Movie Review: Gabriel Over the White House (1933)

Synopsis: After being elected President of the United States, Judson Hammond intends to do the bare minimum and stick to his political party's corrupt plan even as the country suffers through the Great Depression. However, after suffering a head injury in a car accident, Hammond's demeanor changes and he uses political maneuvering to gain the support of the people as he becomes a dictator.

Who's in it? The movie stars Walter HustonKaren MorleyFranchot ToneArthur Byron and C. Henry Gordon.

Review: I had never heard of this movie until coming across it on YouTube TV yesterday evening. It sounded a bit unique, especially compared to the films I normally watch, so I decided to give it a try after everyone else went to bed. I have to say I liked it.

I think the thing I found intriguing about this movie was, even though it took place during the Great Depression, it was a film that was still easy to relate to today. You had a president (Huston) who was perfectly content being a puppet leader for his political party, a problem that definitely exists in Washington, and his sudden change of heart/focus on common sense ideas toward unemployment and organized crime was somewhat inspiring. At the same time, his absolute power also managed to seem a bit uncomfortable at times because, while he was working for the greater good, it was also clear that power could easily be abused if he chose to.

I was also interested in just how it was all going to wind up playing out for him. There were times when he seemed to have flashes of his old self and, while his personal secretary/former mistress (Morley) seemed to think there was some sort of divine influence at work, I wasn't convinced he wouldn't eventually revert back to being a corrupt politician, letting everyone down in the process.

Another thing that gave me a bit of a kick was watching just how unprotected the president was throughout the movie, riding around in a covertible during his inauguration parade, driving his own car (at fast speeds) and having questionable security at the White House. I know this was long before John F. Kennedy was assassinated, but it just seemed like he would have a bit more security. He was, after all, the president.

My only real complaint about this movie was a scene involving him talking to the press early on in the film. There was a young reporter (Mischa Auer) that came off as menacing, to the point I feel as though he should have had a bigger role later on (I thought, for sure, he would attempt to assassinate Hammond or something). It wasn't a big deal, but it just seemed like a waste of an intriguing minor character.

Final Opinion: It's definitely a political fantasy set during a time when people really weren't big fans of our government but, as I said, there is a lot about this movie that is easy to relate to and, at minimum, gives a nice "what if" scenario to think about.

My Grade: A


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