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.
A simple, small town man inherits a massive fortune, making him the target for scammers and publicity-seekers. Overwhelmed by the turn his life has taken, and awoken to another use for his new-found fortune, he makes a momentous decision.
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
Duncan Knowles, a former Bank of America historian states, "Frank Capra definitely told us, and the entire National Italian American Association, that when he made the move American Madness, he based the banker character on A. P. Giannini, that is fact." Giannini was the founder of the Bank of America. 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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American Madness is a somewhat dated film from the Depression made dated by the banking legislation of the New Deal. This film was made in the last year of the Herbert Hoover presidency. In the following year, in one of the landmark reforms of the first hundred days of Franklin Roosevelt was the creation of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Banks in fact have failed since then, but we've never seen the disastrous runs on them that characterized previous times, that are shown so graphically in this early Frank Capra film.
Comparing this with another Capra classic, imagine if you will instead of old man Potter running the bank in Bedford Falls, we had kindly old Peter Bailey instead. The man who believed in investing in his clients at the Building&Loan and passed that philosophy on to his son George.
That's what bank president Walter Huston believes in as well. But he's got a board of directors on his case just as Samuel S. Hinds as Peter Bailey. But he's got one thing that Hinds didn't have, a bored and flirtatious wife in Kay Johnson, ready to respond to the amorous advances of Gavin Gordon, one of the bank vice presidents.
Huston has a surrogate son though, like his George in the person of head teller Pat O'Brien. Pat works some wonders, save's Huston-Johnson marriage, helps stop a bank panic that results from a holdup that was clearly an inside job, and gets out from under suspicion of being involved in that same crime.
The climax of American Madness might be tied up a little too neatly, but Capra was honing his populist movie making skills in this film.
And if it's dated, there's reason to be thankful it is.
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