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.
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
Allan Dwan, who started the picture but was replaced by Capra, later made "The Inside Story" for Republic in 1948, a movie that had a similar outlook and message as "American Madness." 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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Early Frank Capra Depression-era drama packs quite a punch...
WALTER HUSTON is the good guy in Capra's "American Madness." As bank manager, he wants everyone to have a fair share of borrowing money, whether or not his background is fully vetted. All the other corporate members on his banking staff have conflicting opinions, which is only part of the set-up for the story.
The romantic subplot has his wife (CONSTANCE CUMMINGS) mistakenly believed by employee PAT O'BRIEN to be having an affair with GAVIN GORDON.
The plot thickens when Gordon owes gambling money and the criminal mob wants him to let them have access to the the bank vault, in exchange for which they'll let him in on the cut. He lets himself be used as a pawn.
When the robbery is pulled and a bank employee is killed, it's O'Brien who becomes the chief suspect because he refuses to tell what he knows about his whereabouts since it involves telling Huston that he caught Cummings and Gordon having a rendezvous in Gordon's apartment. He almost gets accused of the set-up because he's an ex-con.
The movie really hits its stride when rumors spread like wildfire that millions of dollars have been stolen. Panic ensues and the madness causes a run on the bank by anxious customers. Capra ties up all the plot threads in tidy style before the fadeout, during which the turnaround of emotions is similar to what happens with the townspeople in his later hit, IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE.
The turnaround is really too simplistic to be believable, but that's Capra-corn. A bit hokey, but the story itself is timely and interesting and makes good use of its Depression-era background.
The opulent art deco sets for the bank and the strikingly impressive bank vault itself, add greatly to the film's grand production values.
Huston is excellent as the bank manager with a heart of gold. The supporting cast is competent, with Pat O'Brien showing a more thoughtful side to his personality, giving dimension to his usual brash, fast-talking persona.
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