Wilson (1944 film)


Film poster
Directed by Henry King
Produced by Darryl F. Zanuck
Written by Lamar Trotti
Starring Charles Coburn
Alexander Knox
Geraldine Fitzgerald
Thomas Mitchell
Sir Cedric Hardwicke
Music by Alfred Newman
Cinematography Leon Shamroy
Edited by Barbara McLean
Distributed by Twentieth Century-Fox
Release dates
  • August 1, 1944 (1944-08-01)
Running time
154 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $2,995,000[1]
Box office $2,000,000 (rentals)[2]

Wilson is a 1944 American biographical film in Technicolor about American President Woodrow Wilson. It stars Charles Coburn, Alexander Knox, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Thomas Mitchell and Sir Cedric Hardwicke.


The story begins in 1909, a time when Wilson (Alexander Knox) is best known as the head of Princeton University and the author of several books on the democratic process. Urged into running for Governor of New Jersey by the local political machine, Wilson soon proves that he is his own man, beholden to no one-and that he is dedicated to the truth at any cost.[3]


Production history

The movie was written by Lamar Trotti and directed by Henry King. Wilson's daughter, Eleanor Wilson McAdoo, served as an informal counselor.[4] Journalist Ray Stannard Baker, an authority on Wilson served as an adviser.


Box Office

The film lost a reported $2 million for Fox.[5]


Though the film was mostly critically acclaimed[6] and won five Oscars (see below), it is also remembered for being a big financial failure at the box office.

Film critic Manny Farber was particularly unenthusiastic, calling the production "costly, tedious and impotent" while writing: "The effect of the movie is similar to the one produced by the sterile post-card albums you buy in railroad stations, which unfold like accordions and show you the points of interest in the city ... The producers must have known far more about the World War, the peace-making at Versailles, and Wilson himself, but that is kept out of the movie in the same way that slum sections are kept out of post-card albums ... About three-quarters of the way through, a large amount of actual newsreel from the first World War is run off and the strength of it makes the film that comes before and after seem comical."[7]


Despite the negative press and lackluster turnout, it was still nominated for 10 Academy Awards, winning five:

It's remaining nominations:

The film was notable for giving character actor Alexander Knox (in the title role) one of his few chances to play the lead in a film.

American president Franklin D. Roosevelt showed the film at the September 1944 Second Quebec Conference with British Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill. Churchill was unimpressed, however, leaving during the film to go to bed.

Despite being a pet project personally overseen by 20th Century Fox Studios' president Darryl F. Zanuck (who greatly admired Woodrow Wilson), its failure at the box office upset him to the point that for years he forbade his employees from mentioning the film in his presence.[9]

The film is sometimes shown on cable television, and was first broadcast on Turner Classic Movies on February 8, 2013.


The Academy Film Archive preserved Wilson in 2006.[10]


  1. Solomon, Aubrey (1989). Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, p. 242, ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1.
  2. Solomon, Aubrey (1989). Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, p. 221, ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1.
  3. http://www.allmovie.com/movie/wilson-v54699
  4. Knock, Thomas J. "History with Lightning": The Forgotten Film Wilson. American Quarterly, Vol. 28, No. 5 (Winter, 1976), pp. 523–543
  5. "You Can Sell Almost Anything", Variety 20 March 1946
  6. Codevilla, Angelo (2010-07-16) America's Ruling Class The American Spectator
  7. Farner, Manny, The New Republic, August 14, 1944
  8. "The 17th Academy Awards (1945) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-08-15.
  9. 1 2 Erickson, Hal (Rovi). "Wilson (1944) – Review Summary". The New York Times. Retrieved 2014-02-22.
  10. "Preserved Projects". Academy Film Archive.
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