A lavish biography of Woodrow Wilson, this film was Darryl F. Zanuck's first production after he returned from WWII service in North Africa. Knox plays the president, first as the head of Princeton University and the author of books on political theory. He is chosen to run for governor of
New Jersey and is such a success that he is soon running for president. He wins and during his first term WWI erupts in Europe. He is steadfast in his determination to keep the US out of the war, keeping with the largely isolationist sentiment of the country. Eventually, though, German attacks on
US merchant ships lead Wilson to declare war. After the war is won, thanks to the massive infusion of fresh American boys into the exhausted and depleted Allied armies, Wilson goes to Versailles to help form the peace treaty. He conceives the idea of the League of Nations and convinces most of the
former combatants to join, but back in the US he is unable to drum up support; isolationism is still running strong. He goes on a cross-country campaign to bring his idea to the masses, but the trip only ruins his own health and the US votes to stay out of the League.
More than $3 million was spent on the production, and the lavish sets included a nearly perfect re-creation of the White House. Henry Fonda and Gary Cooper were considered for the lead, but eventually a supporting contract player, Knox, was tagged for the role. Zanuck and Lamar Trotti wrote most
of the script. Zanuck also oversaw the cutting, seeing that the film moved quickly depite its length. When the film was finally ready, Zanuck reportedly predicted that it would win an Oscar. (It didn't, but when Zanuck did recieve one for GENTLEMAN'S AGREEMENT in 1947 he told the Academy in his
acceptance speech, "I should have got this for WILSON.")
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