EXECUTIVE SUITE (director: Robert Wise; screenwriters: Ernest Lehman/based on the novel by Cameron Hawley; cinematographer: George Folsey; editor: Ralph Winters; cast: William Holden (McDonald Walling), June Allyson (Mary Blemond Walling), Barbara Stanwyck (Julia O. Treadway), Fredric March (Loren Phineas Shaw), Walter Pidgeon (Frederick Y. Alderson), Shelley Winters (Eva Bardeman), Paul Douglas (Josiah Walter Dudley), Louis Calhern (George Nyle Caswell), Dean Jagger (Jesse Q. Grimm), Nina Foch (Erica Martin), Tim Considine (Mike Walling); Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: John Houseman/Jud Kinberg; MGM; 1954)
“The dramatics are riveting, though it’s all superficial.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Robert Wise (“The Sound of Music “/”The Body Snatcher”/”Blood on the Moon”) helms this entertaining but slick melodrama about intrigue in the boardroom of a big business concern. It’s based on the book by Cameron Hawley and features a crisp screenplay by writer Ernest Lehman in his debut. The all-star cast gets about as much out of the obvious boardroom tale than can be expected.
When 57-year-old Avery Bullard, President of the Tredway Corporation, a highly successful furniture manufacturing concern whose central headquarters is located in New York, suddenly dies of a stroke, it results in a power play between some of his vice presidents on the company’s board to see who will emerge as president. McDonald Walling (William Holden) is the decent young family guy married to the wholesome suburban wife (June Allyson) and with a precious Little League playing son, who is the idealistic designer chief wanting to build a better furniture product but who can also be practical, ambitious and make good speeches promoting himself; Loren Phineas Shaw (Fredric March) is the oily manipulative money-pinching controller, who is the efficiency expert that is favorite to get the presidency due to all his maneuverings to take charge of things but who has enemies because he’s so ruthless and uncaring about anything but the bottom line; Josiah Walter Dudley (Paul Douglas) is the weakling sales manager who doesn’t want to make waves and wants only to be popular, but the married man is being blackmailed for his vote by Shaw because he has a love nest with his secretary Eva (Shelley Winters); George Nyle Caswell (Louis Calhern) is the high roller who sold the stock short upon the boss’s death only to find the stock went up and he doesn’t have the liquid assets to pay his broker and is now beholden to Shaw to get him out of this mess; Frederick Y. Alderson (Walter Pidgeon) is the tired senior vice president who was Bullard’s best friend, but doesn’t have what it takes to be top dog; and Jesse Q. Grimm (Dean Jagger) is the old-fashioned production head old-timer who doesn’t like any of the new hotshots and is about to retire. Ms. Julia O. Treadway (Barbara Stanwyck), the company’s biggest stockholder, is the disenchanted daughter of the company founder and the ex-lover of Bullard. She could never reconcile that even though Bullard saved the company after her father’s suicide and was there for her when she had a nervous breakdown, that he could not devote himself fully to her needs. Julia now wishes to divest her interest in the company and doesn’t care about the company to the point that she has allowed Shaw to vote for her through proxy.
To be company president, one needs four votes from these seven board members. Erica Martin (Nina Foch) is the loyal executive secretary to Bullard, who counts the ballots and shows the greatest outpouring of grief over the boss’s death than anyone else in the boardroom.
It turns out to be a battle between Walling and Shaw for the presidency, as the slight story has the two-dimensional executives back-stabbing each other and jockeying for power with various insider moves–though the viewer is led to believe that Walling is the man most suited for the job because he’s less smarmy, the most energized and preaches togetherness. The dramatics are riveting, though it’s all superficial with no particular point made or corporate secret let out of the bag .
REVIEWED ON 4/17/2007 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ