Executive Suite

Wise's most distinguished feature to date, this film featured an all-star cast put together by producer John Houseman (whom Wise had met while they were both working on CITIZEN KANE). Up-and-comer William Holden relished the chance to work with such great actors, saying "Everybody was so good—so on his toes—that when you went in there in the morning you had to put on your best. It was a great experience."*

Nina Foch and William Holden

Nina Foch and William Holden

Houseman handpicked Wise for the project, confident that the director's sense of pacing and structure would elicit the maximum amount of tension and action from the dialogue-heavy script. Wise came through with flying colors, making some radical choices along the way. There was no music in the film, only the sounds found in the business world (such as the Wall Street clock chimes that solemnly announce each actor's name in the credits). Having been trained as a sound editor, Wise was particularly astute when it came to music and sound in his films. "A good score, when used in the right way, can add qualities and dimensions that enrich and strengthen your film. A very important aspect of choosing where to have music in a film is where you don't use it, for as valuable as where the music should go is where there shouldn't be any."*

Wise didn't want to use any fades or dissolves in the movie, preferring to strengthen its rhythm with straight cuts. "Because of the way the story built from the beginning and how it went along—all the people involved, all the different scenes—I thought I could keep the momentum without having to do time lapses. It seemed to me that we were so locked into dissolves and fade-outs that it became almost a cliché."*

Synopsis When Avery Bullard, the owner of a gigantic furniture firm dies, the company is shaken to its core. His secretary, Erica Martin, seems particularly grief-stricken. But among the company's executives there is no time for grief. They immediately become embroiled in a series of power plays to become top man at the company. Souvenir Program The jockeying vice presidents are Loren Shaw (comptroller), Josiah Dudley (sales), Frederick Alderson (senior officer), Jesse Grimm (production), and McDonald Walling (design). Surveying the candidates for the presidential position is Julia Tredway, daughter of the founder of the manufacturing firm and mistress to the recently deceased company head. She is also the chief stockholder so her decision will tip the scales. Comptroller Shaw is ruthless in his quest for the top position, blackmailing Dudley into supporting him by threatening to expose an extramarital affair with his secretary, Eva. He uses the same tactics on board member George Caswell when he learns that Caswell has attempted to make profits on shady stock deals. The only executive not actively contending for the presidency is Walling, who is only concerned with living the good life with wife Mary and son Mike. At a crucial board meeting, Walling gives an impassioned speech about the firm—the lofty ideals it must uphold in practicing ethical business procedures, and how ingenuity and quality should be favored over profits. Julia Tredway, moved by his eloquence, votes for his presidency and the rest of the board members fall into line.

From The Motion Picture Guide, Volume III, p. 789

Wise Facts
  • To publicize this new kind of film, the "boardroom drama," the ads gushed: "High up in the skyscraper, beauty and power clash in conflict!" It worked, attracting a large audience.
  • The Tredway Corporation became the Cardway Corporation in the short-lived 1976 television series based on the film.
  • Credits: 104 min. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer; Distributed by: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer;  Directed by: Robert Wise;  Produced by: John Houseman;  Screenplay by:Ernest Lehman;  Edited by: Ralph E. Winters;  Director of Photography: George J. Folsey;  Production Design by: Cedric Gibbons, Edward Carfagno;  Sound by: Douglas Shearer;  Costumes by: Helen Rose;  Make-up by: William Tuttle;  Hair by: Sydney Guilaroff.
    B. Stanwyck Cast  William Holden (McDonald Walling), June Allyson (Mary Blemond Walling), Barbara Stanwyck (Julia O. Tredway), Fredric March (Loren Phineas Shaw), Walter Pidgeon (Frederick Y. Alderson), Shelley Winters (Eva Bardeman), Paul Douglas (Josiah Walter Dudley), Louis Calhern (George Nyle Caswell), Dean Jagger (Jesse Q. Grimm), Nina Foch (Erica Martin), Tim Considine (Mike Walling), William Phipps (Bill Lundeen), Lucille Knoch (Mrs. George Nyle Caswell), Mary Adams (Sara Asenath Grimm), Virginia Brissac (Edith Alderson), Edgar Stehli (Julius Steigel), Harry Shannon (Ed Benedeck), Charles Wagenheim (Luigi Cassoni), Virginia Filer (Western Union Operator), Jonathan Cott (Cop), Robin Camp (Mailroom Boy), Ray Mansfield (Alderson Secretary), A. Cameron Grant and Bert Davidson (Salesmen), May McAvoy (Grimm Secretary), Willis Bouchey and John Doucette (Morgue Officials), Esther Michelson and Gus Schilling (News Dealers), Abe Dinovitch (Cab Driver), Faith Geer (Stork Club Hat Check Girl), Mimi Doyle (Telephone Operator), Mary Alan Hokanson (Nurse), Paul Bryar (Stork Club Waiter), John Banner (Enrique), Roy Engel (Jimmy Farrell), Madie Norman (Walling Housekeeper), Dan Riss (City Editor), David McMahon and Ralph Montgomery (Reporters), Raoul Freeman (Avery Bullard), Ann Tyrell (Shaw Secretary).

    Photo Gallery
    Movie Clips
    Complete Credits


    1.Motion Picture Guide, Vol. III, p. 789
    2. Robert Wise On His Films, p. 123
    3. Robert Wise On His Films, p. 34

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