If you have a star line-up, line ’em up!
Here are the stars of MGM’s EXECUTIVE SUITE (1954).
William Holden,June Allyson,Barbara Stanwyck,Fredric March,Walter Pidgeon,Shelley Winters,Paul Douglas,Louis Calhern,Dean Jagger,Nina Foch.
I imagine EXECUTIVE SUITE was an attempt by MGM to remind the public that television couldn’t beat an all star cast in a big budget movie.
Written by Ernest Lehman ( from the Cameron Hawley novel)and directed by Robert Wise, EXECUTIVE SUITE is the story of a power struggle at a big business corporation over a 24 hour period.
Avery Bullard,whom we never see, is the President of the Tredway Corporation , a furniture company. He dies suddenly and the board must choose his successor as soon as possible to prevent any financial loss.
Nina Foch is Erica Martin, Bullard’s executive secretary ,very efficient and probably in love with her boss. She is shocked when told about his death by Mac.
William Holden is Mac Walling, head of research and development. He’s young and bright and happily married to Mary (June Allyson).
Fredric March is Loren Shaw, the company’s accountant. Shaw tries to take charge in the aftermath of Bullard’s sudden death. He is desperate for the top job, so much so, he is always sweating and wiping his hands . He’ll go to any lengths including blackmail.
Barbara Stanwyck is Julia Tredway, daughter of the man who founded the company. She and Bullard were involved but the company always came first with Bullard. She is on the board but doesn’t really care who takes over. She gives her proxy to Shaw.
Walter Pidgeon is Fred Alderson who helped found the company. He realises eventually that he isnt the man for the top job.
Louis Calhern is George Caswell, an unscrupulous board member who tries a little bit of insider trading after Bullard’s sudden death .
Paul Douglas is Walt Dudley, head of sales. He’s been having an affair with office secretary ,Eva (Shelley Winters).
Shaw finds out and confronts them.
Eva finally realises that Walt is never going to leave his wife.
The final scene in the film runs nearly 10 minutes, as things come to a head in the board room. William Holden gives an impassioned speech about the future of the company .
Considering the number of principal characters ( Dean Jagger is also a board member ), the writing quality is such that each one is well defined.
The only surprise to me is that Barbara Stanwyck would take such a smallish role. I’ve read she wanted to be in a film with her old friend William Holden again, but it really is a supporting role and she only has one or two key scenes.
It’s a long film and I could have done without the June Allyson character and the scenes in the Allyson/Holden home which took away from the tension caused by the urgency to appoint a successor.
Poor June got so type cast in the early 50s. In the same year, 1954, she also played the loving wife of Cornel Wilde in a similar story, A WOMAN’s WORLD.
I’m not sure that Nina Foch deserved an Oscar nomination ,though she made the most of her part. But for the Oscar Academy to overlook Fredric March is a mystery. He steals the film .
EXECUTIVE SUITE is one of very few films of the period to have no music ,but somehow you don’t miss it. All you hear are the sounds of the city.