The President Vanishes (1934)

Article #1139 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-27-2004
Posting Date; 9-24-2004
Directed by William A. Wellman
Featuring Edward Arnold, Arthur Byron, Paul Kelly

A conspiracy of munition manufacturers try to force America into taking part in the European war through the use of a fascist group known as the Grey Shirts. Their plan is interrupted when the president of the country vanishes and is believed kidnapped.

This thriller is an interesting example of political science fiction; like MEN MUST FIGHT or THINGS TO COME, it starts out with an outbreak of war that would become a reality just a few years later. It has an excellent cast, with the always interesting Edward Arnold, the unforgettable Charley Grapewin, and the anomalous Andy Devine merely the most noticeable faces of the bunch. It also features some excellent direction by William A. Wellman. However, the story iself has some real problems; it’s pretty far-fetched, alternately too cynical and too naive, and this is especially apparent when compared with the events that transpired when war really broke out a few years later. It also has too many characters that clutter the storyline. I also found the revelations about the president’s disppearance completely unsurprising; I guessed what the truth of the matter was right off the bat. Other observations: I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Arthur Byron and Janet Beecher possessed a certain resemblance to Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. You may also want to keep your eyes open for an early performance by Rosalind Russell. I highly recommend the movie for its curio value, but you’re apt to either love or hate the movie depending on your political beliefs.


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