A movie is almost guaranteed success with names like Frank Capra, Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, and Angela Lansbury involved. This classic film digs into the world of dirty politics, broken marriages and idealism. Granted, State of the Union won't be remembered as one of the best Capra films or the best Tracy/Hepburn pairing, but it's still a gratifying classic film.
We meet Kay Thorndyke (Angela Lansbury) when she comes to see her dying father. Her father admitted he wanted a boy, but he got more with daughter Kay, a manipulative and cold, calculating woman. Lansbury played the role perfectly making it easy for the audience to despise her in spite of knowing the sweet characters she came to be known for in later years. Lansbury later deliciously played another frighteningly ruthless character in the political thriller, The Manchurian Candidate.
Kay takes over her father's newspaper business, determined to help someone become the President of the United States so she can gain control that comes with the job. She picks her lover, Grant Matthews (Spencer Tracy), a businessman who builds and flies airplanes, a reluctant candidate with high ideals which she uses to convince him to run.
Kay hires the equally shrewd and corrupt Jim Conover (Adolphe Menjou), a man with campaign experience, to manage the campaign. Also on board is Spike McManus (Van Johnson), a star reporter from Thorndyke's newspaper to provide the comedy relief and a little goodness to this nasty team. The team convinces Grant's estranged wife Mary Matthews (Katharine Hepburn) to join him on the campaign trail portraying themselves as a happily married couple.
Ironically, though the team picks Grant as the candidate because of his idealism, it's that same characteristic that creates a problem for Conover and the campaign. The campaign hits bumps along the way as Grant loses his connection with the American public, Mary tries to convince Grant to stick with his beliefs, Conover and Thornydyke are determined to control every aspect of the campaign, and Grant continues to put his wild flying skills to use.