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39 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic 50's drama, ripe for rediscovery.
Executive Suite is an often overlooked drama, but I beleive it to be one of the best films of the 1950's. The death of the president of a large furniture company creates a power struggle among the remaining board members. Competing for the top job are William Holden as an idealistic designer and engineer, and Fredric March as the company's chief acccountant. These...
Published on September 3, 1999 by abfurlow@gateway.net

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5 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Executive Suite
Just received my DVD copy of "Executive Suite" and am sad to find out that it has not been Widescreened by Warner's. It states on the back of the box that it is in the format of its original theatrical exhibition. Wrong! It was filmed at ratio of 1.66:1 not 1.33:1. The LaserDisc I have from MGM was widescreened at the correct aspect ratio. "Executive Suite" is a good...
Published on October 29, 2007 by Leon Noel


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39 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic 50's drama, ripe for rediscovery., September 3, 1999
This review is from: Executive Suite [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Executive Suite is an often overlooked drama, but I beleive it to be one of the best films of the 1950's. The death of the president of a large furniture company creates a power struggle among the remaining board members. Competing for the top job are William Holden as an idealistic designer and engineer, and Fredric March as the company's chief acccountant. These two spend much of the film jockying other members of the board for their votes. The climactic showdown comes in the form of a board meeting where one man snatches victory from the jaws of defeat, not by force or cunning or even any kind of cleverness, but simply by telling the truth. One of the finest scenes you'll ever see in any film.
Holden and March are both outstanding, with straightforward direction by Robert Wise. One interesting note: this film has no musical score, very rare for a film from the 50's--only the bell from the company's clock tower.
This is a film that should be seen by anyone interested in story structure or conflict resolution. Definitely a film whose time has come again.
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33 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, timeless business saga, October 30, 2004
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This review is from: Executive Suite [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Forget about "Wall Street," "Boiler Room," or "Other People's Money." Forget "The Hudsucker Proxy" and the other seriously over the top spoofs of business. "Executive Suite" is the real thing.

Fifty years old, scenes ring true. William Holden's closing, impassioned speech, about the need to invest in the future instead of dividend maximization, is a classic treatment, useful for a business school class. What is perhaps most remarkable is the timeless nature of his points, about customers, quality, pride, and growth. Sure, the technology is dated. Telegrams. Dial phones. The board room looks like the reception area to Fred Munster's house. People step on and off planes without security, parking problems, or laptops in hand. But that only makes the story all the more credible. The important things haven't changed. And it shows that some things we think are new problems in business -- insider trading, board manipulation, sexual harrassment -- are at least as old as this fine film, certainly older.

Here's the basic story line: The president of Treadway furniture firm dies in the street en route to a train and a meeting in Philadelphia. An opportunistic Treadway executive of sees the crowd in the street and -- shades of today -- shorts the company's stock. The president's death is not immediately known to all, leaving some intrigue and lots of ambiguity. And, oh yes, there's the top salesman having an affair with a nubile Shelley Winters, and a frozen-appearing Barbara Stanwyck -- a Treadway -- also apparently on the verge of suicide from the cold shoulder she has received from the overworked, now-dead president.

Counting votes, twisting arms, and playing politics, Holden and Pidgeon contrive a plan to move the election of the president in their direction. The last twelve minutes of the film, including an apology from Holden's jealous-of-how-the-work-consumes-her-husband wife -- a glowing June Allyson -- allows hopes and schemes to unravel and others to gel.

If it is still out of stock, don't be shy about perusing the used VHS offerings. It's worth it.
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars William Holden, September 2, 2005
By 
M. Hencke "m hencke" (New York, NY United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Executive Suite [VHS] (VHS Tape)
The first reason you need to see this film is for William Holden. I make it a point of trying to see every film he's in. He is my favorite actor of all time. Now that thats out of the way...Robert Wise has delivered a suspenseful and tremendously well made film that doesn't use a lick of music and has stunning camera work. I was particularly blown away by all the smooth dolly shots and the opening POV sequence in the beginning of the film...Seeing everything through Bullard's eyes, the dead man who sets this story off and running. It reminded me a great deal of the John Frankenheimer film "Seconds" in that sequence and Suite was made sometime before that film. This is a must see office drama that really was ahead of its time from a technical filmmaking perspective. The script is solid and watching Holden fight to be the President of the company is a joy to watch! And you've gotta love a movie that has Stanwyck and Holden together again in the same film.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars DVD Showcases Slick, Vigorous Movie Focused on Pre-Enron Corporate Backroom Politics, November 12, 2007
This review is from: Executive Suite (DVD)
Finally on DVD, this forgotten 1954 drama would certainly be ripe for a remake in the age of Enron, Halliburton and Tyco. As it stands, it's a slick MGM package directed by Robert Wise with an all-star cast but also a surprisingly incisive film about a corporate power struggle within a leading furniture company. Even though there is an air of soap opera naiveté about it, the movie benefits significantly from an economical, provocative script by Ernest Lehman, his first for the big screen, and a powerful cast of star actors performing like a well-oiled machine. An intriguing subtlety of the story is that the company is publicly held and consequently questions regarding stockholder value and dividend payouts take on a surprising dramatic resonance.

The linear plot focuses on the sudden death of Tredway Corporation president Avery Bullard on a Friday afternoon. With no succession plan in place - a gap felt by many companies today - six VPs are all possible candidates to take over - perennial also-ran Alderson, oily Caswell, weak-willed Dudley, retirement-ready Grimm, power-hungry Shaw and up-and-comer Walling. Each has his own advantages and obvious shortcomings, with the additional complication of Julia Tredway, the chief stockholder, who is also the daughter of the company founder and as it turns out, Bullard's frustrated mistress. What follows are the weekend machinations of the men, culminating in a Monday morning showdown in the corporate boardroom where the successor is named. What I like most about the film is Wise's no-frills approach toward what could have been a rather by-the-numbers story about company politics. He takes the predictably episodic aspect of following the five men and integrates the threads tightly and seamlessly. Wise uses no music to highlight the drama, which ironically allows the histrionics to work on their own, and a neat first-person POV to open the film dramatically.

The heavy-duty cast does well in economic turns that epitomize the concept of ensemble. As Walling, William Holden was at the height of his film career in 1954 (he was also in Sabrina, The Country Girl and The Bridges at Toko-Ri that year), and he provides the comparatively youthful charisma to get away with the high-minded speech at the end. With her trademark frog-throated sincerity, June Allyson plays Walling's dutiful wife with efficiency. Walter Pidgeon also makes his moments count as Alderson, especially in the cathartic scene when he comes to accept his own limitations. As Dudley, Paul Douglas plays another variation of the bearish, brash role he played in Joseph Mankiewicz's A Letter to Three Wives, while a young Shelley Winters is surprisingly low-key as his secretary/mistress.

Louis Calhern turns his dignified persona inside out as Caswell, and Nina Foch brings a palpable sense of desperate grief to the role of Bullard's executive assistant. Dean Jagger has precious few moments as Grimm, while Barbara Stanwyck moves securely into Joan Crawford-at-Pepsi territory and gets to have a major meltdown as Julia. The final scene she has with Allyson speaking about the role of the tolerant wife is a dated piece of pre-feminist whimsy. Yet, out of this impressive gallery of scenery chewers, the best performance comes from Fredric March, who brings uncompromising, Machiavellian malevolence to a simmering boil as Shaw. The last scenes move so quickly that the ending feels a bit pat, but no matter, this movie still makes the backroom world of corporate politics utterly fascinating.

The 2007 DVD, released as a single disc or as part of the five-disc, six-film Barbara Stanwyck - The Signature Collection, boasts an enthusiastic commentary track from maverick filmmaker Oliver Stone, who views the film as a cultural milestone as well as a cinematic one (his own Wall Street is obviously inspired by it). As was typical with theatrical screenings back in the 1950's, there are a couple of vintage 1954 MGM shorts included - one an 11-minute live-action Pete Smith featurette, "Out for Fun", and the other is a Tex Avery cartoon, "Billy Boy". The original theatrical trailer completes the DVD extras.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great movie that still feels relevant, April 30, 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Executive Suite [VHS] (VHS Tape)
I have to disagree with the one reviewer here who said he faults the movie for being "too ordinary". That is actually why I like it so much. It feels very true to life. Some of the exchanges early on reminded me of executive meetings I have seen in real life. The VP sales is talking about his golf game with a client. The VP Engineering is being pulled aside to confer with his development engineers on an urgent matter. The VP Finance is rambling on about quotas and margin curves. Yes, some of it is boring, but the lack of over dramatization is what makes it so good. What is at stake in this power game is not the fate of the world-its the fate of a furniture making factory. In one scene, William Holden even talks with his wife about if its worth even fighting the good fight for the company. She urges him to strike out on his own-form his own design company. He ponders this and then decides that he will do that only if he feels there is no way not to be able to do what he wants at the company he is with after investing his energy in it for so long. I have had this same discussion with some of my friends who were thinking of leaving their companies to strike out on their own.
The final scene is great, if a little contrived.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Business Psychological Drama, November 29, 1998
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This review is from: Executive Suite [VHS] (VHS Tape)
I can't remember who recommended this one, but it turned out to be a favorite! Young Wm Holden rises to the challenge as various inside and outside directors try to take over the corporation. Anyone who thinks business is boring should see this for a taste of what corporate politics at its worst could be. Great story!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good character drama, August 7, 2007
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This review is from: Executive Suite (DVD)
I remembered this film from years ago when I was younger (I am 33). I watched this on either AMC (before they had commmericals) or TCM as the movie where the guy has a fit at the end and breaks the table. Later, as I grew to appreciate William Holden, I realized he was the guy and I watched the movie again. Great cast of 1950's heavy hitters: Holden, Barbara Stanwyck, Dean Jagger, Paul Douglas, Fredric March (who was one of Holden's boyhood idols), Nina Foch, June Allyson, the list goes on. I am glad to see this finally coming on DVD.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Nice Boardroom Drama...., July 25, 2001
By 
David Von Pein (Mooresville, Indiana; USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Executive Suite [VHS] (VHS Tape)
I have watched this excellent picture many times...and never tire of seeing it. I've always found the final scene to be quite gripping. There's nothing super heavy or extra special about this flick. Just really good acting by a great cast. And an above-average script. You will find yourself getting caught up in the story...and enjoying it! Fredric March is exceptionally good here.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars brilliantly conceived and executed by Robert Wise and a big bonus, June 25, 2010
This review is from: Executive Suite (DVD)
There are so many amazing aspects to this overlooked film -- cast, design, concept, philosophy, lighting, direction, sound.

There is no sound-track first of all, which was highly unusual in 1953 (not to say at any time). Only the tolling of a bell in 'the tower' which houses the executive suite of a large furniture corporation. More amazing is the fact that one does not notice, or even miss, the lack of musical accompaniment to this script- and character-driven drama.

The cast is stunning. Have there ever been more great actors gathered together than in this talented ensemble? William Holden is perfect as the youngest member of the board of directors, and a designer with his heart in the company. Barbara Stanwick was never better or more powerful. Mr. Wise seems to have brought out the best in everyone, and each actor is a stand-out. The man was, of course, no slouch when it came to big production numbers. After all, he gave us West Side Story and The Sound of Music, too.

With the exception of a few exteriors, the entire film was shot in the studio. Sets that look right out of an executive office in the Woolworth Building create an atmosphere of quiet luxury against which the personal dramas and criminal activity take place. Mood and ambiance are enhanced by the wonderfully effective lighting.

The film has proved incredibly prescient in describing the take-over of good old American manufacturing by corporate lawyers and accountants. It was in the 50's that the Enron philosophy got started, and manufacturing jobs began to be fazed out and shipped out. Not helpful to the bottom line, I'm afraid. For this reason alone, the film is as fresh and pertinent now as it was almost 60 years ago.

There is another big fan of this film: Oliver Stone. He provides a laudatory, humorous, and informative commentary track about the film, the director, the cast, the design -- all of which he loves. His enthusiasm is wonderfully infectious and adds another dimension to the enjoyment of Executive Suite. He had this work in mind when he made Wall Street.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Struggle for the soul of a corporation, April 26, 2008
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This review is from: Executive Suite (DVD)
This is a wonderful "business" film, one of the few that gives a reasonable treatment to the issues facing business today, not just fifty-five years ago. With a stellar cast, a world-class producer, and zero special effects, "Suite" delivers a powerful argument for the potential of business to do the right thing, to help people, and to serve customers. When William Holden, the brash head of research and development, tears off the leg of one of their products during his climatic tirade in the boardroom, you almost want to stand up and cheer for his cockeyed optimism, as Frederic March sweats in his chair as interim chairman.

As a business professor, I have used the closing boardroom scene in this film for several years (before the DVD, in hard-to-find VHS format) as a vivid contrast to a similar scene from "Other people's money," to illustrate the conflicts within a company, making choices between the short- and long-run, between the customer and the employee, between the shareholder and the local citizen. In the end, we see a powerful argument for wealth creation, not just "maximizing shareholder value", as the most effective, long-term, sustainable business strategy is, as Holden says, to give customers what they want, at prices they can afford and, when better products come along, we give them those. Only then will companies truly thrive.

Some aspects of the film are cliched, somewhat dated, yet effective: Holden's family life and struggle for a work-life balance, the vice president of sales' affair with his secretary, the womanizing director of communications. But they all ring true and they all still exist today, just not in black and white. The compact time line of the story helps build pressure without ringing false. This is a film that can be studied and discussed, not just enjoyed.
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Executive Suite
Executive Suite by Robert Wise (DVD - 2007)
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