Both Dan Duryea and Charles Bickford were considered for the role of "Potter." In 1931 Lionel Barrymore won an Academy Award for Best Actor in "A Free Soul" but is probably best known for his role as Henry Potter. Confined to a wheelchair due to a hip injury and severe arthritis, Barrymore played Potter as a wheelchair user. His wheelchair is pushed in all scenes by a wordless assistant (played by Frank Hagney). His performance is listed six slot on the American Film Institute’s list of the 50 Greatest Villains in the history of American cinema.Richard Corliss of "Time" magazine described Barrymore's portrayal as, "... Scrooge, the Grinch and Simon Legree in one craggy, crabby package".
In a 2007 article in The Guardian, Graham Fuller quotes an FBI internal memo from 1947 that states the film "represented a rather obvious attempt to discredit bankers by casting Lionel Barrymore as a 'scrooge-type' [sic] so that he would be the most hated man in the picture. This...is a common trick used by communists."