Skip to content

American Madness

  • Directed by Frank Capra
  • United States, 1932, 75 mins., English

Producer Harry Cohn made Columbia Pictures one of the key studios of the early 1930s, perhaps the greatest purveyor of screwball comedy, and he forged a long and wildly successful relationship with Frank Capra, still one of Hollywood’s most revered filmmakers. Before films like It Happened One Night and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Capra directed several films during the pre-code era, of which American Madness is perhaps the finest and most relevant to our times. In this breakneck bank crisis drama, a cowboy-esque CEO (Walter Huston) undergoes simultaneous personal and professional crises—and the latter threatens to topple his bank in one afternoon. Meanwhile, the general public, the bank’s board, and its employees all converge in a frenetic climax—only mildly touched by the endearing, populist “Capra-corn” we know and love.

Genres: Drama

Other Films by Frank Capra

Meet John Doe

A film about an unexpected media sensation run amok on the American public, Meet John Doe stars Barbara Stanwyck as about-to-be-unemployed newspaper reporter Ann Mitchell, who, as a final act of defiance, pens a fake letter to the editor about a John Doe who will commit suicide on Christmas in protest of rampant social injustice

Lost Horizon

Written by acclaimed screenwriter Robert Riskin (It Happened One Night, Meet John Doe), and using a great deal of Columbia’s annual production budget, Capra’s fantastical film had a troubled production and even more troubled history, replete with lost footage, multiple endings, piecemeal restorations, and a place in film history as one of the wildest products

It Happened One Night

Both at the peak of their considerable powers, Clark Gable stars opposite Claudette Colbert in Capra’s deeply felt, humane masterpiece of the recently-inaugurated Hays Code era. Ellie Andrews (Colbert), running from her father in the wake of her elopement with a dashing pilot, meets struggling newspaper reporter Peter Warne (Gable) on a New-York-to-Florida bus. Peter