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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 <email@example.com>
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 signing the order for the Ambassador to Greece, Hammond dips his pen twice in the inkwell in both the medium and wide shots. See more »
Gabriel Over The White House comes to the movie going public, courtesy of William Randolph Hearst's Cosmopolitan Productions, at a very special time in history when there was grave worry as to whether America and the capitalist system would survive. What producer Hearst is telling us is how he feels that the Deity if he intervened would solve all our problems.
Walter Huston is our star/protagonist here, a newly elected president who is no Franklin D. Roosevelt, but rather more of a Warren Harding type. Catch Huston offering up the usual political pablum at his press conference in terms of what to do about the Depression. It's rather depressing. Later on at his cabinet meeting some issue about an appointment comes up and he just remarks that if you boys in the cabinet and party feel this way, who is he to question it.
But then our president who the Secret Service would NEVER let get behind the wheel of a car totals the White House limousine and goes into a coma from the concussion. It's at that point Huston gets a heavenly intervention into his nature and starts enacting policies, presumably that God and William Randolph Hearst would approve, not necessarily in that order.
Huston makes first an amiable nonentity and then a stern statesman in the White House. It's like he's playing two different parts and in fact that's precisely the point of the film.
Besides economic want, folks in 1932-33 were very much concerned about the rise of lawlessness, organized criminal gangs that grew out of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution. A lot of what Huston does could be construed as worse than the disease in terms of civil liberties. Repealing Prohibition was something only a few wackos like Alfred E. Smith wanted and Smith was Hearst's mortal political enemy.
From the man who couldn't wait to get to war in Cuba in 1898, William Randolph Hearst had become a pacifist and an advocate for disarmament and he proves it by going farther than either the Washington or London conferences on that subject. Adolph Hitler was on the verge of becoming Germany's Chancellor at the time Gabriel Over The White House came out, someone like him wasn't factored into the equation for world peace.
All in the name of peace, prosperity, and the coming millenia and since it's all directed from heaven, we don't and aren't supposed to question it. The perfect world in the mind of William Randolph Hearst.
Gabriel Over The White House tells us a lot about America midst the Depresssion, our hopes, fears, and aspirations. And it offers the more authoritarian method of attaining those aspirations. It's an entertaining film, but it's more a psycho-political picture of the USA at that point in our history.
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