A little-seen 1933 film called “Gabriel Over the White House” has some themes that are particularly resonant in this time of unprecedented economic uncertainty and this historic Presidential campaign. Walter Houston (father of director John Huston and grandfather of actress Anjelica Houston — three generations of Oscar winners) plays the newly elected President of the United States, a cynical and apathetic man who has an affair with his private secretary and refuses to meet with the leader of the homeless. But then he has an automobile accident and is seriously injured. When he comes out of his coma, he is transformed. As he becomes an outspoken advocate of integrity and economic justice, he makes some powerful enemies. But it becomes clear that he has been inspired by a visit from the angel Gabriel.
This has been a controversial film since it was made for its frank acknowledgment of political policies based on scripture and for its association of policies some people consider “liberal” with religious beliefs some people consider “conservative.” Audiences have argued about whether the President is a visionary or a dictator. But it seems astonishingly prescient in its portrayal of the failures of Wall Street and government and its sincere commitment to Biblical principles is still fresh and appealing.