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Sweet Holy Crap! Anyone catch "Gabriel Over the White House"?!


AddisonDeWitless
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Whoa.

 

I realize this thread is in all likelihood destined for lockdown, and so be it I guess, but OMG did anyone else watch this thing?!?!

 

First off: *thanks TCM for showing it.* It's a pretty obscure title, I TOTALLY SEE WHY NOW, and it's a film I have been much-interested in seeing thanks to an entry it recieved in The Psychotronic Film Guide. So no matter what, I'm glad I got the chance.

 

 

That said, it is the most jingoistic, *pro-Fascist,* heavy-handed piece of political tripe I have EVER seen. The idea is that (in the one subtle thing about the film) The Angel Gabriel sorta kinda' possesses a Warren G. Harding-esque, do-nothing, corrupt President (Walter Huston, oddly stilted and wearing some Carnival of Souls raccoon-eye makeup) after an auto accident. The President then SUSPENDS CONGRESS, DECLARES MARTIAL LAW, CALLS MILITARY TRIBUNALS TO TRY CRIMINALS USING THE SAME BROWN-SHIRT TYPE GUYS TO TRY THE CRIMINALS THAT CAPTURED THEM AND THEN (holy s***!) calls a meeting with world powers wherein he proceeds to have a "Hah-Hah, FOLLED YOU SUCKAHS!" moment in which HE DESTROYS TWO BATTLESHIPS TO DEMONSTRATE OUR MILITARY POWER AND THEREBY BLACKMAILS THE WORLD INTO SOME SORT OF PEACENIK LIBERAL, BULLCRAP PIPE DREAM which Lord Knows ain't gonna last.

 

 

And all of this is supposed to be *a good thing.*

 

 

Then he dies.

 

 

Oh my god, I didn't know God was a Fascist.

 

 

Quick, before the padlock gets snapped: what do you guys think?

 

Edited by: AddisonDeWitless on Sep 18, 2012 10:02 PM

I got the last part about his sinking the battleships wrong originally. My total bad.

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> {quote:title=AddisonDeWitless wrote:}{quote}Thanks.

> I dunno' though, folks is sensitive 'bout these sorts of things.

...then the folks who "is sensitive" on this are dolts if they can't understand what I just explained: The politics are being discussed WITHIN the context of the movie. Not like that 2001 thread that got deleted when the politics started being discussed WITHOUT any further connection to the movie...it eventually became politics-only.

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I thought it was a great movie. I couldn?t believe this film when I first saw it on TCM many years ago. It is so bizarre. Then I read somewhere that this was made by the William Randolph Hearst production company, and it was his suggestion to the next President about how to handle the country's problems.

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I just realized I got one element of the plot *wrong* in my synopsis, at the end, the President does NOT sink two manned battleships belonging to other countries.

 

He sinks two of our own "obsolete" unmanned battleships and threatens the Euro powers with total destruction unless they comply.

 

My bad. (It's still effed up though.)

 

 

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> {quote:title=AddisonDeWitless wrote:}{quote}Whoa.

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> I realize this thread is in all likelihood destined for lockdown, and so be it I guess, but OMG did anyone else watch this thing?!?!

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> First off: *thanks TCM for showing it.* It's a pretty obscure title, I TOTALLY SEE WHY NOW, and it's a film I have been much-interested in seeing thanks to an entry it recieved in The Psychotronic Film Guide. So no matter what, I'm glad I got the chance.

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> That said, it is the most jingoistic, *pro-Fascist,* heavy-handed piece of political tripe I have EVER seen. The idea is that (in the one subtle thing about the film) The Angel Gabriel sorta kinda' possesses a Warren G. Harding-esque, do-nothing, corrupt President (Walter Huston, oddly stilted and wearing some Carnival of Souls raccoon-eye makeup) after an auto accident. The President then SUSPENDS CONGRESS, DECLARES MARTIAL LAW, CALLS MILITARY TRIBUNALS TO TRY CRIMINALS USING THE SAME BROWN-SHIRT TYPE GUYS TO TRY THE CRIMINALS THAT CAPTURED THEM AND THEN (holy s***!) calls a meeting with world powers wherein he proceeds to have a "Hah-Hah, FOLLED YOU SUCKAHS!" moment in which HE DESTROYS THEIR BATTLESHIPS (and I guess kills hundreds of innocent people in the process) AND THEREBY BLACKMAILS THE WORLD INTO SOME SORT OF PEACENIK LIBERAL, BULLCRAP PIPE DREAM.

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> And all of this is supposed to be *a good thing.*

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> Then he dies.

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> Oh my god, I didn't know God was a Fascist.

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> Quick, before the padlock gets snapped: what do you guys think?

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Watching this film without understanding the context of the times certainly makes it appear as if it was a blind call for fascism, and it wasn't.

 

"Gabrief Over The White House" was made in 1932, at the nadir of the Depression. The unemployment rate was near 25%, banks were closing left and right (with no insurance for customers who lost their savings), and thousands of homes were being foreclosed. People were angry at a government that wasn't doing much of anything, and the Judson Hammond character served as the proverbial "man on a white horse" to lead the nation back.

 

 

The film is meant to be an allegory. While it was sitting on the shelf because Louis B. Mayer feared it would jeopardize Herbert Hoover's chances for re-election (as it turned out, Hoover was soundly defeated), president-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt saw the movie, liked it, and reportedly made some script suggestions that may have wound up in the final product. (Might Hammond's call for an "army of the unemployed," similar to what would be FDR's Civilian Conservation Corps, have been one of them?) But the concepts of martial law or a dictatorial president were no more than fantasies born out of public frustration, and certainly would not have been contemplated in real life. (Remember, this film was made shortly before the Nazis rose to power in Germany; had this film been done a few months later, La Cava might have used a different approach for Huston's character.)

 

 

Finally, while it seems simplistic that Hammond's display would browbeat the rest of the world into submission, one accepts it for the purpose of this story.

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The unemployment rate was near 25%, banks were closing left and right (with no insurance for customers who lost their savings), and thousands of homes were being foreclosed.

 

Interestingly, 1932 saw the release of Capra's AMERICAN MADNESS which had Walter Huston as the head of a bank which through gossip, saw itself the victim of a run and on the verge of ruin.

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> {quote:title=SonOfUniversalHorror wrote;}{quote} Not like that 2001 thread that got deleted when the politics started being discussed WITHOUT any further connection to the movie...it eventually became politics-only.

Actually, the thread became torn and frayed when a smear campaign between two individuals commenced, and it didn't involve smearing poster paint on white paper in the billiard room. The hostilities were unmistakeable, but I tend to believe Professor Plum was lighting the candlestick in the conservatory with a blow torch and that combustion engulfed the poor thread in flames.

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> {quote:title=willbefree25 wrote:}{quote}Son of............Do you ever even watch the movies on TCM, or do you just incite riots?

There was NOTHING wrong with what I said...I simply stated I've never seen the movie.

What I said was:

> {quote:title=SonOfUniversalHorror wrote:}{quote}I've read what a great movie it is, but I've never gotten the chance to see it.

That is hardly "inciting riots".

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LOL. I'm sorry I missed this, Addy! I kept thinking last night was Bacall night so didnt bother tuning in until later, when I was channel surfing, but by that time it was already over..... Hopefully, it'll be on again........

 

 

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Yes, kudos to TCM for airing this flick.

 

Wiki article here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gabriel_Over_the_White_House

 

Reviews at Rotten Tomatoes here: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/gabriel_over_the_white_house/

 

We have to remember that times were different then. Bolshevism was relatively new and was the big bugbear at the time, in 1933 it had only been 16 years since they had taken over in Russia and about a decade since they had expanded their control over the rest of the Soviet Union.

American and Canadian (and British and other) soldiers had actually fought against the Bolsheviks in Russia between 1918 and 1920:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Expeditionary_Force_Siberia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadian_Siberian_Expeditionary_Force

So in 1933, that experience of having American soldiers fighting in Russia was not a distant memory.

As for fascism, Hitler only came to power in 1933, and Franco didn't control Spain until 1939.

Mussolini had been in power since 1922 and by 1933 was admired by many (unbelievable as that may sound today).

As a matter of fact, in the same year that "Gabriel Over the White House" came out, 1933, the head of Columbia Pictures, Harry Cohn, who was an admirer of Mussolini (kept a personally signed photo of the dictator on his desk), made a very sympathetic documentary film about Mussolini that was narrated by Lowell Thomas entitled "Mussolini Speaks":

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mussolini_Speaks

 

"Mussolini Speaks" was very popular in the US, earning $1 million at the box office.

 

You can read more about this flick here (starting at page 136) from the book

"Cinema and Fascism: Italian Film and Society, 1922-1943" by Steven Ricci:

http://books.google.ca/books?id=Tuq7FNacGvgC&pg=PA136&lpg=PA136&dq=lowellthomasmussolini+speaks&source=bl&ots=TToycF5_je&sig=ER_OGnfnMjEd0xkNBbEmDIkTuBw&hl=en&sa=X&ei=bMRZUJHbFIXm0QHyrIDoAw&ved=0CCkQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=lowell%20thomas%20mussolini%20speaks&f=false

 

However, I'd be very surprised if TCM aired Cohn's pro-Mussolini picture today... (Don't think they have rights to Columbia Pictures flicks anyway?)

Would you other TCM message board users even watch it?? (Not sure if I would or not? I'd have to think about it? It is just a movie, after all?)

 

Anyway, times were very different then in Canada and the United States and elsewhere. We often forget that. And obviously times have changed since then. We often make the mistake of looking in hindsight with what we now know today, and forget that people then didn't have the benefit of looking ahead or they would've known better, you would hope.

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> {quote:title=FredCDobbs wrote:}{quote}I thought it was a great movie. I couldnt believe this film when I first saw it on TCM many years ago. It is so bizarre. Then I read somewhere that this was made by the William Randolph Hearst production company, and it was his suggestion to the next President about how to handle the country's problems.

 

Fred, I had the identical experience when viewing this flick for the first time several years ago on TCM!! I just thought it a trip and very bizarre!!! I was watching and like...wow! And then I read some of the same background you did, and have a bit of a different impression of it while watching it again last night. Still a trip...but one with some deeper perspective. Interesting LaCava flick! He made some good ones!

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By 1933 there had been a lot of gangster films made, and a lot of people in big cities wanted the feds, even the military, to stop the gangsters, since local cops couldn't seem to do it. So I would think that a lot of 1933 viewers of this film liked what they saw.

 

Dillenger was shot by a group of FBI agents in 1934. Also, Bonnie and Clyde were massacred by local police on a rural highway in Louisiana in 1934. Also in 1934, Pretty Boy Floyd was tracked down and killed by a posse of both Federal agents and local police. Baby Face Nelson was also killed in 1934, in a gunbattle with FBI agents.

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Yeah, well??

 

I think it was more shocking for the Feds to shoot John Dillenger on a crowded street as he left a movie theater. No trial there.

 

Anyway, this is just a movie, and we already clearly saw that the gangster was fully guilty. What would you have the Feds in this film do? Send him to the movies and then shoot him when he comes out? :)

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Fascinating movie -- I was with Huston when he addresses the army of the unemployed. I kind of had the creeps, thinking about the current Occupy Movement -- could all this happen again? But then when the filjm went into executions without due process and suspending Congress it gave me the creeps. Anyway, it sure got me thinking... The best of the Left and the worst of the Right combined. Of course, we forget what a desperate time the Depression. 25% unemployment, not 8 or 9%.

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