Cast & Crew
William K. Howard
During the funeral service for Tom Garner, the much-hated president of the Chicago & Southwestern Railway Company, called the greatest railroad in the country, Henry, his elderly secretary and friend from childhood, leaves the church in an emotional state and returns to the railroad office where he places into his pocket a picture of Tom as a young man holding his son. At his modest home after supper, Henry talks to his wife about Tom, whom she despises. When she says that it is a good thing Tom killed himself and blames him for the death of 400 men during a strike and for "kicking out" his wife of many years to make way for someone young and pretty, Henry asserts that Tom cannot be judged by ordinary standards. Henry then relates various scenes from Tom's life: Their lifelong friendship begins at an old swimming hole when Tom, a boy a few years older than Henry, pulls him into the water against his will to show him how to swim. Tom purposely loses their subsequent fight, but bests another boy, who starts to battle Henry. On a dare, Tom dives into the water from a tall tree and gets his hand stuck between two rocks underwater. Henry is terrified that Tom has drowned, and after he surfaces, Henry spits on a leaf and secures it to Tom's hand with a piece of his own shirt to heal his wound. The two boys walk home sadly because they know they will be separated soon, as Henry will be starting school away from home, while Tom, whose father is poor, will remain behind. The resultant scar on Tom's hand is apparent years later at a board meeting of his railroad, when he bangs his fist demanding that the members agree to his purchase of the seemingly insignificant Reno and Santa Clara Railroad. Because Tom convinced Henry, who had become his secretary, to buy shares in the smaller railroad before word got out about the takeover, Henry was able to make enough money to build the house in which he and his wife now live. Henry goes on to tell his wife of Tom's courtship of his first wife Sally: Because Tom, now a trackwalker, cannot read, he brings a letter Henry has written him from business school to Sally, the teacher of the mountain school. Sally teaches Tom reading, writing and arithmetic and accompanies him on a hot Sunday afternoon for a walk. At various stopping points up the small mountain, Tom almost proposes, but loses his nerve until they reach the top, where Sally accepts his proposal, despite the fact that her best dress and new tight shoes are now ruined. Henry then relates to his wife Tom's first meeting with his future second wife, Eve Borden, which occurred after Tom purchased the Santa Clara Railroad, of which Eve's father was president: Although Tom held a grudge against Borden because he once kept him from joining a club, after spending an afternoon with Eve, a young divorcée, Tom allows Borden to remain president and becomes smitten with Eve. That night, Tom argues with Sally about their son Tommy, who has been kicked out of college, and leaves to stay at his club for a few days. Sally had defended Tommy, saying that he should have fun while he is young, unlike Tom, whom she now realizes she had pushed to become a success when he was young and wanted nothing more than to remain a trackwalker. Henry relates that after they married, Sally, not satisfied with Tom's lack of ambition, and wanting good clothes, a nicer home and a carriage, convinced him to go to engineering school in Chicago while she took over his job as a trackwalker. Henry now tells his wife that shortly after meeting Eve, Tom tells her that he loves her but that he cannot divorce Sally, and Eve demands that he make up his mind. Sally, who has noticed a change in Tom, visits him in his office and suggests that they take a trip to Europe together. She blames herself for becoming a "disagreeable old woman" until Tom confesses that he has fallen in love. Tom then insists that they take the trip, but Sally, blaming herself for pushing him his whole life, says that he should do what he wants once before he dies. She walks out of the office in a daze and, after giving her purse to a flower vendor, walks under the wheels of an oncoming streetcar. Henry tries to explain to his sceptical wife that Tom could not help falling in love. He relates a scene from twenty-eight years earlier: Tom comes home to Sally with news that he has been promoted to supervise the building of the Missouri bridge. Sally then tells him the equally momentous news that she is pregnant. Overjoyed, Tom says that his boy will be someone to be proud of when he is old. At Tommy's birth, Tom thanks God. Soon after Sally's death, Tom marries Eve and invites Tommy to live with them. During the honeymoon, a strike breaks out, and Tom invades a meeting of his workers. After telling them that people are depending on his railroad to deliver food, he warns that he has sent for men and guards to keep the trains running. Violence during the ensuing strike takes the lives of 406 men. When Henry's wife remains convinced that Tom killed himself because his conscience bothered him over Sally, his treatment of his son and his responsibility for the deaths of the workers, Henry finally reveals what led to Tom's suicide: Upset at Tom's absence during the six weeks of the labor disturbances, Eve begins an affair with Tommy. On Tom and Eve's wedding anniversary, he returns home unexpectedly and overhears her on the telephone call someone "darling" and say that her young baby looks like him. Tom returns to his office in a daze and during a board meeting, keeps remembering Eve's words. He yells out uncontrollably, and Henry takes him home, where Tom confronts Eve and demands to know whom it is their son looks like. Tom menacingly approaches the baby, and Eve screams, then agrees to tell, but breaks down and pleads for him not to make her. Shattered, Tom softly repeats Sally's last words to him, "Why shouldn't you be in love and do as you want just once before you die," then goes into his room after putting his arm around Henry's waist and shoots himself. He dies in Henry's arms after saying Sally's name. After Henry finishes telling Tom's story, his wife, without a word, puts her hand on his shoulder and walks upstairs, leaving Henry alone with his thoughts.
William K. Howard
J. Farrell Mcdonald
E. H. Calvert
Sarah F. Adams
J. E. Brulatour, Inc.
Louis De Francesco
E. H. Hansen
Jesse L. Lasky
R. C. Moore
A. W. Protzman
The Power and the Glory (1933)
The Power and the Glory begins with the funeral of its main character, Tom Garner, and then goes back in time to tell about his life. He's a likable guy who grows up in the boondocks, so removed from middle-class privilege that he's still illiterate at age twenty. He meets his best friend, Henry, when they're scrappy boys splashing around in a local swimming hole. Henry is the one who first decides to make something of his life, going off to business college and studying hard, but it's Tom who achieves the most success, and the most unhappiness as well.
Tom's rise begins when a sympathetic teacher named Sally volunteers to help him read and write. His new skills don't raise his ambitions; he likes his low-level job as a railroad track inspector, and he's happy just fishing on his days off. But he's married to Sally by this time, and she starts thinking about what Tom could accomplish if he put his mind to it. So she works out an arrangement with his employer: she'll take over Tom's job as a track walker and send him through college with the money she earns.
Tom accepts the deal and does well at college. He returns to the railroad after graduation and works his way up to the presidency without a hitch, distinguishing himself as a hard worker and a hard bargainer. He and Sally have a son along the way, but things don't go quite so smoothly in that department. Tom Jr. is a slacker, and when he gets kicked out of school for excessive drinking, Tom Sr. puts him on the company payroll with the lowest possible salary.
In one of his many business deals, Tom buys the minor-league Reno and Santa Cara Railroad over the objections of his board members, who grudgingly give in because they know he'll do it anyway - in fact, he's already done it, before putting it to a vote. The man who sells him the small railway is Mr. Borden, a man Tom never liked. But it turns out that Mr. Borden has a daughter, Eve, who is sexy and stylish to a degree that makes sweet, aging Sally seem positively plain. Tom falls in love with Eve and breaks the news to Sally, who appears to be badly depressed anyway. She wanders off and kills herself, freeing Tom to marry his much younger girlfriend. Tom's happiness is shattered when he discovers that his new wife is having an affair with his very own son, and the story ends where it began, with Tom's death, which we now know was suicide committed in despair. Few movies from the studio era have a finale more melancholy than this one.
The Power and the Glory premiered eight years before Citizen Kane, and the parallels between the pictures are strong enough to suggest that Welles's classic was directly influenced by its more modest predecessor. Each presents a fictionalized version of a famous man's life and career: Tom Garner is based on C.W. Post, the breakfast-cereal tycoon, just as Charles Foster Kane is based on William Randolph Hurst, the powerful newspaper magnate. Even more to the point, each movie begins with the protagonist's death and then reveals his life in a chronologically scrambled way, leaping unpredictably among different stages of life so you have to piece the puzzle together in your own mind while you watch. Most surprisingly, director William K. Howard and cinematographer James Wong Howe use deep-focus staging in many scenes of The Power and the Glory, not nearly as brilliantly as director Welles and cinematographer Gregg Toland do in Citizen Kane, but cleverly enough.
Sturges's screenplay has little of the verbal and visual wit that sparkles so dazzlingly in The Great McGinty (1940), The Palm Beach Story (1942), Sullivan's Travels (1941), and Unfaithfully Yours (1948), to name just four gems from his Paramount period. It does have some of the experimental spirit you find in his later films, though. This shows most clearly in the jigsaw-puzzle structure of the story, which unfolds in a style that Fox called "narratage," crediting Sturges with the idea of jumbling up the time sequence and then gluing it together with extensive narration by a character (Henry) who often describes exactly what we're seeing on the screen and occasionally speaks the dialogue while characters lip-synch their lines. Narratage was a device without much of a future, but it lends a touch of avant-garde poetics to selected scenes, and reminds you that one of the most adventurous young minds in Hollywood was on the job.
Credit also goes to Sturges for delving into the dark side of American business during the Depression era. Tom is portrayed as a gifted but ruthless industrialist who confronts a strike with armed violence that kills literally hundreds of workers. On a personal level, he drives his first wife to depression and suicide, loses his self-centered second wife to his good-for-nothing son, and chooses to kill himself without trying to learn what went so horribly wrong with his once-promising life. The love affair between Eve and Tom Jr. probably couldn't have been filmed after the Production Code censors acquired greater powers in 1934, and it stirred up considerable trouble in 1933, sparking demands for trimming and reediting before eventually being approved. It's strong stuff for the time when it was made - the stepmom and stepson even have a baby together, letting poor Tom Sr. think the child is his - and it certainly spices up the drama.
The spice is badly needed, since The Power and the Glory is regrettably low on energy most of the time. Spencer Tracy puts little dash into his portrayal of Tom Sr., and the film's uncredited makeup artist makes the situation worse, not doing much beyond painting lines on his forehead when he's old and erasing them when he's young. Colleen Moore and Ralph Morgan are wan and wistful as Sally and Henry, respectively; only Helen Vinson makes much of an impression, playing Eve as a siren who oozes slinkiness from every pore. Sturges wouldn't create his truly unforgettable Eve until The Lady Eve in 1941, but you can sense her presence here, if only as a twinkle in Sturges's mischievous eye.
Director: William K. Howard
Producer: Jesse L. Lasky
Screenplay: Preston Sturges
Cinematographer: James Howe
Film Editing: Paul Weatherwax
Settings: Max Parker
Music: Lowell Mason, Sarah F. Adams
With: Spencer Tracy (Tom Garner), Colleen Moore (Sally Garner), Ralph Morgan (Henry), Helen Vinson (Eve Borden)
by David Sterritt
The Power and the Glory (1933)
According to news items, Irene Dunne and Mary Astor were considered for the female lead. Colleen Moore, who had not appeared in a film since 1929, was loaned by M-G-M, as was Helen Vinson. Hollywood Reporter noted that Spencer Tracy and director William K. Howard were transfered to this film after Fox postponed production on Marie Galante. According to Film Daily, four former film directors appeared in the film: Phillips Smalley, E. H. Calvert, Frank Beal and Thomas Ricketts. News items noted that some scenes were shot at the Santa Susana Pass in CA and that the largest locomotive in the West was used in the film. According to information in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department at the UCLA Theater Arts Library, the locomotive was leased from the Southern Pacific Company and the exact location of its use was the Hasson, CA station beyond the Santa Susana Pass. Other locations included the Iverson Ranch in Chatsworth, CA, according to a shooting schedule in the Preston Sturges Papers at the UCLA Library Special Collections Department. Los Angeles Times stated that 400 extras were used in the railroad roundhouse scene. New York Times noted that the film included a replica of New York's Little Church Around the Corner. An ad in New York Mirror noted that the film was shot on Eastman Supersensitive Panchromatic "1359" sound recording film.
According to information in the legal records, Philip Maxwell brought an action against Fox in the Superior Court of California for $50,000 for alleged damages suffered because of the dubbing of the voices of his boys choir, the Maxwell Choristers, who were photographed for the film, but whose voices were not used. He claimed that the choir had a contract to furnish the recording and that their reputation was damaged because Fox used another choir on the soundtrack. A Daily Variety news item stated that Maxwell claimed the dubbed chorus included sopranos over basso profundo voices, which caused the audience to "guffaw, titter and make uncomplimentary remarks." He stated that the song "Nearer My God to Thee" was dubbed over his group, who, in fact, were singing "Ave Maria." Later, Maxwell asked to have the suit dismissed, according to the legal records. Shots of the choir are not included in the print viewed.
Production was originally set to begin in late February 1933, but was postponed a number of times, according to news items. When shooting was completed, Hollywood Reporter reported that it looked so good that Fox "has practically decided to withhold it from release until September." When he learned this, Tracy protested, as he had been cast to play the lead role in The American (which was released as The Man Who Dared: An Imaginative Biography, ), and he wanted his work in The Power and the Glory to be seen first. Tracy asked for his release from Fox, but they refused; however, after he objected to appearing again as an old man in The American because he feared he would be stamped as a character actor, he was replaced in that film by Preston Foster. The Power and the Glory had a preview in Los Angeles on June 17, 1933. Information in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library (discussed at length below) indicates that re-shooting took place both before and after the preview following complaints from the Hays Office about certain scenes. According to Hollywood Reporter, writer Preston Sturges worked as a dialogue director on the film for no pay. New York Times, in an unidentified news item from May 1933 in the Sturges Papers, reported that Sturges, formerly a playwright, was "on stage constantly, suggesting, working, advising much as he would with a play in rehearsal." Sturges, who would later become one of Hollywood's top directors, hoped that the experience working on this film would allow him to direct his own screenplays, according to his autobiographical writings. However, he was not given the opportunity until the 1940 film The Great McGinty.
In autobiographical writings, Sturges states that the story for The Power and the Glory was inspired by his second wife's grandfather, C. W. Post, founder of Postum Cereal Company, which later became General Foods. Although Post rose from humble beginnings and committed suicide, like the main character in the film, Sturges wrote that the final film bore no resemblance to Post's life. Sturges stated that he wrote the screenplay as a freelance project after Universal did not pick up their option to renew his contract. According to a letter dated November 17, 1932 in the Preston Sturges Collection, Sturges by that time, had told the story to Jesse L. Lasky, who had his own production unit at Fox. In the letter, Hector Turnbull, working for Lasky, asked Sturges how soon he could send a rough treatment. According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, Sturges refused to deliver a treatment, but instead wrote a complete shooting script, and Lasky, after a meeting with his production forces, could not find anything in the script to cut. In his autobiography, Lasky stated, "It was the most perfect script I'd ever seen," and in Newsweek, Lasky remarked, "I believe Mr. Preston Sturges is the first author to avail himself of the full resources of the new medium."
According to an unidentified news item in the Sturges Papers, dated November 21, 1932, Lasky then made a deal with Sturges to buy the script for a small advance plus a percentage of the profits. According to information in the studio's legal records, the terms of the purchase were that Sturges was to receive $17,500 upon signing, 3 1/2% of the first $500,000 in receipts, 5% of the next $500,000, and 7% of all receipts over $1,000,000. (In a letter in the Sturges Papers, Sturges states that he first offered the script to Lasky for the outright price of $62,475.) Fox publicity for the film stated, "It was conceived as a complete motion picture (that is, it was written in full and never in synopsis form) and thus was the first original screen story to be presented just as a finished play is given a theatre manager for production-on a royalty basis." Hollywood Reporter commented that the deal was the first of its kind ever made between an author and a motion picture producer. By February 1933, Hollywood Reporter reported that several producers were planning to cut down their story department costs by demanding complete screenplays from authors.
The uproar that the Sturges-Lasky deal caused in Hollywood led Paramount producer B. P. Schulberg to write an article, published in Hollywood Reporter February 27, 1933, in which he cautioned the industry not to follow Lasky's example. Schulberg noted that he and M-G-M production head Irving Thalberg, constituting the committee of the Production Branch of AMPAS, worked out the Producer-Author Code of Ethics with the Authors Committee of AMPAS, who made the point "that better writing would result and more pride in and respect for their work accrue to authors if a single author were permitted to write a script and have a voice in transferring it to the screen intact." Schulberg took issue with this view and stated that his own experience taught him that "neither transferring a single author's work to the screen, untouched and unchanged, nor giving a percentage of doubtful profits in place of a flat advance payment will, alone or together, make for better screen product." In Schulberg's opinion, better films were more likely to come as the result of a collaboration between as many as eight writers because films, in their attempt to appeal to a wide audience, must include low comedy, high comedy, heart appeal "and many other elements of intellectual or emotional stimulation." He reasoned that few writers could excel in the various types of writing needed for film. In addition, Schulberg stated that playwrights often require six months to write a play and then time to rewrite it. This would be impossible to accommodate in film production, he wrote, so "the next best alternative is to have four writers work eight weeks each for a combined result instead of one writer working-to cover the same ground-thirty-two weeks." Schulberg went on to criticize the percentage deal by pointing out that "more pictures return a minimum or no profit than pictures that return big profits" and that it was the "fixed yearly income" that brought even successful Broadway writers to Hollywood.
In a draft letter to the editor of Hollywood Reporter in response to the Schulberg article, Sturges wrote, "I am not trying to blaze a trail or lead my brother writers into the light....I am trying this because I like to gamble and because this same method worked out well for me in the theatre." In another draft, he spoke to Schulberg's "warning to authors against sharing in 'doubtful profits.' He will be relieved to learn that my arrangement calls for a percentage of the gross." Concerning Schulberg's contention that "from two to eight authors working together on a single script are better than one," Sturges responded, "I for one can think of no surer way of stamping out originality, initiative, pride of achievement, and quality. You can't play football with a thought." About Schulberg's argument that writers cannot excel in all types of scenes needed in a film to attract a wide audience, Sturges wrote, "Entirely apart from the fact that writers transmit emotions through words and that sad emotions are no more difficult to transmit than funny ones, there is the other fact that, without a sense of humor, a writer's sad scenes might easily become ludicrous and, without a sense of pathos, his funny scenes would not be very funny."
In his autobiographical writings, Sturges stated that he decided to structure the film in a non-chronological fashion because he found that hearing the incidents in Post's life related non-chronologically by his wife added to the interest of the story. Fox publicity played up the manner of storytelling in the film and called it "the first major experiment in screen dramatics." Publicity for the film stated, "Wanting to do something new, Sturges decided to go beyond the most modern pattern of literature and this brought him to the conclusion that while a story might be possessed of a beginning, a climax and an ending, there was no great need in presenting them in that order." The studio coined the word "narratage" to describe the manner of presentation of the narrative, which involved a narrator, in this case "Tom Garner's" friend "Henry," who introduced the scenes throughout the film and in some scenes described the visual occurrences as they took place, even to the point of speaking dialogue as characters mouthed the words. "Narratage" was also used in an independent film of 1933, The Sin of Nora Moran (see below), and film historians suggest that Orson Welles May have been influenced by The Power and the Glory in his first film Citizen Kane, which also told its story in a non-chronological manner. Concerning this way of presenting the events in the film, Nation, in their review, commented, "A mixture of dramatic action and recited narrative, the result has much in common with the earliest Greek plays, in which the leader of the chorus had much the same function as the narrator in the film. But 'narratage,' as the Fox Company has dubbed the method, has a closer parallel in the variety of novel technique perfected long ago by Henry James and illustrated in its more popular mutations in the fiction of Joseph Conrad." Hollywood Reporter stated, "Devotees of Conrad are acquainted with the style in novels, but picture patrons have never seen anything like it before." Variety remarked, "All these flashbacks are skillfully introduced. It's never mechanical or creakily artificial. The montage is smooth and natural. The camera illusions with the soft fade-outs visibly command the mind's eye to what Morgan is telling to his wife.
According to Hays Office records, James C. Wingate, director of the AMPP Studio Relations Committee, wrote to Fox official Colonel Jason Joy about the script after having conferred with Joy, Lasky and Sturges. Wingate expressed concern about the situation in the script in which the son of the main character has a child by his stepmother. Wingate wrote, "There can be few more repellant subjects than that which is portrayed in the present story, namely, an ambitious and attractive young woman marrying a widower to save her father's position; then, in their own home, arousing the sexual interest of his own son, her stepson, having illicit sexual relations with him, and bearing a child from such sexual relations." He advised that it would be a "serious mistake on the part of the industry particularly at the present moment when we are undergoing a severe storm of criticism" to include that situation in the film. Fox President Sidney Kent responded to concerns of MPPDA President Will H. Hays, "If there is in this story a sex relation such as Mr. Hays mentions, it will have to come out. I think the quicker we get away from degenerates and fairies in our stories, the better off we are going to be and I do not want any of them in Fox pictures." In June 1933, Wingate reported to Hays that he had several conferences with Fox officials, "the result of which was that the element has been considerably toned down in the picture. We are, however, not confident that it has been toned down enough, and have suggested some further trims before clearing the picture under the Code." On June 22, 1933, according to a Hays Office memo, "Colonel Joy reported that considerable re-editing and re-shooting is being done on it." In August 1933, because of a strike on the Fox lot, the film was shipped to New York for developing and printing, so the MPPDA New York office was asked to review it, and they passed the film.
The film was highly praised by reviewers. Hollywood Citizen-News stated, "I think it came very close to being one of the best talking pictures ever made in America." Nation called Tracy's performance "one of the fullest characterizations ever achieved on screen." Sturges won the 1933 Hollywood Reporter Award of Merit for Best Original Story, and, according to Hollywood Reporter, his script was published in book form in 1934 by Harcourt-Brace as an example for students. Modern sources note that outside of the New York area, the film did poorly at the box office, which May have been a reason that Sturges was not given the opportunity to direct immediately after the film. According to the legal records, by the end of 1940, the film had grossed $563,323.88 and Sturges' share had acceded his $17,500 advance by only close to $2,000. In a letter to Darryl Zanuck dated in November 1957 in the Sturges Papers, Sturges stated that the film grossed just around a million dollars. Also in the letter, Sturges stated he heard that the negative and master lavender of the film had burned in a New York fire.
Released in United States 1933
Released in United States 1974
Released in United States 1933
Released in United States 1974 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (The Preston Sturges Movie Marathon) March 28 - April 9, 1974)