Classic Film Guide

Gabriel Over the White House (1933)

Directed by Gregory La Cava (Walter Wanger & William Randolph Hearst were its uncredited producers), with a screenplay by Carey Wilson (additional dialogue by Betram Bloch) that was based on T.F. Tweed's British bestseller Rinehard, this interesting if flawed fantasy drama features Walter Huston as newly elected President (of the United States) Judson ‘Judd’ Hammond who, after an automobile accident and apparently divine influence (though his possession and/or actions are more demonic than angelic at times), solves all of the nation's (and then the world's) problems. Hammond becomes an FDR-like POTUS that helps the country get back on its feet and out of its Depression by putting jobless veterans to back to work through construction projects, usurping Congress's power by declaring martial law, defeating (then executing) Prohibition's gangsters (there was talk of repealing the 18th Amendment), and even solving World Peace (by forcing the disarmament of all the other nations, who were in debt to us)!

Karen Morley and Franchot Tone play the President's secretaries, Pendola ‘Pendie’ Molloy and Hartley ‘Beek’ Beekman; both are initially disappointed with Judd (aka the Major), after his inauguration & before his transformation, during which they fall in love with one another. Arthur Byron plays his campaign manager come Secretary of State Jasper Brooks, whose party ties force Hammond to fire him. Dickie Moore plays the President's young nephew Jimmy Vetter. C. Henry Gordon plays mob boss (naturally) Nick Diamond, David Landau plays the unemployeds' (and "Million Man March") leader John Bronson; Jean Parker (without a line to speak? in only her third credited role) plays Bronson's daughter Alice. Samuel Hinds plays the President's physician H.L. Eastman. Even Mischa Auer appears (uncredited) as a reporter who's initially disillusioned by the President's cavalier attitude (before he changes after his driving the Presidential limo too fast and causes his own life altering accident). A most unusual political film!

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