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Executive Suite – 1954 Wise
- 1954 is post-Lady in the Lake (1946) and Dark Passage (1947) but the first-person point of view sequence to open Executive Suite is still stirring. The hand of Avery Bullard (never shown on screen) reaches out from behind the camera to shake hands. He pushes the button on the elevator in one smooth take after gliding across the room. Wise hides a cut (editor of Citizen Kane) going in the elevator as the camera pushes through the door reaching for his wallet at the telegraph office. On the street (still in this same cinematic sequence) he yells for a taxi, shrieks, grabs his heart, and the camera tilts up to the heavens.
- A white collar boardroom drama- there are not many of those actually- lots of dividend and shareholder talk. The concept of all the action taking place over 24 hours is a nice touch as well.
- It is the first film for Ernest Lehman who would go on to write Somebody Up There Likes Me, West Side Story, The Sound of Music– all three with Wise—along with a little film called North by Northwest.
- The cast is loaded – the posters boast “the cast of the year in the picture of the year”- an ensemble like the style of Grand Hotel. William Holden, June Allyson, Barbara Stanwyck, Frederic March, Walter Pidgeon, Dean Jagger, Paul Douglas, Nina Foch (Oscar nominee here), Shelley Winters and the always reliable Louis Calhern. They all get their time to shine, but it is Holden who gets the big rousing speech to end the film. Holden is coming off Stalag 17 in 1953- just about the biggest star around.
- It is the unseen character of Bullard that may be the most intriguing- “he’s a big man”- and not just because of the energy in the opening moments (nowhere near matched in the remainder of the film). He is a great Harry Lime or Colonel Kurtz-like character in that he is talked about for basically the entire running time of the film. Since he is literally never shown, and passes away, it sort of reminds me of the Alex character in The Big Chill as well.
- Recommend – maybe Recommend/ HR leaning