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Gabriel Over the White House

Gabriel Over the White House title card

Year - 1933
Studio - Metro Goldwyn Mayer
Stars - Walter Huston, Karen Morley, Franchot Tone, Arthur Byron, Dickie Moore, C. Henry Gordon, David Landau, Samuel Hinds
Director - Gregory La Cava
Writing Credits - Carey Wilson (screenplay), Bertram Bloch (additional dialogue), Anonymous (novel)
Music - William Axt


The United States is in the depths of the Great Depression with widespread unemployment, as well as prohibition fueled crime. Judson Hammond (Walter Huston) is elected President of the United States, but plans to take a low profile, leaving major policy decisions to the States, as well as to his political party. He treats his Cabinet as an old boys' club, and hires his friend Hartley Beekman (Franchot Tone) as his Secretary, and Pendola Malloy (Karen Morley) as his assistant. He calls them "Beek" and "Pendy" and insists they call him "Major." On his way to a meeting, Hammond takes the wheel of the limousine and speeds nearly 100mph, outracing his own motorcade. He loses control and crashes, sustaining injuries from which his doctors believe he will not recover.

Gabriel Over the White House poster

With Pendola at his bedside, Hammond seems to undergo a subtle transformation as a distant horn is heard and the window curtains rustle. He awakens and appears to be completely healthy, but his manner has become more forceful and decisive, and he no longer calls his friends by their nicknames. He immediately announces that he will meet with the leaders of a upcoming massive protest demonstration in Washington by unemployed workers. His Cabinet members protest and he ultimately asks for their resignations. Pendola tells Beekman her belief that God has sent the Angel Gabriel to President Hammond.

Congress begins impeachment proceedings, but Hammond declares a national state of emergency and announces he is unilaterally installing a federal jobs programs. He also states his intention of dealing forcefully with the crime problem, especially targeting the most Nation's most prominent gangster bootlegger, Nick Diamond (C. Henry Gordon).

When the leader of the unemployed workers' movement, John Bronson (David Landau), is murdered by hired thugs, President Hammond goes to the protest rally and tells the crowd about the jobs program he is installing immediately. To counter bootlegging, he establishes government liquor stores, but Diamond's gang bombs one of them, and attacks the White House with machine guns, injuring Pendola. Hammond has Diamond and his gang court-martialed and executed by a firing squad.

The President then convenes a meeting with major foreign leaders aboard a Navy ship. He demands that their debts be repaid to the U.S., by all parties drastically scaling down their military capabilities. To demonstrate his resolve to them, he has two antiquated warships sunk by Naval airplanes.

The world leaders come to the White House to sign the arms reduction agreement. After Hammond signs, he collapses. In his bed, a distant horn is again heard, the curtains rustle, and he dies.

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