Gabriel over the White House

Gray Brechin is the founding scholar for California's Living New Deal Project. He is the author of Imperial San Francisco: Urban Power, Earthly Ruin, among other books.

In this curious Depression-era fantasy, Walter Huston plays Judson C. Hammond, a callous Hooveresque politician who brings cynical powermongering to the presidency, turning his back on a country plagued by rampant poverty and organized crime. While convalescing from an auto accident, he experiences a visitation by the Archangel Gabriel and emerges reborn, determined to rid the nation of racketeering, eliminate unemployment with an “army of construction,” and promote world peace. The Chief Executive suspends Congress, becoming not so much a Super-President as a user-friendly dictator. As a result, Gabriel over the White House was slammed as a fascist-inspired fable advancing a president who was part Roosevelt, part Hitler. Produced by Cosmopolitan Pictures, the motion picture wing of William Randolph Hearst's media empire, this political melodrama was the fine-tuned propaganda of a mogul who had broken with FDR's policies. Nonetheless, the inflammatory film offers populist panaceas that were voiced during the New Deal, including a million-man march to the Capitol.

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