Wilson (1944)





Director:  Henry King.

Starring:   Alexander Knox (Woodrow Wilson),  Charles Coburn (Professor Henry Holmes),  Geraldine Fitzgerald (Edith Bolling Galt),  Thomas Mitchell (Joseph Tumulty),  Cedric Hardwicke (Senator Henry Cabot Lodge),  Vincent Price (William Gibbs McAdoo),  William Eythe (George Felton),  Mary Anderson (Eleanor Wilson),  Ruth Ford (Margaret Wilson),  Sidney Blackmer (Josephus Daniels),  Madeleine Forbes (Jessie Wilson),  Stanley Ridges (Dr. Cary Grayson),  Eddie Foy, Jr. (Eddie Foy, Sr.),  Francis X. Bushman, Charles Halton (Colonel House),  Thurston Hall (Senator Edward H. 'Big Ed' Jones).

Oscars:  Won five Oscars.

The story of Woodrow Wilson, two-term president of the United States, 1913-1921. 



Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie.

1909, Princeton. The president, his wife and their three teenage daughters watch the Princeton versus Yale football match. Woodrow Wilson is the President of Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey.

At home State Senator Edward Jones (known as "Big Ed") asks Wilson to run as a Democrat for the governorship of New Jersey. They want him to be a candidate because as a university president Wilson had gone against the special interests on campus. Wilson consults his family and decides to run. The press asks him will he make deals with the big political bosses like "Big Ed". Wilson tells them that the boss system will be broken up. In fact, Wilson is almost being a little too frank with the press and public. But Big Ed tells the press that "The candidate speaks for the party."

Wilson wins the governorship of New Jersey. He smashes Big Edís run for the national senate. His wife and he like to watch acts like those of Eddie Foy at the Palace.

Wilson is asked to run for the presidency of the United States. At the convention William Jennings Bryant gives a speech to push his candidacy. The first vote gives 440 votes for Clark, 324 for Wilson and 117 for Underwood, but it is not enough votes to win the candidacy . A stampede for Clark begins and Tammany Hall appeals to Wilson to release his delegates to Clark. Wilson decides against the move. Bryant withholds his vote from Clark. At the 46th ballot, Wilson gets enough votes to win the candidacy for the Democratic Party.

Wilson is able to pass a lot of progressive legislation: the Federal Reserve Bank Act, the Underwood Tariff Act, Clayton Anti-Trust, the Federal Trade Commission and the Adamson Eight Hour Law. Senator Henry Cabot Lodge is Wilsonís main opponent in the Senate.

One day Mrs. Wilson feels dizzy. She has to take to bed and Dr. Grayson tells the Wilson family that there is a gradual weakening in her condition. Mrs. Wilson dies.

World War I begins. Wilson promises to keep the United State out of the war. Later the Germans sink the Lusitania killing over 100 Americans among the 1,500 dead. Wilson still tries to keep the nation out of war. Germany agrees to control its submarine warfare.

Edith Gault is introduced to Wilson. The President goes to tea with widowed Mrs. Gault and some others invitees. He soon proposes marriage to her. He tells her that she has "given me hope that happiness is still possible." His three daughters support the idea of marriage. Mrs. Gault tells Wilson that she needs time to get to know him. The President says "Then Iíll wait."

A great deal of gossip begins about Wilsonís relationship with Mrs. Gault and the President becomes very angry at the gossip. His friends are afraid that a second marriage for Wilson would prevent his re-election as president. Dr. Grayson talks with Mrs. Gault and tells her that the President needs her. She writes a letter to Wilson agreeing to marry him.

1916 National Democratic Convention. Charles Evans Hughes runs against Wilson. Wilson supporters push the claim that Wilson kept the national out of war. But many people view Wilson as cowardly in his decision not to fight. Wilson is re-elected.

Wilson learns that Germany will resume its submarine warfare. And he learns that Germany has been trying to foment trouble between Mexico and the United States. Wilson decides to go to war. He speaks to Congress and asks them for approval of a declaration of war against Germany. The United States gets into the war.

Wilson pushes his Fourteen Points, such as open covenants openly arrived at and free trade. He also wants to create a League of Nations.

November 11, 1918. End of World War I. In the war the United States suffered 112,000 dead. The Europeans decide to use Wilsonís Fourteen Points as the basis for peace. Wilson heads to Europe. He visits France then Britain and comes back to Paris for the Peace Conference.

While Wilson is highly regarded abroad, back him many call him Kaiser Wilson or Saint Wilson. Thirty-seven senators sign a resolution against Wilsonís ideas. The idea of a League of Nation is rejected. A peace treaty is signed.

Senator Lodge is the leader of the opposition to Wilson. Wilson decides to stump the country for his ideas. His wife and doctor are against the idea because it is too risky for his health. His schedule is to make 40 speeches in 17 states in 22 days. While giving a speech, Wilson falters. His whole left side becomes paralyzed and he has to return to Washington, D.C.

Congress passes the Volsted Act over Wilsonís veto. Democratic candidate Cox faces against Republican Warren G. Harding in the 1920 elections. Harding wins and he declares that the League of Nations is now a closed incident.  Wilson is crushed by the news.

Wilson and his wife leave the White House to make way for President Harding.


Good movie with a lot of information about President Wilson. Alexander Knox is great as Wilson. The movie goes light on the last two years of Wilsonís presidency when his health was so bad. At the time many people referred to Mrs. Wilson as the president of the United States.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:


1856  --  Woodrow Wilson born in Virginia, the son of a Presbyterian minister

1861-1865  -- during the Civil War, his father was a minister is Augusta, Georgia. 

Reconstruction  --  his father was a professor in Columbia, South Carolina.   

Woodrow Wilson graduated from Princeton (then the College of New Jersey) and the University of Virginia Law School.  He earned his doctorate at Johns Hopkins University and entered upon an academic career.   Wilson served on the faculties of Bryn Mawr College near Philadelphia and Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut.

1885 --  he married Ellen Louise Axson. 

1890  --  Wilson became a Princeton professor of jurisprudence and political economy. 

1896  --  Wilson delivered Princeton's oft-quoted sesquicentennial celebration address entitled "Princeton in the Nation's Service".

1902  --  the Princeton trustees promoted Wilson to the presidency of Princeton University. 

1902  --  Wilson's growing up as a boy in the south had a great effect on him; in his A History of the American People, he praised the KKK.

1908  --  his last scholarly work, Constitutional Government of the United States.

1910  --  running as a reform Democrat, he was elected Governor or New Jersey. 

1912  --  Wilson was president of Princeton University when he ran for the presidency and won. 

1913  --  start of Wilson's first term. 

1914-1918  --  the US intervened in Latin America countries, such as Mexico, Haiti, Cuba and Panama. 

He promised to keep the nation out of World War I.

He reintroduced racial segregation in government offices, for the first time since 1863.

1914 (August 6)  --  death of his wife. 

1915 (December 18)  --  President Wilson married his second wife, Edith Bolling (also known as Edith Galt for his first marriage to prosperous jeweler Norman Galt).  . 

1916  --  Wilson won a second term.

1917  --  the start of his second term.   

1917  --  the sinking of the Lusitania off the coast of Ireland by a German submarine.  This action led Wilson to declare war against Germany. 

1917  --  Wilson pushed the Espionage Act of 1917 to suppress anti-war opinion. 

1918  --  Wilson pushed the Sedition Act of 1918, again to suppress anti-war opinion.

Wilson pushed for a League of Nations and got the support of many countries, but much to his sadness, he was not able to get the support of the US Congress for American entry.

1919 (October 2)  --  Wilson had always suffered from ill health, but seventeen months before the end of his second term he suffered a cerebral thrombosis that partially paralyzed his left side. He virtually became an invalid. Many observers felt that at that time Mrs. Wilson and the group around her actually ruled the country.

after 1919 (September)  --   his wife, Edith Bolling Wilson, assumed full control of Wilson's schedule.

1921  --  end of Wilson's presidency.  He and his wife retired to a home in Embassy Row, Washington, D.C.

1924  --  death of Woodrow Wilson. 

1961 (December 28)  --  death of Mrs. Wilson.  


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