“We felt from the beginning that the president is really two men — but I became aware tonight, somehow, of a third being.”
When the newly elected president of the United States (Walter Huston) is injured in a car accident, he awakens a completely different man, surprising his top aide (Franchot Tone) and his personal secretary (Karen Morley) with a sudden passion for the people.
- Character Arc
- Depression Era
- Franchot Tone Films
- Karen Morley Films
- Walter Huston Films
Made during the height of the Great Depression (just before the start of the New Deal), this fantasy film starts with a far-out premise: what if our president was suddenly invested with a supernatural version of a TBI-induced extreme personality change, shifting from a typically grandstanding but ineffectual politician to one who scolds his colleagues (“You’ve been traitors to the concept of democracy upon which this government was founded!”) to a dictator-like leader (“I can repudiate anything!”) before ordering notorious bootlegging criminals to be murdered by firing squad and world leaders to destroy their weapons? Such is the wild tale on display in this cinematic curio, a political morality tale which showcases an eerie form of fascism emerging in a figure who initially presents as an inspiring hero of the people. As DVD Savant writes in his interesting and fact-filled review, “This well made fantasy will perplex ordinary viewers while leaving political thinkers with their mouths hanging open.” It would make a fascinating double-bill with The Man Who Could Work Miracles (1936), also about the inception and outcome of supernaturally-driven “omnipotence”.
Note: I was unaware of Karen Morley’s HUAC-incited career decline; given her life-long interest in labor activism, it’s fitting that she co-starred in this film, Our Daily Bread (1934), and Black Fury (1935).
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Luminous cinematography
Yes, once, for its unique storyline and historical relevance. Listed as a Cult Movie and a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.