Gene Healy on the Oddest Cinematic Display of Power-Worship in the History of American Film


Released shortly after Franklin Roosevelt's election, 1933's Gabriel Over the White House depicts a president literally touched by an angel and empowered to heal the country and the world. Gabriel was the brainchild of media titan William Randolph Hearst, whose "yellow journalism" helped start the Spanish American War. By 1933, Jonathan Alter explains in The Defining Moment: FDR's Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope, "Hearst believed that the country needed a dictator but he wasn't sure FDR knew how to fill the role." So with this film, writes Gene Healy, Hearst "set out to show Roosevelt the way."