A Face In The Crowd

"Excellent"

A Face In The Crowd Review


Every great film has a great screenplay, and A Face in the Crowd is no exception. Budd Schulberg's script is sharp and ambitious and works as a psychological study, slightly over-the-top political satire, and a morality play. But it is Andy Griffith's awesome, energetic, nuanced performance of a demagogue that makes this film a classic.

A reporter in rural Arkansas (Patricia Neal) interviews a bum in a local jail (Andy Griffith) and discovers he can sing, so she gives him a spot on her local radio show and christens him Lonesome Rhodes. He turns out to be a fountain of homespun charm who is especially empathetic with women listeners (the premise is not improbable -- many careers were launched in a similar way). On his first night on TV, Rhodes makes love to the audience while raising money for a homeless family. He becomes an overnight celebrity, rising from national TV star into advertising, opinion-making, and finally becomes a political kingmaker.

Andy Griffith's performance is a stunner, and his first moments of self-awareness at the end of the movie are remarkable. The rest of the cast is equally good, especially Neal as Rhodes' enabler (whose journey to self-awareness tracks Rhodes' career) and Walter Matthau as a cynical underling who jumps ship. Rod Brasfield is humorous as one of Rhodes' Arkansas cronies who is retained as a yes man.

Griffith portrays Lonesome Rhodes as a human whirlwind, a combination of public servant and public exploiter, in which idealism and egoism are confounded from the beginning. The message is not a simple one -- power corrupts, sure, but people who want power are often corrupt to begin with, and it's hard (and maybe pointless) to tell the difference. Among many real-life models, Griffith's portrayal definitely anticipates Bill Clinton -- a compulsive womanizer, smooth as syrup, empathetic and egoistic, smart and dumb, doing good things for bad reasons.

Patricia Neal's character is no Hillary Clinton -- she protects Rhodes out of love and loyalty, not ambition and cynicism -- but she also plays the enabler/victim role that Hillary was forced into (an inevitable role for those who surround demagogues, I guess). As the creator of Rhodes' myth, she makes the courageous choice at the end of the film to pull the trigger on the myth. (The worst thing about the Clintons was not the sex or even the lying, but that they encouraged Americans to forget our healthy cynicism about politicians.)

The 1950s setting dates A Face in the Crowd, but its relevance is still obvious. Populist pandering has been part of American culture since Andrew Jackson, and it's still with us. In fact, the exploitation of flyover America has gotten ever more cynical -- what with Music Row and lowest-common-denominator TV and televangelists and George W. Bush (with his studied mispronunciation of simple words). Next time you feel like you're getting fooled again by a demagogue, rent this movie and get centered.



A Face In The Crowd

Facts and Figures

Run time: 126 mins

In Theaters: Saturday 1st June 1957

Distributed by: WARNER BROTHERS PICTURES

Production compaines: Newtown Productions, Warner Bros.

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Fresh: 21 Rotten: 2

IMDB: 8.2 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer:

Starring: as Larry 'Lonesome' Rhodes, as Marcia Jeffries, as Mel Miller, as Betty Lou Fleckum, as Joey DePalma, as General Haynesworth, as Macey, as Beanie, Marshall Neilan as Senator Worthington Fuller, Alexander Kirkland as Jim Collier, Charles Irving as Mr. Luffler, Howard Smith as J.B. Jeffries, Kay Medford as First Mrs. Rhodes, Big Jeff Bess as Sheriff Big Jeff Bess, Henry Sharp as Abe Steiner

Also starring: ,

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Hampstead Movie Review

Hampstead Movie Review

Deliberately appealing to older audiences, this undemanding comedy-drama comes with a hint of social relevance...

The Book of Henry Movie Review

The Book of Henry Movie Review

Apparently, this offbeat script had been making the rounds in Hollywood for some 20 years...

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

With this fifth Transformers movie, it seems clear that Michael Bay is still trying to...

Churchill Movie Review

Churchill Movie Review

This drama about the iconic British prime minister tells a darkly personal story set over...

Gifted Movie Review

Gifted Movie Review

This is one of those films that dances right up to the edge of soapy...

Whitney: Can I Be Me Movie Review

Whitney: Can I Be Me Movie Review

Notorious British filmmaker Nick Broomfield teams up with Austrian music documentary producer Rudi Dolezal to...

The Mummy Movie Review

The Mummy Movie Review

To launch their new Dark Universe franchise, Universal has taken an approach that mixes murky...

Advertisement
My Cousin Rachel Movie Review

My Cousin Rachel Movie Review

Daphne du Maurier's 1951 mystery-romance novel has been adapted for theatre, radio, TV and film,...

Wilson Movie Review

Wilson Movie Review

It's never helpful when a comedy becomes a bit too smug about its own quirkiness....

Interlude in Prague Movie Review

Interlude in Prague Movie Review

A fictionalised story from the life of Wolfgang Mozart, this lavishly produced period drama is...

The Hippopotamus Movie Review

The Hippopotamus Movie Review

This British satirical comedy may be a bit of a mess, but since it's based...

Detour Movie Review

Detour Movie Review

This may look like a rather typical American indie thriller, but British filmmaker Christopher Smith...

Wonder Woman Movie Review

Wonder Woman Movie Review

Boldly optimistic, this action-packed adventure breathes fresh life into the DC universe with a welcome...

Baywatch Movie Review

Baywatch Movie Review

Clearly, it's a risky proposition adapting a cheesy vintage TV series for the big screen:...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.