I first saw Executive Suite in an unlikely setting: a broadcast manage-ment class at Indiana University in 1978. I don’t remember how the film pertained to the class (or if the professor just wanted to take a break from lecturing). But the film, an engrossing look at corporate politics, stuck with me over the years. I didn’t see it again until my wife and I discovered a copy at a local video store in the 1990s. This second viewing surprised me—Executive Suite was far better than I remembered.
The opening scene, shot in first-person, has business executive Avery Bullard entering a skyscraper, taking an elevator, and sending a telegram to his board of directors about a meeting at six o'clock. Bullard then leaves the building, hails a taxi, and keels over dead. It’s a terrific sequence, all the more effective for its lack of music (which is replaced by bells and street sounds).
We quickly learn that the 56-year-old Bullard was president of Tredway, the nation’s third-largest furniture manufacturer, located in Millburgh, Pennsylvania. After the death of his second-in-command, Bullard delayed in naming a successor. As a result, Bullard’s untimely death places the company in the hands of five vice-presidents with equal authority. Since Wall Street viewed Tredway as a one-man company, the VPs realize the criticality of naming a replacement to Bullard over the weekend.
|Walter Pidgeon tries to reason with Barbara Stanwyck.|
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