Review – Gabriel Over The White House

December 3, 2008

Remember I’m a working man – takes a little time to get a post up sometimes…

Anyway, Dirty Harry over at Dirty Harry’s place (who’s closing up shop to move to a different pay grade and website – congrats!) recommended watching this movie.

I can see why William Randolph Hearst might have bankrolled this movie – it felt a lot like propaganda. Based on an “anonymous” novel (Wikipedia says the novel was written by Thomas Frederick Tweed), Walter Huston stars as Judson Hammond, a glad-handing veteran (I assume, since he wants everybody in the beginning of the film to call him “Major”) who gets elected President in the middle of Depression I. 


He’s portrayed much like a GWB caricature – giving favors to his cronys, playing with his nephew while an important speech by the leader of the “Unemployed Army” (a barely disguised Bonus Army reference).

While racing his presidential limo, he gets into a car crash, and after awakening, loses his sense of humor, his libido (disintereted in his girlfriend/”secretary” Pendola (Karen Morley)) and gains a spirit of “Can Do” – especially when it comes to violating the Constitution. When questioned by a newspaperman named Thieson (Mischa Auer) at the beginning of the movie, he refers to gangsterism and unemployment as “local problems”: later he sends a special Army division he creates (headed by his other secretary who by now is considered by Hammond to be “ruthless and merciless”), armed with tanks(!) to bust up the Mob. After the accident, he meets with the Unemployed Army and offers to create a FDR-style NRA program for them.

The film sets up the idea that he might be posessed by the archangel Gabriel (not just “the angel of wrath” but also “the angel of revelations”). Of course, having a spook tell you something’s OK makes it right, correct? He asks any of his cabinet who dare to disagree with him to resign then and there. That’s not so bad, right?  But then he changes his mind and summarily fires the entire Cabinet.  When the Cabinet takes their protest to Congress, Hammond goes and threatens Congress with martial law of he isn’t given certain emergency powers.


And as a finale, he gets the nations of the world to give up their arms by browbeating them into giving up their armies and navies and signing a world peace plan.

Well, there’s a happy ending at least – the traitor (who is referred to in the film as being “a man who’s enabled us to cut the red tape of legal procedures and get back to first principles”) dies in the end.

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