Socially-conscious banker Thomas Dickson faces a crisis when his protégé is wrongly accused for robbing the bank, gossip of the robbery starts a bank run, and evidence suggests Dickson's wife had an affair...all in the same day.
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It's the 1930s, the Depression era, and the Board of Directors of Thomas Dickson's bank want Dickson to merge with New York Trust and resign. He refuses. One night, Dickson's bank is robbed of $100,000. The suspect is Matt Brown, an ex-convict whom Dickson hired and appointed Chief Teller. Brown, who's very loyal to Dickson, refuses to say where he was that night. He actually has two witnesses for his alibi, Mrs. Dickson and fellow worker Cyril Cluett, but Brown is protecting Dickson from finding out that Mrs. Dickson was with Cluett having a romantic evening. Cluett, who has a $50,000 gambling debt, is actually responsible for the robbery, but lets Brown take the rap. Will Brown's loyalty to Mr. Dickson pay off, or send him back to prison? Written by
According to soundman Edward Bernds: "Allan Dwan started the picture and worked about a week or ten days on it... Dwan made even Walter Huston look bad, and we wondered how long it would take Cohn and Briskin to wake up to the fact. When [Capra] took the picture over, threw out everything that had been shot before, and started over again, I fully realized, for the first time, what directing really was. Scenes that had been dull became lively, performances that had been dead came alive." See more »
During the robbery scene, a cable can be seen protruding from the guard's trousers. See more »
Matt! I want you both to take the day off, go downtown, get a license, and get married right away.
[Matt starts to protest]
I don't want to hear any more about it. If you don't get married I'm going to fire the both of you. Helen, while you're downtown, you might stop in and make reservations for the bridal suite on the Berengeria, sailing next week.
Gee, thanks, Mr. Dickson.
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The conservative and liberal sides of America seem to have been brought out in sharp relief during the Great Depression. This was a time when solutions were needed. "American Madness" shows the liberal side fighting for fairness and prosperity by what seems odd today, a bank president. The president's populist stance with his loans seems quaint now with today's number-crunching banking corporations, and maybe his was an unrealistic character, or at least rare. Think of the bank president in the "Bank Dick" offering W.C. Field's character a copy of the bank's calendar, "Springtime in Lompoc" and "my heartiest handshake" for saving the money from a robbery. More realistic, if comedic. But think of this: Robert Osborn, on TCM, commented that the movie was inspired by The Bank of Italy, founded in San Francisco by Amadeo Giannini, a bank geared toward working class people and it's reputation was one of basing its loan approvals heavily on the character of the borrower. In 1929, Giannini merged his bank with Bank of America and became its chairman. (By the way, Bank of America financed Harry Cohn's Columbia Pictures which made "American Madness".) Which is all to say that Capra's films so often show a more humane side of people in this country, which of course was there, but it all can seem a little corny in our cynical age. Thing is, what happens if you go to Bank of America now? Will they loan you money based on your "character" ?
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