AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Movie Detail
Name Occurs Before Title Offscreen Credit Print Viewed By AFI
Wilson
Alternate Title: Woodrow Wilson
Director: Henry King (Dir)
Release Date:   Aug 1945
Premiere Information:   New York premiere: 1 Aug 1944; Los Angeles premiere: 11 Aug 1944
Production Date:   22 Nov 1943--mid-Mar 1944
Duration (in mins):   154 or 158
Duration (in feet):   13,861
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Cast:   Charles Coburn (Professor Henry Holmes)  
    Geraldine Fitzgerald (Edith [Bolling Galt] Wilson)  
    Thomas Mitchell (Joseph Tumulty)  
    Ruth Nelson (Ellen [Axson] Wilson)  
    Sir Cedric Hardwicke (Senator Henry Cabot Lodge)  
    Vincent Price (William G. McAdoo)  
    William Eythe (George Felton)  
    Mary Anderson (Eleanor Wilson)  
    Ruth Ford (Margaret Wilson)  
    Sidney Blackmer (Josephus Daniels)  
    Madeleine Forbes (Jessie Wilson)  
    Stanley Ridges (Admiral Grayson)  
    Eddie Foy Jr. (Eddie Foy)  
    Charles Halton (Colonel House)  
    Thurston Hall (Senator E. H. [Edward] Jones)  
    J. M. Kerrigan (Edward Sullivan)  
    James Rennie (Jim Beeker)  
    Katherine Locke (Helen Bones)  
    Stanley Logan (Secretary Lansing)  
    Marcel Dalio ([Georges] Clemenceau)  
    Edwin Maxwell (William Jennings Bryan)  
    Clifford Brooke (Lloyd George)  
    Tonio Selwart ([Count] Von Bernstorff)  
    John Ince (Senator Watson)  
    Charles Miller (Senator Bromfield)  
  and Alexander Knox (Woodrow Wilson)  
    Anne O'Neal (Jennie, the maid)  
    Arthur Loft (Secretary Lane)  
    Russell Gaige (Secretary Colby)  
    Jamesson Shade (Secretary Payne)  
    Reginald Sheffield (Secretary Newton Baker)  
    Robert Middlemass (Secretary Garrison)  
    Matt Moore (Secretary Burleson)  
    George Anderson (Secretary Houston)  
    Robert Barron (Secretary Meredith)  
    Paul Everton (Judge Westcott)  
    Arthur Space (Francis Sayre)  
    George Macready (McCombs)  
    Roy Roberts (Ike Hoover)  
    Frank Orth (Smith)  
    Dewey Robinson (Worker)  
    Francis X. Bushman (Barney Baruch)  
    Cy Kendall (Charles F. Murphy)  
    Emory Parnell (Chairman Democratic committee)  
    Ferris Taylor (Champ Clark delegate)  
    Ken Christy (Southern delegate)  
    Guy D'Ennery (Attorney General Palmer)  
    Antonio Filauri (Vittorio Emanuele Orlando)  
    Hilda Plowright (Jeannette Rankin)  
    Joseph J. Greene (Justice White)  
    Gus Glassmire (Thomas Marshall)  
    Ralph Dunn (Robert M. La Follette)  
    Davison Clark (Champ Clark)  
    Tony Hughes (Colonel Harts)  
    Isabel Randolph (Housekeeper)  
    Jess Lee Brooks (Coats)  
    Gladden James (Redfield)  
    Frank Dawson (Gregory)  
    Larry McGrath (William B. Wilson)  
    Josh Hardin (Tex)  
    Ralph Linn (Newsreel cameraman)  
    Russ Clark (Secret Service man)  
    Harold Schlickenmayer (Baseball manager)  
    Ed Mundy (Hot dog vendor)  
    Aubrey Mather (Butler)  
    Jesse Graves (Scott)  
    Del Henderson (Delegate)  
    John Ardell (Delegate)  
    George Mathews (Army sergeant)  
    Harry Tyler (Conductor)  
    Harry Carter (Secretary)  
    Jessie Grayson (Maid)  
    Frederick Burton (Senator)  
    George Lessey (Senator)  
    Roy Gordon (Senator)  
    Jack Young (Senator)  
    William Carleton (Senator)  
    Clyde Fillmore (Senator)  
    Herbert Heyes (Senator)  
    Emmett King (Senator)  
    Harry Adams (Senator)  
    Gibson Gowland (Senator)  
    Scott Seaton (Senator)  
    George Carleton (Senator)  
    Louis Arco (German delegate)  
    William Yetter (German delegate)  
    Otto Reichow (German delegate)  
    Arno Frey (German delegate)  
    Jeffrey Sayre (Specialty dancer)  
    Phyllis M. Brooks (Granddaughter)  
    Reed Hadley (Usher)  
    Freddie Walburn (Newsboy)  
    Marvin Davis (Newsboy)  
    Danny Jackson (Newsboy)  
    Larry Harris (Newsboy)  
    Paul Hilton (Newsboy)  
    Truman Van Dyke (Newsboy)  
    Norman Salling (Newsboy)  
    Larry McGrath (Secretary Wilson)  
    Joseph Haworth (Naval officer)  
    Edward Ryan (Soldier)  
    Rex Williams (Soldier)  
    Robert Regent (Soldier)  
    Montague Shaw (Harry L. White)  
    Major Sam Harris (General Bliss)  
    Ben Erway (Reporter)  
    Earle Dewey (Reporter)  
    Grandon Rhodes (Reporter)  
    Lester Dorr (Reporter)  
    James Bush (Reporter)  
    George Lynn (Reporter)  
    Franklin Parker (Reporter)  
    Sherry Hall (Reporter)  
    Edward Earle (Reporter)  
    Carroll Nye (Reporter)  
    Griff Barnett (Reporter)  
    Ian Wolfe (Reporter)  
    John Forrest (Reporter)  
    Paul McVey (Reporter)  
    John Davidson (Doctor)  
    John Hamilton (Legislator)  
    John Maxwell Hayes (Legislator)  
    Jack Lawrence (Legislator)  
    Edward Keane (Orator)  
    Forrest Taylor (Orator)  
    Will Wright (Orator)  
    Sam Flint (Orator)  
    Walter Baldwin (Orator)  
    David Cavendish (Secretary)  
    Ray Cooper (Secretary)  
    Eula Morgan (Singer)  
    Marguerita Padula (Singer)  
    Jack Stoney    
    Ralph Sanford    
    John Whitney    
    William Forrest    
    Richard Abbott    
    Roger Imhof    
    Romaine Callender    
    Charles Cane    
    Bob Thornby    
    Emmett Vogan    
    Hamilton MacFadden    
    Larry Williams    
    James Metcalf    
    Jack Baxley    
    Mary Currier    
    Francis Ford    

Summary: In 1909, Woodrow Wilson, president of Princeton University and a renowned author of historical and political books, is visited by Democratic political bosses Edward Sullivan and Senator Edward H. Jones. After praising Wilson's fight to abolish the special privilege of social clubs on campus and his advocacy of democratic ideals, they ask him to run for governor of New Jersey. Wilson defers to his beloved wife Ellen and three daughters, who encourage him to champion his principles of democratic equality. At the New Jersey Democratic convention, Wilson's integrity is challenged by Joseph Tumulty, a critic of the state's political machine. To demonstrate his convictions, Wilson coerces Jones into promising not to run again. Wilson wins the election, and after taking office, is outraged to discover that Jones is planning to stand for re-election. After Jones sneers at Wilson and reminds him that he elected him, Wilson stages a campaign to successfully smash Jones's political bid. As the 1912 presidential election approaches, Wilson For President clubs, overseen by Tumulty, the governor's new secretary, spread throughout the country. As Wilson watches from the New Jersey state house, the convention convenes and his name, along with two others, is placed in nomination. Although the front runner appears to be Champ Clark, a candidate supported by Tammany Hall, Wilson stands fast and is rewarded with the nomination after the convention deadlocks in forty-five consecutive ballots. Campaigning on a platform of equal opportunity for all and against the privileges of big business, Wilson sweeps the nation and defeats the Republican incumbent, William Howard Taft, and the independent candidate, Teddy Roosevelt. Buoyed by his mandate, Wilson takes up residence at the White House and passes the Anti-Trust Act and establishes the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Reserve Bank Act. Wilson's refusal to compromise wins him the enmity of the Senate, led by Henry Cabot Lodge. When Ellen falls ill and her health steadily deteriorates, a melancholy Wilson finds himself unable to concentrate on political affairs. Soon after Ellen's death, Germany declares war on France, and when the Germans torpedo the Lusitania , Congress clamors for war. Wilson refuses to declare war, however, arguing that only by maintaining complete neutrality can the U.S. hope to influence a lasting peace. Adrift without the support of his wife, Wilson nevertheless forces Germany to desist from submarine warfare. One year after Ellen's death, Wilson meets widow Edith Bolling Galt and soon proposes to her. Edith asks him for more time to get to know him, but when the town begins to gossip about their relationship, she finally agrees to marry him. Wilson's refusal to fight weakens his support, and in 1916, he nearly loses to Charles Evans Hughes, but is narrowly re-elected by the electoral votes of the state of California. Soon after, Wilson is notified by Count Von Bernstorff, the German ambassador, that Germany intends to reinstate submarine warfare. Incensed, Wilson denounces Germany and expels Von Bernstorff from the country. Wilson's subsequent declaration of war is greeted by cheers, and soon American troops are being shipped to France. At a railroad station, a group of soldiers bound for Europe detrains and is greeted by Wilson. While serving refreshments at a Red Cross booth, Wilson extolls the virtues of universal peace to the departing troops. Then in a speech to Congress, Wilson unveils his fourteen-point peace proposal, the centerpiece of which is the establishment of a League of Nations, an international peace-keeping force that would insure lasting peace. As U.S. casualties mount, word comes that Germany has accepted Wilson's proposal, and Germany formally surrenders on 11 Nov 1918. Against the advice of his Cabinet, which feels that the idealistic President is no match for the pragmatic politicians he must face, Wilson decides to represent the U.S. at the peace conference in Paris. As Wilson convenes the talks in Paris with Georges Clemenceau, the premiere of France, King George of England and Vittorio Emanuele Orlando, Prime Minister of Italy, a group of U.S. Senators, led by Lodge, who resents his exclusion from the conference, introduce a resolution to veto U.S. participation in the League of Nations. When Clemenceau questions the Senate's opposition, Wilson guarantees American ratification of the League and the Versailles Peace Treaty is then signed. Upon returning to Washington, Wilson mounts a political battle to save the League, and Lodge, who has a vendetta against Wilson, withholds approval of the Treaty. Despite ill health, Wilson begins to canvas the country in support of the League of Nations, delivering forty speeches over seventeen states in twenty-two days. After collapsing from exhaustion in Pueblo, Colorado, Wilson returns to Washington and suffers a debilitating stroke, forcing Edith to act as a conduit to the bedridden President. In 1920, the democrats nominate Cox of Ohio to run for President against Warren G. Harding, an opponent of the League. After Harding wins an overwhelming majority, U.S. participation in the League goes down in defeat. Wilson then bids his Cabinet farewell, confident that the ideals of a League of Nations will one day triumph. 

Production Company: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.  
Production Text: A Darryl F. Zanuck Production
Distribution Company: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.  
Director: Henry King (Dir)
  Joseph Behm (Asst dir)
  Otto Brower (2d unit dir)
Writer: Lamar Trotti (Wrt for the scr by)
Photography: Leon Shamroy (Dir of photog)
  Ernest Palmer (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Wiard Ihnen (Art dir)
  James Basevi (Supv art dir)
Film Editor: Barbara McLean (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Thomas Little (Set dec)
  Paul S. Fox (Assoc)
Costumes: Renè Hubert (Cost)
Music: Alfred Newman (Mus)
  Edward Powell (Orch arr)
Sound: Roger Heman (Sd)
  E. Clayton Ward (Sd)
Special Effects: Fred Sersen (Spec photog eff)
Make Up: Guy Pearce (Makeup artist)
Production Misc: Ray Stannard Baker (Tech adv)
  Miles McCahill (Tech adv)
  R. L. Hough (Prod mgr)
  Truman Joiner (Grip)
  Dave Anderson (Electrician)
  Frances Richardson (Researcher)
  Helen Webb (Researcher)
  Hector Serbaroli (Historic paintings)
Color Personnel: Natalie Kalmus (Technicolor col consultant)
  Richard Mueller (Assoc)
Country: United States

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. 1/8/1944 dd/mm/yyyy LP12861

PCA NO: 9903
Physical Properties: col: Technicolor
  Sd: Western Electric Recording

 
Genre: Biography
Sub-Genre: Historical
 
Subjects (Major): Conventions (Gatherings)
  Peace conferences
  Political campaigns
  Political candidates
  League of Nations
  United States--History--1909-1919
  Woodrow Wilson
  World War I
 
Subjects (Minor): Cabinet officers
  Georges Clemenceau
  Democratic Party
  Family life
  Germany
  Henry Cabot Lodge
  Marriage
  Political bosses
  Princeton University
  Treaties
  United States. Congress. Senate
  Washington (D.C.)
  The White House (Washington, D.C.)
  Widowers

Note: In written onscreen credits, the actors and the characters they portray are introduced in the following manner: "Charles Coburn as Professor Henry Holmes," "Geraldine Fitzgerald as Edith Wilson," etc. Alexander Knox, although the star of the film, is introduced last. The film opens with the following written prologue: "Sometimes the life of a man mirrors the life of a nation. The destiny of our country was crystallized in the life and times of Washington and Lincoln. And perhaps, too, in the life of another president. This is a story of America and the story of a man. Woodrow Wilson, 28th President of the United States." Woodrow Wilson was born on 28 Dec 1856 and died on 3 Feb 1924. He was inaugurated as President of the United States on 4 Mar 1913 and served until his defeat by Warren G. Harding in 1920. Under Wilson, a new era of government regulation was instituted, especially in the areas of banking, anti-trust and fair trade. Wilson presided over the Presidency during World War I, initially keeping the U.S. out of war and later, brokering peace with the Germans and proposing the establishment of the League of Nations as a part of the Versailles Peace Treaty. Although his proposal of the League was rejected by the U.S. Senate, Wilson was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in late 1920. Unlike the film, in which "Ellen Wilson" dies before Germany declares war on France, war was actually declared several days prior to Ellen's death. The character of "Professor Henry Holmes" was a fictional composite of several men who advised Wilson during his political career.
       Materials contained in the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection, located at the UCLA Arts--Special Collections Library, disclose that Wilson was first conceived in Apr 1942 as a story about a family living during the early twentieth century. The treatments for that story, all written by Norman Reilly Raine, were variously titled Yankee Cavalcade , Goodbye Nellie Gray and Goodbye Dollie Gray . By Jan 1943, these treatments were superseded by a screen story titled Woodrow Wilson by Lamar Trotti. According to a Mar 1943 HR news item, Trotti's script was based on Wilson's "private papers, a personal diary and unpublished letters."
       HR news items yield the following information about the production of Wilson : In early Aug 1943, producer Darryl F. Zanuck talked to Walter Huston about playing the title role. By mid-Sep 1943, Ronald Colman was being considered for the role of "Wilson" and Claudette Colbert for the part of "Mrs. Wilson." Although a 26 Oct 1943 item adds that Frank Conroy tested for a role, his appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. A 22 Dec 1943 news item states that cinematographer Ernest Palmer was forced to withdraw from the picture because of illness, and was replaced by Leon Shamroy, who at the time was filming Greenwich Village (see above). According to a 31 Jan 1944 item, James Basevi resigned as art director over a disagreement about the production.
       According to a 25 Apr 1944 item, the picture cost over $4,000,000 to produce, making it the studio's costliest production to date. Eighty-four key sets were built, occupying seven sound stages, according to a 16 Nov 1943 item. Studio publicity contained in the Production files on the film in the AMPAS Library states that the picture cost $5,200,000 and included a total of 162 sets. An Oct 1943 item adds that all the sets were based on detailed accounts from authoritative reference works. The studio went to great lengths to duplicate the White House rooms as they looked in Wilson's day, according to a 5 May 1944 item. Studio publicity adds that architects authentically duplicated the East room, the Blue room and the Oval office in the White House. Also duplicated were the Lincoln bed, Wilson's desk and numerous other pieces of historical furniture. Artist Hector Serbaroli was hired to make copies of paintings that hung in the White House. To achieve the proper colors, cinematographer Shamroy had to add shades of gold, blue, orange, yellow and purple to white light. An 18 Feb 1944 item notes that the Democratic convention scenes were shot at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles and the Princeton backgrounds were shot in Trenton, NJ, according to a 28 Oct 1943 item. Other backgrounds were shot in Pueblo, CO, according to a 30 Nov 1944 item, at the Midwick Country Club in Alhambra, CA, according to a 7 Dec 1943 HR news item, and at the Biltmore Theater in Los Angeles, according to a 23 Dec 1943 item.
       A 5 Sep 1943 item notes that Twentieth Century-Fox film editor Walter Thompson went to Washington to secure 12,000 feet of newsreels shot during the Wilson and World War I era. Some of that footage was eventually incorporated into the World War I segment of the film. The music scoring for the film cost over $425,000, according to a 29 Jun 1944 item. The score included over 90 different tunes from the era of the picture. Among the songs used were "Oh, Susannah," "On Moonlight Bay," "By the Light of the Silvery Moon," "Put on Your Old Gray Bonnet," I Didn't Raise My Boy to Be a Soldier," "I'm Giving My Boy to Uncle Sam" and "Old Nassau," the Princeton alma mater.
       In 1943, before the film began production, a cast of 75 radio actors and the Gordon Jenkins orchestra, all under the direction of veteran radio director William Bacher, recorded the entire script of Wilson , marking the first time in motion picture history that a complete script was done on records before shooting, according to a 27 Sep 1943 HR news item. The film's New York premiere was attended by Mrs. Edith Wilson. Throughout the first year of its release, the picture was distributed on a reserved seat basis that required the purchase of an advanced admission. It did not go into regular price release until Aug 1945, according to a 16 Mar 1945 item. In Aug 1944, the War Department Board of Morale Services forbade showing the film in Army camps on the grounds that it violated the provisions of the Soldier Voting Act. That act prohibits the distribution to the armed forces of any material that may influence the results of a national election. The studio protested the board's ruling and it was overturned by late Aug, according to a 21 Aug 1944 news item.
       To pre-empt plagiarism suits, the studio bought the screen rights to the 1944 book Woodrow Wilson by Gerald W. Johnson. The book was not incorporated into Trotti's screenplay, however. In 1945, Anthony Richard Pinci sued the studio for pirating his 1929 play Woodrow Wilson , according to a 4 Jan 1945 news item. The outcome of that suit is unknown. The film was nominated for the following Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Actor (Alexander Knox), Best Director, Best Special Effects and Best Musical Score. It won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, Best Color Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Film Editing and Best Sound Recording. The film garnered enthusiastic reviews. The Var review gushed "[Wilson] can be its own Yankee good-will-getter abroad, perhaps of a value transcending statesmanship or lend-lease. For domestic consumption, it's a must."
       Although a Sep 1943 DV news item noted that the film's screenplay was to be broadcast as a radio play before filming began, this has not been confirmed. Other productions based on the life of Wilson include a 20 Mar 1944 Hall of Fame Broadcast over the Blue Network that featured a condensed version of the film script; a 13 May 1961 NBC Our American Heritage teledrama titled Woodrow Wilson and the Unknown Soldier with Judson Laire and Humphrey Davis, directed by James Lee; and a 3 Oct 1962 NBC documentary titled The Ordeal of Woodrow Wilson , directed by Robert K. Sharpe. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   12 Aug 1944.   
Daily Variety   2 Aug 44   pp. 3-4.
Daily Variety   14 Sep 43   p. 1.
Film Daily   2 Aug 44   p. 1.
Film Daily   2 Aug 44   p. 2, 7
Hollywood Reporter   19 Feb 42   p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter   21 Sep 42   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   26 Mar 43   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Aug 43   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   5 Sep 1943.   
Hollywood Reporter   16 Sep 43   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   27 Sep 43   p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter   26 Oct 43   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   28 Oct 43   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   19 Nov 43   p. 19.
Hollywood Reporter   22 Nov 43   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   30 Nov 43   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   7 Dec 43   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   22 Dec 43   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   23 Dec 43   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   7 Jan 44   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   12 Jan 44   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   31 Jan 44   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   18 Feb 44   p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter   10 Mar 44   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   29 Jun 44   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Aug 44   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   3 Aug 44   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   10 Aug 44   p. 1, 14
Hollywood Reporter   21 Aug 44   p. 1, 11
Hollywood Reporter   22 Aug 44   pp. 9-21.
Hollywood Reporter   30 Nov 44   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   4 Jan 45   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   16 Mar 45   p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter   18 Dec 50   p. 2.
Motion Picture Herald   5 Aug 1944.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   18 Dec 43   p. 1676.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   5 Aug 44   p. 2029.
New York Times   2 Aug 44   p. 18.
New York Times   6 Aug 44   p. 1.
Variety   2 Aug 44   p. 10.

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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.
 
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