review for Executive Suite on AllMovie

Executive Suite (1954)
by Bruce Eder review

Robert Wise's Executive Suite, based on Cameron Hawley's early 1950s novel of corporate politics and power-plays, has scarcely dated at all across six decades -- a survivor of corporate America, Hawley knew whereof he wrote, and screenwriter Ernest Lehman understood drama in a manner that few of his peers could match. The players are uniformly excellent, with Paul Douglas perhaps outclassed just a slight bit by the others on matters of subtlety; but between all of the performances from the top down -- even June Allyson in one of her best wifely portrayals -- the movie is completely engrossing on a dramatic level, with the story drawing the viewer in ever more intensely. The levels of suspense get ratcheted up in a manner of which even Hitchcock might have approved, from the Friday afternoon death of an "unidentified" man to the close-quarter personal and philosophical clashes that ensue in the boardroom -- but not without some telling vignettes along the way, including a restaurant scene involving Louis Calhern at the Stork Club that anticipates Lehman's work in The Sweet Smell Of Success three years later. This script isn't nearly as piercing as the latter, but it has a lot to say about corporate culture and thinking, and the degree to which greed and mis-directed ambition can compromise the "big picture."