Gabriel Over the White House (1933)

Article #463 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 6-21-2002
Posting date: 11-14-2002

When a newly elected and irresponsible president gets into an automobile accident and is near death, he is transformed by the angel Gabriel into a man dedicated to solving the problems of the world.

If you ever want to see an example of a movie that is a product of its time, this is the one; it was made during the bleakest times of the Great Depression, one of the most desperate times for the American people. The president tackles three problems; widespread unemployment, racketeers, and the repayment of debts abroad, but the methods he uses to accomplish these tasks (he becomes a dictator and runs roughshod over whomever opposes him) is enough to give anyone the heebie-jeebies. Apparently, William Randolph Hearst had become a big fan of FDR, and had this picture made as an example of what he the man would do as president; before the accident, the president in the movie is obviously supposed to resemble Hoover; after, he is supposed to resemble FDR. The movie was made while Hoover was president, and Louis B. Mayer (a staunch republican) shelved the film until FDR was elected, and then released it hoping the public would see it as a criticism of FDR. Unfortunately, the president’s actions ended up resembling those of Hitler’s, and once people began to see the results of that administration, the movie was removed from circulation and shelved for years. In its way, it is a priceless document of how desperate the times were; it is probably the only time in American history when a major studio would have made a movie that would have made dictatorship seem holy, inspired and a positive necessity. The gangster sequences, however, are just plain surreal.


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