POSTED August 11 2012

Veeps on screen: Who gets your vote?

Glenn Close as Vice-President Bennett in "Air Force One"

In nonfiction movies, the United States vice-president either is generally tolerated as a superfluous figure or worried about as the guy (or gal, in the cases of Joan Allen in The Contender and Glenn Close in Air Force One) a heartbeat away from being Leader of the Free World.

Today’s announcement of Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney’s running mate triggered thoughts  of veeps on screen. My vote for Platonic ideal movie vice-president is Harry Carey in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. While today we see Carey as a wise, supremely calm figure, in 1939 Sen. Alben Barkley railed against his performance, calling it “a grotesque distortion” of the president of the Senate, “as grotesque as anything ever seen! Imagine the Vice President of the United States winking at a pretty girl in the gallery in order to encourage a filibuster!” Ambassador Joseph Kennedy, father of a future president, worried that Capra’s political parable would cause the United States to lose prestige in Europe.

A common plot twist in political movies is that the vice-president, overlooked and underappreciated,  suddenly becomes a critical figure. Consider Lew Ayres as vice-president in Advise and Consent, gently seizing the spotlight after prolonged humiliation or Ben Kingsley in Dave, doing same after surviving repeated backstabs from presidential adviser Frank Langella. These two movie veeps get the award for greeting humiliation with humility.

The cautionary movie vice-presidential hopeful has to be James Gregory’s Sen. Iselin in The Manchurian Candidate, the Sen. McCarthy-like puppet for the Communists.

The exemplary screen veep is Close’s Kathryn Bennett in Air Force One. Despite Congressional pressure, she remains loyal to the president (Harrison Ford) and her actions make it possible to maintain the line, “We don’t negotiate with terrorists.”

Which screen veep would you vote for? Who am I forgetting?





  1. Caroline Piven says:

    Joan Allen as the almost

  2. David Cohen says:

    Shortly after his vice presidency, Alben Barkley had his own weekly TV series on NBC called MEET THE VEEP. I find that particularly amusing for some reason.

  3. Miz Val says:

    Come on people if the Republican Party wanna really win they need a powerful strong black women in their corner …not you Condi! I’m talking about Madea! Ma to the D-E-A!

  4. wwolfe says:

    My first thought was Kingsley in “Dave,” with Allen a close second in “The Contender.” Donald Moffat throwing a temper tantrum in the back seat of his limo in “The Right Stuff” was memorable, although not for positive reasons. (Not sure if LBJ was Prez or Veep at that moment, so he might not count.) It’s odd to think of movies where we never see the Vice President: Seven Days in May, Fail Safe, The American President. In art, as in life, holders of the office tend to be afterthoughts.

  5. Quora says:

    Who are some of the best fictional American Presidents in cinematic and television history?…

    My favorite storyline is the beleaguered vice-president who is more fit for the job than the sitting president and is ready if the reins are passed: Lew Ayres as Harley Hudson in Advise and Consent, Ben Kingsley as vice-president Nance in Dave. Another…

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