|Directed by||Robert Wise|
|Written by||Ernest Lehman|
|Based on||Executive Suite|
by Cameron Hawley
|Produced by||John Houseman|
|Cinematography||George J. Folsey|
|Edited by||Ralph E. Winters|
Executive Suite is a 1954 American Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer drama film directed by Robert Wise and written by Ernest Lehman, based on the novel of the same name by Cameron Hawley. The film stars William Holden, June Allyson, Barbara Stanwyck, Fredric March, Walter Pidgeon, Shelley Winters, Louis Calhern and Nina Foch. The plot depicts the internal struggle for control of a furniture manufacturing company after the unexpected death of the company's CEO. Executive Suite was nominated for multiple Academy Awards, including for Nina Foch's performance, which earned a Best Supporting Actress nomination.
This was Lehman's first produced screenplay, and its plot deviates substantially from the novel. He went on to write Sabrina, North by Northwest, West Side Story, and other films. The film is one of few in Hollywood history without a musical score, but the song "Singin' in the Rain" is sung by Mike Walling while he is off-camera taking a shower. The song appears in many MGM films during the period when its lyricist Arthur Freed was a producer at the studio.
While in New York City to meet with investment bankers, 56-year-old Avery Bullard, president and driving force of the Tredway Corporation, a major furniture manufacturing company in the town of Millburgh, Pennsylvania, drops dead in the street. As he collapses, he drops his wallet. It is picked up by a bystander, emptied of its cash, and shoved into a wastebasket. Without the wallet, there is no way to immediately identify the body as Bullard.
George Caswell, a member of the Tredway board of directors and one of the investment bankers with whom Bullard had just met, sees what he believes is Bullard's body in the street below their offices and decides to profit from the information. He engages a broker to make a short sale of as much Tredway stock as he can before the end of trading that Friday afternoon. Caswell plans to make an easy profit and cover the sale by buying Tredway stock at "a 10-point discount" on Monday, when news of Bullard's death will presumably push the stock price down. Caswell begins to doubt that it was Bullard who died, but when he reads in a newspaper that the man had the initials "A.B." on his clothes and cufflinks, he calls the police to tip them off to the identity of the deceased.
Bullard had never named his successor, nor had he appointed a vice-president since the previous one died. Over the next 28 hours, Tredway's executives vie for the position of president. Once news of his death reaches Tredway, company controller Loren Shaw takes the initiative in arranging Bullard's funeral and coordinating the company's public reaction. In so doing, he undercuts treasurer Frederick Alderson, one of Bullard's close friends, and this effectively diminishes Alderson in his own eyes so that he won't seek the presidency.
Shaw also shrewdly releases the upcoming quarterly report so that the good news of big profits can counter the news of Bullard's death and perhaps even raise the stock price when the market opens.
Ambitious, but narrowly focused, Shaw is concerned more with short-term accounting gains and satisfying the stockholders than the quality of the company's actual products and long-term growth. He gains the proxy of Julia Tredway, the daughter of the company's founder, who is still a major shareholder and board member. She had been considering selling her stock after realizing the futility of her difficult romantic relationship with, and true love for, Bullard after many years. She was finally heartbroken after coming second behind the company for both her father and Bullard.
Shaw buys Caswell's vote in exchange for allowing Caswell to purchase 4,000 shares of company stock at the Friday closing price to cover his "shady" short sale. If Caswell does not get those shares, he will be in serious financial trouble. Meanwhile, Walt Dudley, back-slapping vice president of sales, is having an affair with his secretary, Eva Bardeman, for which Shaw is now blackmailing him.
In addition, Vice President of Manufacturing Jesse Grimm has decided to retire instead of seeking the top job. But while he's no fan of Shaw's, he has serious reservations about the relative youth of the only other potential contender, Don Walling, the idealistic Vice President for Design and Development.
All these machinations result in Shaw having enough votes that he has a virtual lock on the job even before the board meets.
Treasurer Alderson and Don Walling, however, are determined to prevent Shaw from taking over. After considering all the contenders, Walling convinces Alderson that Walling himself should be president. Walling is a strong believer in developing higher quality new products and more efficient manufacturing methods, although his wife, Mary, is against his giving up his dream of being a full-time designer.
At an emergency board meeting on Saturday evening, the machinations, bargaining, and maneuvering culminate with Walling's enthusiasm, vision, and his stirring boardroom speech eventually changing Jesse Grimm's, Walt Dudley's and Julia Tredway's minds. Walling is ultimately elected unanimously as company president. He moves to Shaw and shakes his hand, to Shaw's surprise.
As the board leaves the meeting room, Shaw tears up a letter ensuring Caswell's share purchase. Caswell will be ruined financially. Walling and his wife embrace. Walling makes his first executive decision, asking his secretary to arrange a meeting for the Monday morning for the election of the new vice-president. Entering the lift, Walling remembers to ask how the game went. His wife answers "We won."
The film was planned to have 145 speaking parts, a record for MGM.
The film received enthusiastic reviews. It was number one at the U.S. box office for four consecutive weeks during May 1954, grossing $1,845,000. According to MGM records, the film eventually earned theatrical rentals of $2,682,000 in the U.S. and Canada, and $903,000 in other markets, for a worldwide total of $3,585,000 and a profit of $772,000.
The film has received critical acclaim from modern day critics. Rotten Tomatoes gives a score of 100% based on 9 reviews, with an average score of 8/10.
|Academy Awards||Best Supporting Actress||Nina Foch||Nominated|
|Best Art Direction – Black-and-White||Cedric Gibbons, Edward Carfagno, Edwin B. Willis and Emile Kuri||Nominated|
|Best Cinematography – Black-and-White||George Folsey||Nominated|
|Best Costume Design – Black-and-White||Helen Rose||Nominated|
|British Academy Film Awards||Best Film from any Source||Nominated|
|Best Foreign Actor||Fredric March||Nominated|
|Directors Guild of America Awards||Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures||Robert Wise||Nominated|
|National Board of Review Awards||Top Ten Films||5th Place|
|Best Supporting Actress||Nina Foch||Won|
|Venice International Film Festival||Golden Lion||Robert Wise||Nominated|
|Grand Jury Prize||The Acting Ensemble||Won|
|Writers Guild of America Awards||Best Written American Drama||Ernest Lehman||Nominated|
Main article: Executive Suite (TV series)
More than two decades later, the film and novel were adapted into a weekly television series with the same title. Airing on CBS in 1976-1977, the TV version changed the fictional corporate setting to the Cardway Corporation in Los Angeles. Mitchell Ryan starred as company chairman Dan Walling, with Sharon Acker as his wife Helen and Leigh McCloskey and Wendy Phillips as his children, Brian and Stacey. Other series regulars included Stephen Elliott, Byron Morrow, Madlyn Rhue, William Smithers, Paul Lambert, Richard Cox, Trisha Noble, Carl Weintraub, Maxine Stuart, and Ricardo Montalban.
Scheduling opposite Monday Night Football on ABC, and then The Rockford Files on NBC, doomed the show to poor ratings, and it was canceled after one season.