Gabriel Over The White House (1933)

  • I’m sure everyone wants to hear more about the White House these days, huh?
  • Directed by Gregory LaCava.
  • In this world, Walter Huston (Judson Hammond) has just been elected president.
  • Dickie Moore plays Jim, the president’s nephew. (Jim doesn’t want to be a soldier when he grows up – he wants to be gangster!)
  • We also meet Beekman the Hot Stuff Young Secretary played by Franchot Tone (not that his character seems like an arrogant sort of fellow – I just think that any role played by 1933 Franchot Tone should be labeled by some such designation, because, well, hello), as well as Ms. Molloy (Karen Morley) – one of two people who can see the President at any hour of the day or night (and we all know what that means).
  • This trifecta (the President, Beekman, & Ms. Molloy) quickly agree on nicknames for each other – Major, Beek, & Pendy (Molloy’s first name is, rather bizarrely, Pendola). Very cute. This makes it way easier for me, in taking notes.
  • Boy…MajorPresident Jud is up against a lot, in Fictional 1933 America. A Depression, gangsters, rampant bootlegging…I do not envy his position in the slightest.
  • What a nincompoop! The President insists on driving his own car to an event, & for some unknown reason, really wants to hit 110 on the speedometer. (Like…you’re already the goddamn president – what the fuck else is there for you to prove to people?) Anyway, of course he crashes going around a curve, and winds up concussed & skull-fractured, in a coma.

Brilliant job, Mr. President!

  • Dr. Eastman (Samuel Hinds) continues telling the press that the President is still unconscious, for I think about 3 weeks. Pendy & Beek haven’t been allowed to see him, & finally they demand that they be given some sort of substantive update on the President’s condition…or be let in to see him…or something other than “the President is still unconscious.”
  • To this, Dr. E is like, ‘Yep, well – the President is actually awake & has been for the last two weeks.’

He has?!’ Beek & Pendy say. ‘What has he been doing all this time?!’

‘Reading & thinking, mostly,’ responds Dr. E.

Oh, okay. We’ve been telling the American people & the President’s most trusted advisors that the President has been unresponsive & in a coma – but actually he’s alive & well & getting a lot of work done. No biggie.

  • Sucks for Pendy! MajorPresident Jud the SpeedRacer appears to have forgotten their romantic affair & is now treating her as a legitimate personal assistant. No more canoodling for you, Pendola – go get him those reports!
  • Concussed President SpeedRacer is a new, down-to-business sort of man – he wants action, and he wants it now!

“Well, I’ll be damned,” a member of Jud’s cabinet says.

  • “I’m not a very religious person, Beek – but does it seem too fanciful to believe that God might have sent the angel Gabriel to do for Jud Hammond what he did for Daniel?” — Pendy

……Fanciful? That? No, not at all!

‘Hm,’ says Beek. ‘Tell me more.’

  • Meanwhile, the Unemployed Army of America (I’m not calling them that – the movie calls them that) marches on Washington, led by a man named John Bronson (David Landau)…who is very anti-climatically assassinated along the way by gangsters who want the status quo to remain the same. And New President Jud is like, ‘Chill out, y’all – I’ll get you some stuff like clothes, food, & construction jobs.’ And the masses are like, ‘Yay!’
  • When President Jud requests the resignations of every one of his cabinet members, Congress is like, ‘Yo, Jud – you’re acting totally contrarily to both your party’s wishes & your campaign promises – communing with a bunch of unemployed protesters was not part of the bargain.’
  • Jud’s like, ‘Cool. Y’all can all go on vacation, and I’ll take over the government – just, you know, like…by myself.’
  • “This is a dictatorship!” one Congressman bellows.

“Words do not frighten me,” Jud assures them.

But like, Jud – it’s called checks & balances, dude! You can’t just take over a second branch of government & be like, ‘It’s okay – me ‘n’ Gabriel got this.’ It doesn’t work that way!!!

  • Oh, Christ. President SpeedRacer just declared a state of Martial Law.
  • He’s proposing housing laws, banking laws, racketeering laws. You go, Jud. Look at you accomplishing things…now that you’ve made yourself king & fired/eliminated all of your adversaries.
  • Next, President Jud calls the most notorious gangster in the country (Nick Diamond, played by C. Henry Gordon) in for a White House meeting. He’s basically like, ‘Hey, Gangster Diamond – you’ve made roughly $100 million in profits from your bootlegging racket…it’d be swell if you’d donate it to the American people. They’d really like that!’

Gangster Diamond’s like, ‘Hell no! Instead, howsabout I blow up a government-run liquor store & do a drive-by shooting at the White House?’

  • Poor Pendy is wounded in this shooting.

(Btw, she & Beek have become a real cute potential item, in the weeks (months?) (probably months) that have followed President SpeedRacer’s loss of his romantic memories.)

Aw, Beek loves her a lot! He just said so. That’s fucking adorable.

  • ‘Great news!’ says Jud. ‘I am forming a police army to eliminate gangsters, and I am making you (Beek) the captain.’

‘Excellent!’ everyone says…because at this point, why the hell not?

  • They bomb the shit out of Gangster Diamond’s abode – and in so doing, end all racketeering & gangstering in America, period.
  • Next order of business is calling the important leaders of 15 European nations aboard a steamship & demanding they pay back their monetary debts to America, in full, immediately. ‘Does this boat meeting really need to be broadcast live to all of America?’ says one of the foreign leaders.

‘Yes,’ says Jud.

  • (This movie is so absurd – I can’t decide whether I like it or not.)
  • While he has the European leaders onboard Steamship America, President Jud is like, ‘Hey, if you look over yonder – you’ll see me explode two antiquated boats that are floating over there, just for the hell of it.’

(The boats are indeed exploded & sink in a timely fashion. We, like the European leaders, are like, ‘Huh?’)

  • Oh, sure – as a result, “The Washington Covenant” is signed…and peace, prosperity, and honor are established as law, worldwide. ‘All of you must be perfect in all ways, otherwise we’ll explode you like we did those two technologically insufficient boats,’ this seems to suggest.

Stellar.

  • Even more stellar – Pendy has made a full recovery, from her bullet wounds.
  • There’s an awkwardly long shot of President Jud signing The Washington Covenant with the feather pen Pendy gifted him at the beginning of his presidency – and then he collapses, on the signing table. (Like – I just want to make sure I convey how awkwardly long the shot of his pen on the paper is…it lasts so fucking long.)
  • Anyhow, when he comes to, he has re-personalitied into his original form.

President Jud: Does the President of the United States meet with your approval?

Pendy: He’s proved himself one of the greatest men who ever lived.

(Then he dies.)

  • Y’all. This movie was fucking weird.
  • How many times did they play “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” in this? Like 90?
  • Walter Huston wasn’t exactly marvelous – but he wasn’t really bad, either. For as much as happened in this – there wasn’t really much meat to any of the parts, as crazy as that sounds.
  • I feel like there was enormous potential with the characters of Beek, Pendy, Bronson, & even Neil Diamond (whatever – Nick Diamond – same thing) – but it seems the movie & the way it was written barely scratched the surface on any of them, which is a shame.
  • Final note of interest: this was produced by William Randolph Hearst. Bizarre, no?
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