Henry Fonda and Inga Swenson converse between takes. Swenson played the wife of Senator Brigham Anderson (Don Murray). The film centers around the Senate's effort to ”advise and consent” to the nomination of Robert Leffingwell (Fonda) for secretary of state. Allegations of past Communist Party membership placed Leffingwell's nomination in jeopardy .
Early in the film, Senate Majority Leader Bob Munson (Pidgeon) talks with the president (Franchot Tone). The majority whip (Paul Ford) is seated to the right, and director Preminger stands to the left.
Paul Ford, known to television audiences for his role as a colonel in the Sergeant Bilko series, played the Senate majority whip.
Gene Tierney played Dolly Harrison, an influential Washington hostess whose home was the site of several important scenes in the movie. She was also the love interest of Walter Pidgeon's character. Darryl F. Zanuck, founder of 20th Century Fox, called Tierney ”the most beautiful woman in movie history.”
Charles Laughton played Senator Seabright ”Seab” Cooley, a southern senator opposed to Leffingwell's nomination as secretary of state. Laughton arrived in Washington several weeks before the filming and studied with Mississippi Senator John C. Stennis in order to prepare for the role. The extra work paid off, and Laughton stole virtually every scene in which he appeared.
Don Murray portrayed Senator Brigham Anderson, a key vote in the Leffingwell fight.