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

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Hidden Figures Movie Review

Hidden Figures Movie Review

This film recounts such a great true story that we don't mind the fact that...

The Founder Movie Review

The Founder Movie Review

This is the story of Ray Kroc, the man who created the concept of McDonald's....

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

Keanu Reeves picks up his supremely efficient hitman immediately where the 2015 original left him:...

Fences Movie Review

Fences Movie Review

After winning Tony Awards on Broadway, Denzel Washington and Viola Davis reteam for a film...

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

A spin-off from 2014's awesome The Lego Movie, this raucously paced action-comedy is proof that...

The Space Between Us Movie Review

The Space Between Us Movie Review

While the premise of this movie makes it look like a sci-fi adventure, the truth...

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

On paper, the idea of a two-hour 40-minute German comedy may not seem very promising,...

Advertisement
Gold Movie Review

Gold Movie Review

Based on a true story, this lively and sometimes outrageous adventure is packed with twists...

Loving Movie Review

Loving Movie Review

While this film tackles a huge issue in the history of race relations in America,...

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

It's been 20 years since we last saw four freewheeling young junkies from Edinburgh spiral...

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Based on an astounding true story, this battlefield drama mixes warm emotion with intense action...

Sing Movie Review

Sing Movie Review

The quality of the animation in this musical comedy may not be up to Pixar...

Jackie Movie Review

Jackie Movie Review

Rather than make a standard biopic about the most famous First Lady in American history,...

Split Movie Review

Split Movie Review

After a few badly received sci-fi blockbusters, M. Night Shyamalan returned to his earthier style...

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.