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Newly inaugurated President Judson Hammond is content to live out the next four years exercising a hands-off approach and leaving the problems of Depression America to local authorities. But after a miraculous recovery from an auto accident, Hammond is ready to take on every social ill and neither Congress, gangsters nor the nations of the world will stop him. Written by
Erik Gregersen <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The protest march of the "army of the unemployed" in the story was no doubt a reference to the protest march of the "Bonus Army" in 1932, where veterans of WWI marched on Congress to demand payment of promised bonuses. They were attacked with tanks and tear gas by the U.S. Army led by Gen. Douglas MacArthur on orders of President Herbert Hoover. William Randolph Hearst, who railed against that action in his newpapers, saw to it that the President in this film helped the people. Meanwhile, Louis B. Mayer, a staunch Republican, delayed the movie until Hoover was out of office. See more »
When John Bronson and his daughter, Alice, are seated on a bench with the "Army of the Unemployed", he is approached by someone and gets up from the bench. In the next shot, he is again seated and gets up again. See more »
Mr. President, my paper's indictment against the government is a staggering one. Starvation is wanton everywhere, from coast to coast and from Canada to Mexico. Millions of dollars are poured into new battleships. Farmers burn corn and wheat, food is thrown into the sea while men and women are begging for bread. Men are freezing without coats while cotton rots in the field. Thousands are homeless, millions of vacant homes. Over 5000 gang land murders last year, and only five gangsters in prison...
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I basically checked out "Gabriel Over the White House" because of Walter Huston, an actor I have always considered one of the greats. He doesn't disappoint as the President of the United States in this bizarre fantasy, produced by William Randolph Hearst and promoting his ideas of fascism.
I gave this film a high mark (8) not because I loved it but because it is a fascinating film from a historical point of view. Newly-elected President Hammond (Huston) pays lip service to the needs of the depression-ridden people by uttering platitudes, and meanwhile, is content to do what the party tells him. Meanwhile, he brings his girlfriend on as his personal assistant. He pays no attention to the head of a group of unemployed men who plan to march on Washington, though it isn't made clear why his party isn't interested in doing anything to stop the depression. One day, while driving his car at breakneck speed (as if all Presidents are encouraged to do this), he crashes and slips into a coma. When he comes to, he hears a horn playing a passage from Brahms Symphony 1 in C Minor, Opus 68 and has a change of heart. This supposedly is the angel Gabriel checking in. After that, he becomes a dictator of sorts, usurping the system of checks and balances. He forms a WPA of sorts for the unemployed, has executions of gangsters, and forms the Washington covenant to reduce arms buildup from countries around the world. Supposedly there was an assassination attempt that takes place in the film that was cut after an attempt was made on Roosevelt's life.
Supposedly this film was shelved by a nervous Louis B. Mayer until after FDR was elected. It's surprising he released it at all. There is supposedly an alternate version that acknowledges the dangers of fascism. Whatever version you see, this is a film very much of its time as far as the political climate and the thinking of a powerful man like Hearst, and as such makes for remarkable viewing.
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