The Power and the Prize (1956)     1 Stars


The Power and the Prize (1956)
The Power and the Prize (1956)


Director: Henry Koster

Cast: Robert Taylor, Elisabeth Müller, Burl Ives

Synopsis: On a mission to secure the hostile takeover of an English business for his employer and mentor, George Salt, power-hungry executive Cliff Barton meets and falls hard for Miriam Linka, a beautiful and charming European woman.







Henry Koster’s The Power and the Prize has the look of a blockbuster, although it is largely overlooked today, which is perhaps due to the fact that it lacks the focus and discipline that made more highly-acclaimed 1950s ‘big business’ movies like Executive Suite and Patterns so compelling.

Robert Taylor (The Law and Jake Wade, Cattle King) is assured in the role of the vice-chairman of a giant mining company who questions the methods and ethics of both himself and his mentor (Burl Ives – East of Eden – in a coolly malevolent performance) when he falls for a pretty young Austrian refugee (Elisabeth Mueller) while on a business trip to London.

Unfortunately, this romance is the movie’s main stumbling block. The storyline falters then crawls as it spends too much time on Taylor’s wooing of a reluctant Mueller. The young German actress is another drawback. Her performance is just plain awful – she seems to be permanently on the verge of hyper-ventilating, and is not helped by having to play a character who, from being deliberately cold and antagonistic toward Taylor, changes into a fawning little waif in the course of a couple of scenes. Hers is not the only badly-drawn female part; the manner in which Taylor’s fiance (Nicola Michaels) greets the news that he is to marry another (after cancelling their wedding to take the trip to London) truly strains credibility.

The final confrontation between Taylor and Ives is also disappointing. Having watched these two mentally shove one another’s shoulder for much of the film, one is surely entitled to expect a little more spice in the final showdown. Those two could have created fireworks on the screen at the hands of a script with a little more bite, but are left with surprisingly little to do.

The Power and the Prize is definitely worth a look, though. With the exception of Muller, the acting is effective – just watch old pro Mary Astor (The Maltese Falcon, Cass Timberlane) make the most of her one big scene – and, while it concentrates on the politics and machinations of corporate business, the story buzzes along.

(Reviewed 11th February 2002)

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