|Directed by||Robert Wise|
|Produced by||John Houseman|
|Written by||Ernest Lehman|
|Based on||Executive Suite
by Cameron Hawley
|Cinematography||George J. Folsey|
|Edited by||Ralph E. Winters|
Executive Suite is a 1954 American MGM 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, Barbara Stanwyck, Fredric March, Walter Pidgeon, Shelley Winters, 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. He would go on to write Sabrina, North By Northwest, West Side Story, and other significant films. The film is one of few in Hollywood history without a musical score, although 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 in the street he drops his wallet which is picked up by a bystander, emptied of its cash, and shoved into a wastebasket. Without the wallet, there's no way to immediately identify the body as Bullard.
Over the subsequent 28 hours, and with no sitting Executive VP, six of Tredway's executives vie to be chosen as Bullard replacement as president.
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 in the 45 minutes of exchange trading left on that Friday afternoon. The broker manages to sell 3,700 shares of the stock and Caswell assumes he'll be able to cover that sale by buying Tredway stock at "a 10-point discount" on Monday morning when news of Bullard's death pushes the stock price down.
But Bullard's body remains unidentified for several hours and Caswell begins to entertain doubt that it was Bullard at all who died in the street. Eventually, while at the Stork Club that evening, he reads a mention in one paper that a man with the initials "A.B." on his clothes and cufflinks has died in the street and remains unidentified. This convinces Caswell that it was in fact Bullard, so he calls the police to tip them off to the body's identity.
Once news of Bullard's death reaches Tredway, company controller Loren Shaw takes the initiative in arranging Bullard's funeral and coordinating the company's reaction to the news. In so doing, he effectively diminishes the stature and confidence of Treasurer Frederick Alderson, who had been one of Bullard's closest friends though never a formal successor. Shaw also shrewdly releases the upcoming quarterly report, so that the good news of big profits might counter the news of Bullard's death and perhaps even raise the stock price when the market opens Monday morning.
The initial self-appointed frontrunner is the ambitious but narrowly focused Shaw, who is concerned more with short term accounting gains and satisfying the stockholders than the quality of the company's actual products and long-term company growth. He holds the proxy of Julia Tredway, the daughter of the company's founder, who is still a major shareholder and board member. She had also been in a difficult romantic relationship with Bullard for many years.
Shaw also gains the vote of Caswell in return for allowing Caswell to purchase 4,000 shares of company stock at the Friday closing price to cover his "shady" short sale. If Caswell doesn't get those shares from the company reserve, he will be ruined when the exchange demands he pay the higher price for the stock he shorted.
Treasurer Alderson and Don Walling, idealistic Vice President for Design and Development, are determined to prevent Shaw from becoming President. After considering all the contenders, Walling convinces Alderson that Walling himself should be president. Walling is a strong believer in developing new products and more efficient manufacturing methods, although his wife, Mary, is against his giving up his dream of being a full-time designer. The decision process is further complicated by soon to retire Vice President of Manufacturing Jesse Grimm's opposition to Walling's relative youth. Contender Walt Dudley, back-slapping Vice President of Sales, is having an affair with his secretary Eva Bardem, for which Shaw is now blackmailing him.
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 carrying the day, resulting in his unanimous election as company president.
- William Holden as McDonald "Don" Walling, Vice President for Design and Development
- Fredric March as Loren Phineas Shaw, Vice President and Controller
- Walter Pidgeon as Frederick Y. Alderson, Vice President and Treasurer
- Paul Douglas as J. Walter Dudley, Vice President for Sales
- Barbara Stanwyck as Julia O. Tredway, daughter and heir of the founder of Tredway
- Louis Calhern as George Nyle Caswell, board member
- Dean Jagger as Jesse Q. Grimm, Vice President for Manufacturing
- Nina Foch as Erica Martin, secretary to the late CEO, Avery Bullard
- Shelley Winters as Eva Bardeman, secretary to Walter Dudley, as well as his mistress
- June Allyson as Mary Blemond Walling, wife of Don Walling
- Tim Considine as Mike Walling, son of Don Walling
- William Phipps as Bill Lundeen, a manager reporting to Don Walling
According to MGM records the film earned $2,682,000 in the US and Canada and $903,000 outside, resulting in a profit of $772,000.
Awards and nominations
- Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Nina Foch)
- Best Art Direction (Cedric Gibbons, Edward Carfagno, Edwin B. Willis, Emile Kuri)
- Best Cinematography
- Best Costume Design
The film also received two BAFTA Awards nominations:
The film won the Special Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival for best ensemble acting for the entire cast.
More than two decades later, the film and novel were adapted into a weekly dramatic television series with the same title. Airing on CBS in 1976-77, 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.
- Executive Suite at the Internet Movie Database
- Executive Suite at the TCM Movie Database
- Executive Suite at AllMovie