Saturday, October 27, 2007

Hail to the chiefs

The ScreenGrab, a site that offers news, gossip and comment for indie film addicts, has come up with a list of the 13 greatest fictional movie presidents. The impetus for making the list was Jonathan Demme's new documentary, "Jimmy Carter: Man from Plains." Here's Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

ScreenGrab says it's harder than you might think to have the president as a character in your movie. "In contemporary films, there are fewer ways to take your audience out of a movie than to show the President of the United States and have it not be the actual current President of the United States (another reason why Crimson Tide, with its CNN-generated Bill Clinton cameo, is so awesome). In films set in the future, it's hard to show the President and have it not feel like a ham-handed attempt at instant dystopianism. (Funny how those silly people in the future rarely elect somebody halfway decent to the office.)"

Some of the picks, like Peter Sellers' President Merkin Muffley in 1964's "Dr Strangelove," are pretty well known. Others, like Walter Huston as President Judson Hammond in 1933's "Gabriel Over the White House," (pictured above) are more obscure, to say the least.

Huston's character had been content to be a hands-off commander in chief until he miraculously survives a car accident. With a new sense of purpose, he proceeds to solve all of the country's problems, although his methods include "firing his whole cabinet and threatening to impose martial law until Congress lets him do whatever he wants." ScreenGrab says William Randolph Hearst was behind the production, intending it as a message for Franklin Roosevelt about how to bring the United States out of the Depression.

One of my favorites, 1993's "Dave," with Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver isn't included. Neither is 1995's "The American President," with Michael Douglas and Annette Bening. And how could they leave off 1964's "Kisses for My President" with Polly Bergen playing the first female president and Fred MacMurray as the first spouse!

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