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
According to soundman Edward Bernds: "Allan Dwan started the picture and worked about a week or ten days on it... Dwan made even Walter Huston look bad, and we wondered how long it would take Cohn and Briskin to wake up to the fact. When [Capra] took the picture over, threw out everything that had been shot before, and started over again, I fully realized, for the first time, what directing really was. Scenes that had been dull became lively, performances that had been dead came alive." 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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Fast-moving story about how a banker (Walter Huston) with down-to-earth values weathers a financial storm. Plusses: Huston's consummate performance. The bank itself: grand and gleaming in the style of a great palace. The care with which the cumbersome, downright ritualistic opening and closing of bank's massive vault is photographed. A nicely written part for Kay Johnson as Huston's neglected but gallant wife. A more or less constant parade of bit players that at one point ricochet across the screen, in a sequence illustrating how a rumor can start a firestorm of exaggeration - hence the title, "AMERICAN MADNESS." Robert Riskin's realistic, casual-sounding dialogue presented in overlapping fashion - an early Capra trademark. Exciting mob scenes as the depositors rush into the bank in panic. Cinematography from many different angles and plenty of tracking shots through busy frames. Supporting player Gavin Gordon's curiously plucked eyebrows. A minus: The resolution of the plot's financial crisis is too sudden and arbitrary, but the way the personal relationships work out is clever and believable. The positives, however, far, far outweigh the negatives and again it must be said that this is an outstanding Huston performance which shows his great range; for him alone the movie is well worth seeing.
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