by the wonderful Edward Andrews. In the 1960’s if you needed a character actor to play smarmy crooked characters especially politicians Edward was your man. When the Senator asks for foreign aid to be continued to a South American dictator that employs only his relatives in high government offices and hasn’t had an election in 25 years you know there are ulterior motives afoot. Polly is not so dumb, during a visit by the dictator (played expertly by Eli Wallach) who else to call upon to show the dictator around town (and keep an eye on him) but the First Husband.
The Other Woman, well there always seems to be another woman whether in fiction or in real life. In this President’s case it is in the guise of Doris Reed Weaver; Arlene Dahl as Polly’s former Radcliff roommate owner of a string of worldwide popular Beauty Salons and the woman that Fred did not marry in favor of marrying Polly’s character. Doris Reed Weaver is divorced and Fred is being neglected…Senate hearings, crooked dictators, alleged Russian interference, newspaper hyperbole… SSDD (same s%#t different day).
It’s 1964 how do you end a movie like this? You make Fred the Hero; though tempted he remains faithful to his wife, they do get to spend a romantic evening together in the White House which results in the 1st woman President resigning from office because she gets pregnant. Why does she have to resign? Well due to the strenuous duties of a Presidency and the probability of losing the baby.
Fred MacMurray closing line: it took 40 million women to get her into office and one man to get her out.
Arlene Dahl: why did you let her run for President?
Fred MacMurray: Because I never thought she would make it!