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|Index||52 reviews in total|
From the very moment I started watching Executive Suite until the very end, I was amazed at how accurate the producer and director and the stars of this film portrayed big business as it has always been and unfortunately as it always will be! Big business films are never dated! The same backstabbing political games were there then and are still there now! Sure, this film was made in 1954 and it is now almost 50 years later and the way in which business is transacted has changed but big business itself hasn't changed a bit. Watch the movie and you will see. Everyone was superb in this film and even though Paul Douglas didn't get very good reviews, I personally thought that he was one of the best actors in this great film. Barbara Stanwyck whose screen time was very short, turned in a grand performance as a family stockholder. Nina Foch was never better in the role of the secretary of the big boss and more than deserved her academy award nomination for best supporting actress even though she did not win. I also liked the casting of William Holden and June Allyson together; at first I thought an odd combination but they worked well together! You gotta see this one! Lots of suspense!
A rare look into the business of running a business - a corporation -
this is surprisingly entertaining, for adults, I would gather. In the
first few minutes, we observe the death of the President of this
company, from his p.o.v.-an artful beginning from director Wise. There
are 5 Vice Presidents, all of equal rank. One of them will be the new
Prez. The selection procedure is pretty simple. The Board, comprised of
7 members (2 other stockholders besides the 5 V.P.'s) votes yes or no
on whomever is nominated. 4 'yes' votes or more gets the job.
The cast is superb, really first rate, but the one to watch, for me, was Fredric March as Shaw, the V.P./Controller, whose sole criteria for success is the bottom line. He's smooth, too smooth, and sweats a bit too much. You'll note that nothing is ever seen of his private life, unlike the others. All his energy is geared around the company, but ultimately for his own benefit, even if he doesn't see it that way. All the actors are very articulate, delivering their lines with impressive precision. The maneuvering done by each of the 5 V.P.'s is something to see; one front-runner (Pidgeon) for the top job seems a shoo-in, but just as quickly this sense evaporates. Any of the 5 appears to be the man for the job at one point or another - the decision and vote needs to be reached quickly, before the company starts to suffer, so we add tension to the plot.
This picture has not really dated 50 years later, as much of the sensibilities and office politics remain unchanged today. There may be more sleaziness and unscrupulous behavior nowadays, but even this is presented in the form of one of the board members (Calhern), a sneak who sees the death of the President as just another way to make some money in stocks. After checking this out, you may want to catch the documentary "The Corporation" to get a little more insight into such an entity.
Robert Wise is perhaps better known as a director of musicals - West Side Story, The Sound of Music, Star!,etc. However, he was also adept at grabbing our attention and holding it, as with The Day The Earth Stood Still (classic sci-fi) and Somebody Up There Likes Me (launching Paul Newman as a prize fighter). Here, he takes an incredible cast, gives them each something to chew on and let's us in on the fun. It also won Academy Award nominations for Best Art Direction, costumes and Cinematography. It won a special jury price at the Venice Film Festival and Golden Lion and WGA nominators for director and writer, so there's some laurels attached. There are many standout scenes and performances -- June Allyson proving she can make more out of the generic housewife and a negligee, Frederic March as a scheming, palm sweating numbers man, Shelley Winters in her bombshell mode, but remarkably restrained(and no one wants to kill her in this movie!), and then there are the standouts of Walter Pidgeon (& that voice)behind leaded glass spectacles and a wild mop of hair, Barbara Stanwyck stealing the thunder away from the major roles just by listening in her chair, with William Holden blustering his way into a couple of decent monologues(his angry white man bit isn't always as compelling from movie to movie)but Nina Foch won a best supporting actress nod for her caring and steadfast senior admin. Only Paul Douglas doesn't seem to be completely connected with his head salesman caught in a scandalous jam. Never one for a subtle role, he doesn't quite have the hang of pretending to talk to someone on a phone, but he does bring a gravitas to his situation once it's a Sword of Damocles over his head. Despite all of this mincing about characters, EXECUTIVE SUITE is a remarkably fascinating power struggle that holds up nearly fifty years later. The few quirks of the film that ground it in the the 50s are easily overpowered by a brilliant ensemble. Wise allows that none of these characters is perfect, but that makes them all the more watchable as they try to wend their way thru the maze put before them. Who needs a Max Steiner soundtrack when there's so much more to the silences between great actors. Four stars out of five - MDMPHD
For all the MGM-ness of it -- the all-star roster of contract players and freelancers, the classy production values, Louis Calhern doing his reliable devilish-rogue act -- it has touches that one associates with neither the plush studio nor the time period. It's pretty frank about high-powered execs and their mistresses, for one, and the handheld camera of the opening sequence (through unfakeable Wall Street locations, yet) and lack of background music are more typical of independent movies of a few years later. Contrast it with "Woman's World" from the same year, which is also a corporate-power-struggle yarn (and also has June Allyson as a devoted, gauche corporate wifey), but is fake from the get-go. This one is dated in Holden's we're-all-in-this-together speechifying, not to mention the one-company factory town, and Stanwyck's histrionics are a bit over the top. (Hey, I love her too; her unchecked hysterics have to be Robert Wise's fault.) But the dialogue is terser than one generally associates with Ernest Lehman, the shady stock maneuvers are unfortunately as relevant as ever, and the juicy melodramatics still pack a punch. In fact, as corporate drama goes, it's as entertaining as all getout. Fredric March is a standout in a high-powered cast, and Shelley Winters, for once, underplays.
When the president of a major furniture conglomerate drops dead, all of the
company's executives (William Holden, Barbara Stanwyck, Fredric March,
Walter Pidgeon, Paul Douglas, Louis Calhern, Dean Jagger) converge in the
executive suite for a vote on who will take over. But before this climactic
meeting takes place, we learn about each executive's motives and desires.
Make way for the clash of egos and ambitions!
Helping to define the human element of these ruthless, driven businesspeople, we gain a revealing look into the simplicity of their domestic lives. And helping to add to the intensity of this over-wrought boardroom melodrama, director Robert Wise smartly (or not so smartly, perhaps) forgoes any musical soundtrack. Instead the background is filled with the real life sounds of a major company such as this.
The all-star cast provides perhaps the biggest punch in all of "Executive Suite". Standouts particularly are Holden, Stanwyck, March, and Foch. Despite her devastating lack of screentime, Stanwyck is able to give one of the best performances of her mutifaceted career as a woman on the verge -the high-strung lover of the deceased president. In an exemplary showcase of scene-stealing, Holden has a final showdown with Stanwyck - this dynamite sequence tops them all. This smart coporate drama is given the glossed-over MGM treatment, but is nonetheless gripping and realisitic, thanks in part to outstanding performances and direction (watch for the amazing opening scene where we watch from the ailing president's point-of-view). "Executive Suite" is intelligent, mature storytelling, Hollywood style.
Bill Holden was quoted as saying that Spencer Tracy and Fredric March
were his acting ideals. Holden was fortunate enough to work with March
in two films, one of them being this one. He never worked with Tracy
however, but in this film comes close to emulating him.
Had MGM made this film 15 years earlier Spencer Tracy would have been cast in Holden's part, the young idealistic Vice President in charge of the experimental division. He has a vision as to where the company should go and his speech at the board meeting spells it out eloquently.
Most of the reviewers of this film single out Fredric March's performance as the best in this all star cast. But Holden is more than a match for March in the film and for acting kudos.
Spencer Tracy was always the actor who could deliver the long speeches the best for example, Boom Town and State of the Union. Holden goes into that category in this film.
You couldn't make Executive Suite today. Now the Board of Directors would have chosen a new president who would have shipped the factory to some third world country and left that town unemployed.
Robert Wise has taken Cameron Hawley's expose of big business shenanigans
and turned it into a smart, well-paced melodrama with some superb
performances from a highly polished cast--William Holden, Barbara Stanwyck,
Walter Pidgeon, Fredric March, June Allyson, Paul Douglas, Shelley Winters
and Nina Foch.
Fredric March comes on strong as the most ambitious candidate while Dean Jagger underplays as the weakest. Another who is remarkable in showing restraint for a change is Shelley Winters as Douglas' girlfriend who wishes he had more backbone. Barbara Stanwyck does some fireworks in a strong scene with William Holden but does a restrained piece of acting at the final board scene where she sits and listens as Holden takes command of the situation. Here she reveals without saying a word what a fine actress she is.
While most of it is given the glossy MGM treatment, the settings look realistic and there are some real shots of busy Manhattan streets and buildings. One MGM factor is missing--there is no background music, not even under the credits--remarkable for a film of this period. Somehow, it doesn't matter--and the film hasn't dated much at all. What it has to say about big business still holds true.
Nina Foch is excellent as an executive secretary and fully deserved her Academy Award nomination.
Herbert Lehman, the adapter of the novel that serves as the basis for
this corporate drama makes a tremendous contribution with his screen
play. Little seems to have changed in the way corporate America did
business then, which it still holds true today. The film, as directed
by Robert Wise, keeps us involved in the maneuvers the executives of
the company do behind the scenes when the head of the company dies
We are given a gripping drama as to what goes on among all the possible candidates to take the helm of the business. There will only be a winner, but who can be the most qualified person to take the company to do better than it had performed under the dead man? Would it be the ambitious Loren Shaw, a man with facts and figures at the tip of his fingers? Would it be Frederich Alderan, the man who has dedicated almost 30 years of his life to the business? Or would it be McDonald Walling, the younger man who knows what's wrong with the way the company has been turning inferior products to its customers?
The all star cast assembled for the film do an outstanding job guided by Mr. Wise, the director. William Holden plays Walling, the youngest of all the executives. Mr. Holden gave an inspired performance as the man who knows where the focus of the company should be, and he is decent enough not to want to be seen as pushing to get the CEO's job.
Fredric March, one of the best actors of his generation, is one of the best things in the film. His ambitious Loren Shaw, clearly, the man who makes no bones about his aspirations, is one of the best roles he played for the screen. Mr. March's portrayal of the ruthless Shaw gives us an idea of how driven some people in those high places will react knowing the power they'll yield, not caring how they will affect the lives of those under them.
The rest of the players are good. Barbara Stanwyck has a small part as the daughter of the man that created Treadway. Walter Pigeon is Fred, the man who has given his life to this company. Paul Douglas is Walter, the straying man having an illicit relation with his secretary. Louis Calhern is the reptilian Casswell, who stands to make a lot of money out of his gamble to back up Shaw. Nina Foch, the executive secretary Erica, does a fine job in projecting the sadness of a lonely woman who has probably loved the dead man Bullard. Shelley Winters only has a couple of scenes as Eva, the secretary that suddenly sees the light in her situation with Walter.
The film offers a good look at the financial district of New York as it looked in those years. It's sad to realize what the recent events have done to that part of Manhattan and how different it looks today!
Competent acting by Holden, Stanwyck and the others combine with a principled script that rises above the rabble of screenplays that don't accurately portray the responsibilities of trying to steer huge organizations. Management and negotiation courses could benefit from a showing of this movie.
I recently watched "Executive Suite" for a second time, and I recommend a second look. Watching on video tape, there were very few scenes I wanted to skip over. The striking thing is how well the movie is written, staged and acted. Knowing what was going to happen the second time around, I noticed the little clues in people's body language, actually telegraphing what they are thinking and planning; yet these are not so obvious that I noticed them on my first viewing. This happens all through the movie but especially leading up to and during the climactic board room scene. If you know what to look for, you know exactly how everyone voted on the first ballot--before Frederick March's character jumps to the wrong conclusion. Especially watch the play and interplay of Frederick March, Louis Calhern, Barbara Stanwyk and William Holden. Memorable dialogue includes William Holden's line, "Look, you can't put Millburgh--you can't put Treadway--in the hands of J. Walter Dudley." While the line only means anything in the context of this movie, it has a certain arch resonance because the characters in "Executive Suite" (based on the novel of the same name by Cameron Hawley) have deliberately evocative names: Because "Dudley" sounds like "dud," nothing should ever be put in the hands of anyone with the name J. Walter Dudley. All of the performances are very good. Walter Pidgeon and Nina Foch are understated and consequently under-rated.
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