Friday, February 04, 2011

Classic Hollywood Reviews: American Madness

For those of you who are Frank Capra fans, here's a film you probably haven't seen yet. American Madness is a film from 1932 that plays with many ideas that come to fruition in It's a Wonderful Life.

It's the 1930s, the Depression era, and the Board of Directors of Thomas Dickson's bank want Dickson to merge with New York Trust and resign. He refuses. One night, Dickson's bank is robbed of $100,000. The suspect is Matt Brown, an ex-convict whom Dickson hired and appointed Chief Teller. Brown, who's very loyal to Dickson, refuses to say where he was that night. He actually has two witnesses for his alibi, Mrs. Dickson and fellow worker Cyril Cluett, but Brown is protecting Dickson...

Mr. Capra uses the film as a way to speak out against the evils he saw in big banking. He also speaks to the values that become common in his films. The idea that one man can make a difference. That we should believe in the little guy and give him a chance.  I enjoyed the film...and if you like Frank Capra movies, you really should track this one down.

The Stage in August, 1932 gave the following opinion: "Now we have American Madness, produced by Columbia and Frank Capra, showing the scenes of wild panic incident to a run on a big bank. Although it is frankly propaganda urging us to have faith in our poor, dear bank presidents, it is effective and occasionally exciting melodrama. Certainly Mr. Capra's scenes of the rapidly growing mob in the bank are expertly handled and make grand pictures. Perhaps the story is improbable and the happy ending impossible, but whether you agree with President Walter Huston's bank policy ("to stop hoarding and get business running again") or with the depositors hammering on the cages for their cash, you feel that American Madness is a good show, and hokum only part of the time."

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