Because President Hammond is no longer his former self, the sexual relationship with Penny Molloy is over. But he still needs her in his inner circle. That's fine. She's now more excited by his commitment to the the people. If Washington insiders think he's mad, she calls it "a divine madness." This also clears the way for Mr. Beekman. He's fallen in love with Miss Molloy...and she's fallen in love with him. The President will be pleased.
Because of the Great Depression, unemployed men are sleeping in parks, like Central Park in New York City. That really happened. My grandfather was unemployed during the Depression and slept in Central Park a few times before he landed work as a domestic employee in the home of a wealthy family. In Gabriel Over The White House, a Million Man March on Washington is planned. The out of work men want work. They want the government's attention. The old President Hammond told the press, off-the-record, that the question of mass unemployment was a local problem. Audiences in 1933 must have been reminded of the Bonus Army marches on Washington in 1932. Unemployed WWI veterans wanted jobs and demanded benefits they were promised.
When the leader of the Million Man March speaks on national radio (no television in those days), President Hammond is not listening. He has the radio turned on but he's loudly playing with his little nephew before he leaves to drive himself out of control on a long highway.
The renewed Hammond goes to meet with the unemployed black and white men. He walks among them. He speaks to them from the heart. Without a written speech.
There's a big touch of German expressionism in the look of Gabriel Over The White House.
I've read that this little movie caused some big controversy. It was directed by Gregory La Cava and -- if you think about it -- the movie has social elements that he later dealt with comically and very successfully. My Man Godfrey is about responsibility to your fellow man. We see this message played out with a rich family of screwballs in New York City that whimsically hires a homeless man to be its new butler. He was one of the "Forgotten Men" living in the city dump because of unemployment in the Great Depression. My Man Godfrey (1936) starred William Powell and Carole Lombard.
There would be media buzz about this transformed president and his new deal for a country in an economic crisis plus his way of handling international leaders. Cable's Fox News, CNN, MSNBC and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart would be talking about it.
We never see a celestial character, like in Here Comes Mr. Jordan, or its Warren Beatty remake Heaven Can Wait, or Capra's It's A Wonderful Life. The change is seen with a subtle change of light on Walter Huston's face -- and it's a change of light and attitude that Penny Molloy also witnesses. She feels some other presence in the room.
The Miss Molloy character is very interesting for a pre-Production Code Hollywood movie. She's a mature and independent woman. She loves a man and, it's implied, has made love to him without asking him to give up his bachelor status. She's an idealist. She believes that "a simple honest man could solve everything." Penny Molloy cares about others. She doesn't call herself religious but she has a respect for and a knowledge of the Bible. Look at the countenance on her face when she says, "Lincoln freed the slaves with the pen." She's her own woman. She's a woman of substance. She's very well-played by Karen Morley. She, Franchot Tone and Walter Huston deliver excellent performances in this odd movie.
Huston cut a mean figure. He was a big man, graceful and comfortable in his own skin. Rugged yet elegant. He could look just as comfortable in a tuxedo having a swanky dinner with socialites as he could wearing casual duds and fishing in the woods.. He carried himself well. He wore clothes well. He had a masculine magnetism that was truly "All-American." Women wanted to be with him. Men wanted to be with him. This strength and charisma are utilized beautifully when he starred in William Wyler's Dodsworth (1936), a great film. We see that All-American quality in his charming portrayal of George M. Cohan's father in Yankee Dandle Dandy (1942). We see his Oscar-winning skill as a character actor when he played the old prospector who respects America's overlooked riches in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. He won Best Supporting Actor of 1948 for that film classic, directed by his son, John Huston.
La Cava's Gabriel Over The White was released by MGM studios. It's an usual production for MGM, a powerful Hollywood studio that became the Tiffany of movie musicals. In the 1930s, MGM didn't delve into social issues the way Warner Brothers did. The opening credits show that it's based on a novel written by "Anonymous." It was co-produced by William Randolph Hearst, the template for Orson Welles' Citizen Kane character. Gabriel Over The White House is now available on Warner Brothers Archive Collection DVD. This dramatic political fantasy is worth a look.