Monday, April 21, 2014

The President's Mystery (1936)

Neat little B movie based on an idea by none other than President Franklin D. Roosevelt, centered around the question of how a man could disappear with his fortune and not be traced. Roosevelt, lacking the time to develop the story himself, mentioned the idea to Liberty Magazine editor Fulton Oursler, who then submitted it to six top writers -- Samuel Hopkins Adams, John Erskine, Rupert Hughes, Anthony Abbot, S.S. Van Dine and Rita Weiman -- each of whom wrote their own piece of the story. The results were serialized in Liberty Magazine in 1935, before being turned into a film by Republic Pictures the following year, from a script by Lester Cole and Nathanael West.

In the film, Henry Wilcoxon plays a Washington lobbyist who helps block passage of a bill that would allow for government relief of depressed industrial towns. Seeing the results of his actions first-hand, he has a crisis of conscience, stages his own suicide, and disappears in order to re-build his life. Less a mystery, and more of a New Deal-era social issue picture, it is very much of its time, hampered by the constraints of its low-budget, notable only for the distinction of being based on a story conceived by FDR.

No comments: