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The president of Tredway Corp. has unexpectedly died. Long live the new president. But who will the exec be? There's no official line of succession...and so the shady deals and insider back-stabbing begin. Boardroom and boudoir politics play out in this star-packed tale of corporate machinations directed by versatile Robert Wise (The Sound of Music, The Set-Up). A bottom-line opportunist (Frederic March) and an idealistic manufacturing VP (William Holden) emerge as leading candidates for the top post. But while power-suited men maneuver, a woman (Barbara Stanwyck) may have the most clout. She's the founder's daughter and the company's major stockholder...and may be the velvet power behind the Tredway throne.
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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.