When Avery Bullard, President of the Tredway Corporation dies, it's discovered that he failed to name a successor. Now, it's up to the board to choose one. The result is a corporate power struggle. While some Board members... more » politic for Loren Shaw, the skilled, if not slick, businessman. In the other corner, those in support of Don Walling duke it out. He's a talented engineer with a love for the corporation's product line. Based on a Cameron Hawley novel, this film the inspiration for a 1970's TV series.« less
firstname.lastname@example.org | New York, N.Y. | 09/03/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Executive Suite is an often overlooked drama, but I beleive it to be one of the best films of the 1950's. The death of the president of a large furniture company creates a power struggle among the remaining board members. Competing for the top job are William Holden as an idealistic designer and engineer, and Fredric March as the company's chief acccountant. These two spend much of the film jockying other members of the board for their votes. The climactic showdown comes in the form of a board meeting where one man snatches victory from the jaws of defeat, not by force or cunning or even any kind of cleverness, but simply by telling the truth. One of the finest scenes you'll ever see in any film.Holden and March are both outstanding, with straightforward direction by Robert Wise. One interesting note: this film has no musical score, very rare for a film from the 50's--only the bell from the company's clock tower.This is a film that should be seen by anyone interested in story structure or conflict resolution. Definitely a film whose time has come again."
M. Hencke | New York, NY United States | 09/02/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The first reason you need to see this film is for William Holden. I make it a point of trying to see every film he's in. He is my favorite actor of all time. Now that thats out of the way...Robert Wise has delivered a suspenseful and tremendously well made film that doesn't use a lick of music and has stunning camera work. I was particularly blown away by all the smooth dolly shots and the opening POV sequence in the beginning of the film...Seeing everything through Bullard's eyes, the dead man who sets this story off and running. It reminded me a great deal of the John Frankenheimer film "Seconds" in that sequence and Suite was made sometime before that film. This is a must see office drama that really was ahead of its time from a technical filmmaking perspective. The script is solid and watching Holden fight to be the President of the company is a joy to watch! And you've gotta love a movie that has Stanwyck and Holden together again in the same film."
Excellent, timeless business saga
Peter Lorenzi | Maryland, USA | 10/31/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Forget about "Wall Street," "Boiler Room," or "Other People's Money." Forget "The Hudsucker Proxy" and the other seriously over the top spoofs of business. "Executive Suite" is the real thing.
Fifty years old, scenes ring true. William Holden's closing, impassioned speech, about the need to invest in the future instead of dividend maximization, is a classic treatment, useful for a business school class. What is perhaps most remarkable is the timeless nature of his points, about customers, quality, pride, and growth. Sure, the technology is dated. Telegrams. Dial phones. The board room looks like the reception area to Fred Munster's house. People step on and off planes without security, parking problems, or laptops in hand. But that only makes the story all the more credible. The important things haven't changed. And it shows that some things we think are new problems in business -- insider trading, board manipulation, sexual harrassment -- are at least as old as this fine film, certainly older.
Here's the basic story line: The president of Treadway furniture firm dies in the street en route to a train and a meeting in Philadelphia. An opportunistic Treadway executive of sees the crowd in the street and -- shades of today -- shorts the company's stock. The president's death is not immediately known to all, leaving some intrigue and lots of ambiguity. And, oh yes, there's the top salesman having an affair with a nubile Shelley Winters, and a frozen-appearing Barbara Stanwyck -- a Treadway -- also apparently on the verge of suicide from the cold shoulder she has received from the overworked, now-dead president.
Counting votes, twisting arms, and playing politics, Holden and Pidgeon contrive a plan to move the election of the president in their direction. The last twelve minutes of the film, including an apology from Holden's jealous-of-how-the-work-consumes-her-husband wife -- a glowing June Allyson -- allows hopes and schemes to unravel and others to gel.
If it is still out of stock, don't be shy about perusing the used VHS offerings. It's worth it."
DVD Showcases Slick, Vigorous Movie Focused on Pre-Enron Cor
Ed Uyeshima | San Francisco, CA USA | 11/12/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Finally on DVD, this forgotten 1954 drama would certainly be ripe for a remake in the age of Enron, Halliburton and Tyco. As it stands, it's a slick MGM package directed by Robert Wise with an all-star cast but also a surprisingly incisive film about a corporate power struggle within a leading furniture company. Even though there is an air of soap opera naiveté about it, the movie benefits significantly from an economical, provocative script by Ernest Lehman, his first for the big screen, and a powerful cast of star actors performing like a well-oiled machine. An intriguing subtlety of the story is that the company is publicly held and consequently questions regarding stockholder value and dividend payouts take on a surprising dramatic resonance.
The linear plot focuses on the sudden death of Tredway Corporation president Avery Bullard on a Friday afternoon. With no succession plan in place - a gap felt by many companies today - six VPs are all possible candidates to take over - perennial also-ran Alderson, oily Caswell, weak-willed Dudley, retirement-ready Grimm, power-hungry Shaw and up-and-comer Walling. Each has his own advantages and obvious shortcomings, with the additional complication of Julia Tredway, the chief stockholder, who is also the daughter of the company founder and as it turns out, Bullard's frustrated mistress. What follows are the weekend machinations of the men, culminating in a Monday morning showdown in the corporate boardroom where the successor is named. What I like most about the film is Wise's no-frills approach toward what could have been a rather by-the-numbers story about company politics. He takes the predictably episodic aspect of following the five men and integrates the threads tightly and seamlessly. Wise uses no music to highlight the drama, which ironically allows the histrionics to work on their own, and a neat first-person POV to open the film dramatically.
The heavy-duty cast does well in economic turns that epitomize the concept of ensemble. As Walling, William Holden was at the height of his film career in 1954 (he was also in Sabrina, The Country Girl and The Bridges at Toko-Ri that year), and he provides the comparatively youthful charisma to get away with the high-minded speech at the end. With her trademark frog-throated sincerity, June Allyson plays Walling's dutiful wife with efficiency. Walter Pidgeon also makes his moments count as Alderson, especially in the cathartic scene when he comes to accept his own limitations. As Dudley, Paul Douglas plays another variation of the bearish, brash role he played in Joseph Mankiewicz's A Letter to Three Wives, while a young Shelley Winters is surprisingly low-key as his secretary/mistress.
Louis Calhern turns his dignified persona inside out as Caswell, and Nina Foch brings a palpable sense of desperate grief to the role of Bullard's executive assistant. Dean Jagger has precious few moments as Grimm, while Barbara Stanwyck moves securely into Joan Crawford-at-Pepsi territory and gets to have a major meltdown as Julia. The final scene she has with Allyson speaking about the role of the tolerant wife is a dated piece of pre-feminist whimsy. Yet, out of this impressive gallery of scenery chewers, the best performance comes from Fredric March, who brings uncompromising, Machiavellian malevolence to a simmering boil as Shaw. The last scenes move so quickly that the ending feels a bit pat, but no matter, this movie still makes the backroom world of corporate politics utterly fascinating.
The 2007 DVD, released as a single disc or as part of the five-disc, six-film Barbara Stanwyck - The Signature Collection, boasts an enthusiastic commentary track from maverick filmmaker Oliver Stone, who views the film as a cultural milestone as well as a cinematic one (his own Wall Street is obviously inspired by it). As was typical with theatrical screenings back in the 1950's, there are a couple of vintage 1954 MGM shorts included - one an 11-minute live-action Pete Smith featurette, "Out for Fun", and the other is a Tex Avery cartoon, "Billy Boy". The original theatrical trailer completes the DVD extras."
A Return On Investment
Pit O'Maley | Alameda, Ca United States | 09/29/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Until this decade, "Executive Suite" was rarely shown on TV, for good reason. The building crescendo of human expectations would get side-railed and it would appear boring to the non-accountants. This is a wonderful send-up from Cameron Hawley, who also wrote "Cash McCall,"(scheduled for re-make), which tackled those leverage-buyout sharks in the 50's. Both were written at a time when business was rewarding for all ranks of life and a man could still spin an idealistic yarn, without targeting the lowest common denominator.Two cast members, Dean Jagger and Nina Foch appear in both movies playing minor, though important characters. I give this film high marks for answering two questions: Is a company the sum of its parts, or is it just the leadership? What is the purpose of a corporation? How prescient this film was, that the leaders today can not re-invent themselves without going overseas. Louis Calhern, Paul Douglas, Frederick March and Barbara Stanwyck must have realized they would be taking a stand on a way of life that should not vanish.Having worked in an accounting office and seen what one insignificant death in a company can launch within, I found this to be extremely fascinating for the human drives, conscious and unconscious, that corporate maneuvering drops on the corporate animal. When William Holden's character, very human and honest, testifies at the climax, the board meeting, by revealing his personal philosophy to win a concensus,there is tremendous release, because you feel he is speaking for humanity, if it cares about the future. Sadly, we know, that the nouveau ceo's have swung to epitimize the character of Frederick March, self-aggrandizing,low and soul-less.It succeeds without a music score, building upon its tight script, with room for another Shelly Winters cameo. Nina Foch, plays her role as the career executive secretary with great strength, decency and smarts. All the characters were nicely drawn, fleshed out. You could tell that by the way they all learned from one another and were grateful for it. If people work together, there's enough for all, even at the top. Isn't that a refreshing idea?"