American Madness (1932)

75-76 mins | Drama | 15 August 1932

Director:

Frank Capra

Writer:

Robert Riskin

Producer:

Harry Cohn

Cinematographers:

Joseph Walker, André Barlatier

Editor:

Maurice Wright

Production Designer:

Stephen Goosson

Production Company:

Columbia Pictures Corp.
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HISTORY

The working titles of this film were Money and Faith . A FD news item lists the following additional cast members, whose participation in the final film has not been confirmed: John Standing and Tom Dugan. Actor Anderson Lawler's name is also spelled Lawlor in contemporary and modern sources. American Madness had a special preview during the annual Columbia convention, held in Atlantic City in May 1932, and its world premiere, attended by prominent bankers and economists, was held in New York on 4 Aug 1932, the night before the film opened in New York for general audiences.
       Although a 1932 LAEx news item noted that the character of Thomas Dickson was loosely based on A. H. Giannini, the chairman of Bank of America's executive committee, Frank Capra stated in a modern source interview that Dickson was based on A. P. Giannini, A. H.'s brother and the founder of Bank of America, whose lending policies based on the character of the applicant were well-known. The LAEx news item also reported that Harry Cohn commissioned the film on A.H. Giannini, and it was originally to have been directed by Allan Dwan. According to modern sources, A. H. Giannini was a partner with Harry and Jack Cohn on the voting trust of Columbia.
       This was the first of Capra's films for which Robert Riskin was the sole writer. According to Capra's autobiography, he produced the film's feeling of urgency by speeding up the pace of the acting and editing.
       According to information in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, American Madness was initially rejected by ... More Less

The working titles of this film were Money and Faith . A FD news item lists the following additional cast members, whose participation in the final film has not been confirmed: John Standing and Tom Dugan. Actor Anderson Lawler's name is also spelled Lawlor in contemporary and modern sources. American Madness had a special preview during the annual Columbia convention, held in Atlantic City in May 1932, and its world premiere, attended by prominent bankers and economists, was held in New York on 4 Aug 1932, the night before the film opened in New York for general audiences.
       Although a 1932 LAEx news item noted that the character of Thomas Dickson was loosely based on A. H. Giannini, the chairman of Bank of America's executive committee, Frank Capra stated in a modern source interview that Dickson was based on A. P. Giannini, A. H.'s brother and the founder of Bank of America, whose lending policies based on the character of the applicant were well-known. The LAEx news item also reported that Harry Cohn commissioned the film on A.H. Giannini, and it was originally to have been directed by Allan Dwan. According to modern sources, A. H. Giannini was a partner with Harry and Jack Cohn on the voting trust of Columbia.
       This was the first of Capra's films for which Robert Riskin was the sole writer. According to Capra's autobiography, he produced the film's feeling of urgency by speeding up the pace of the acting and editing.
       According to information in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, American Madness was initially rejected by the Ohio state censor board, but was later approved for showing if the scenes of people mobbing the bank and demanding their money were deleted. In a 25 Mar 1932 letter to Will H. Hays, the head of the MPPDA, Colonel Jason S. Joy, who was the Director of the Studio Relations Department of the AMPP, made a comment concerning an early script for American Madness and other proposed stories dealing with banks: "The bank stories I think are all right from a policy standpoint and will even do good by helping renew confidence in banking institutions. In fact one of them, a Columbia story tentatively called FAITH ought to be seen by all the bankers themselves for, in script-form at least, it is a strong preachment of principles I know you thoroughly believe in, namely enough confidence by bankers in human nature to allow them to take leadership and help cure these screwy times." After the film was released, A. H. Giannini wrote to Harry Cohn and stated: "I believe that this photoplay, which should be exploited by the leading theatres of this country, will do more than any other single agency to stop runs on banks which are started by false or malicious rumors." Joy sent this letter to various censor boards and exhibitors to advertise the film. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Film Daily
7 Apr 32
p. 8.
Film Daily
9 May 32
p. 6.
Film Daily
22 May 32
p. 4.
Film Daily
24 May 32
p. 6.
Film Daily
1 Jul 32
p. 6.
Film Daily
3 Aug 32
p. 4.
Film Daily
4 Aug 32
p. 4.
International Photographer
1 Sep 32
p. 32.
Los Angeles Examiner
26 Feb 1932.
---
Motion Picture Herald
9 Jul 32
p. 36.
New York Times
6 Aug 32
p.14.
Variety
9 Aug 32
p. 17.
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Faith
Money
Release Date:
15 August 1932
Premiere Information:
World premiere in New York: 4 August 1932
Production Date:
2 April--27 April 1932
Copyright Claimant:
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Copyright Date:
18 July 1932
Copyright Number:
LP3155
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
75-76
Length(in feet):
7,093
Length(in reels):
8
Country:
United States
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

Union National Bank president Thomas Dickson is chastised by the bank's board of directors, who are upset about Dickson's generous lending practices. The directors also disapprove of Dickson's assertion that the way to end the Depression is to get more money into circulation, thereby enabling businesses to keep going. While the directors' meeting is going on, head cashier Cyril Cluett is threatened by gangster Dude Finlay for not paying his gambling debts. Finlay orders Cluett to help his gang rob the bank that night by making sure the safe is open. Cluett reluctantly agrees, and Finlay tells him to establish an alibi. After Finlay leaves, Dickson's wife Phyllis arrives, and when Dickson's secretary Helen tells her Dickson is busy, Phyllis goes to see Cluett. Because Phyllis is lonely and constantly ignored by her busy husband, Cluett asks her out to dinner that night. She turns him down, but goes with him anyway when Dickson forgets their anniversary and makes plans to be out of town. Head teller Matt Brown, who had seen Cluett's advances toward Phyllis, goes to Cluett's apartment that night to discuss the matter with him, and finds Phyllis, who agrees to leave with Matt. A few moments later, the bank is robbed and the guard killed by Finlay's gang. The next morning the robbery is discovered, and Matt, who is responsible for locking the safe, is arrested. In order to spare Phyllis' reputation, even though it will hurt his fiancée Helen, Matt lies to the police, telling them he was at home when the robbery occurred. His alibi is disproven, and while things grow worse for him, exaggerated ... +


Union National Bank president Thomas Dickson is chastised by the bank's board of directors, who are upset about Dickson's generous lending practices. The directors also disapprove of Dickson's assertion that the way to end the Depression is to get more money into circulation, thereby enabling businesses to keep going. While the directors' meeting is going on, head cashier Cyril Cluett is threatened by gangster Dude Finlay for not paying his gambling debts. Finlay orders Cluett to help his gang rob the bank that night by making sure the safe is open. Cluett reluctantly agrees, and Finlay tells him to establish an alibi. After Finlay leaves, Dickson's wife Phyllis arrives, and when Dickson's secretary Helen tells her Dickson is busy, Phyllis goes to see Cluett. Because Phyllis is lonely and constantly ignored by her busy husband, Cluett asks her out to dinner that night. She turns him down, but goes with him anyway when Dickson forgets their anniversary and makes plans to be out of town. Head teller Matt Brown, who had seen Cluett's advances toward Phyllis, goes to Cluett's apartment that night to discuss the matter with him, and finds Phyllis, who agrees to leave with Matt. A few moments later, the bank is robbed and the guard killed by Finlay's gang. The next morning the robbery is discovered, and Matt, who is responsible for locking the safe, is arrested. In order to spare Phyllis' reputation, even though it will hurt his fiancée Helen, Matt lies to the police, telling them he was at home when the robbery occurred. His alibi is disproven, and while things grow worse for him, exaggerated reports of the robbery spread until a run on the bank begins. Dickson tries to calm the mob, but as they overwhelm him, the tellers inform him that they will soon run out of money. Dickson appeals to the directors, but they agree to help only if he resigns and gives them an option on his bank stock. He refuses, and while he is calling his friends for help, the police find out about Finlay's visit to Cluett, after which they quickly discover the identity of the robbers and release Matt. Dickson finds out that Phyllis was with Cluett, and, crushed by her apparent betrayal as well as his friends' refusals to aid him, he agrees to the directors' deal. Matt and Helen ask the bank clients into whom Dickson has put so much faith to return the favor and help Dickson by making deposits. As they begin to stream in, their deposits, in addition to Phyllis' pleas, prevent Dickson from committing suicide, and he emerges from his office to take control of the bank. The directors are inspired by the depositors' confidence and invest their own fortunes, which averts disaster. Everything soon returns to normal, and Dickson orders Matt and Helen to get married while he and Phyllis take a second honeymoon. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.