All the King's Men Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ April 29, 2014
A regional politician rises to power but loses his grip on his principles along the way.
The original man-ruined-by-the-system story, All the King's Men doesn't have much over its Sean Penn remake or the more modern The Candidate. The performances are all fine, but the story, which is compelling at its base, doesn't fully explore what motivates Willie's descent. Power-hungry characters aren't compelling if they're not power-hungry in ways with which we can identify.
Overall, in this case, the imitations are better than the original.
Super Reviewer
½ January 7, 2013
This interesting play on the old maxim about absolute power corrupting absolutely could've spent a wee bit more time actually looking at corruption itself instead of choosing to simply imply that it's there. We get to see characters capitulating their morals, but not to know why. As well there's enough of a faint taste of "member dat good ol' a-ris-to-crazy ... dey was sho' good to us!" to have one looking for something to cleanse the palate. Nonetheless riveting work ...
Super Reviewer
½ September 5, 2010
A great example of how politics really works, through corruption and dishonesty. There's a fantastic cast in this film as well. This one is definitely worth a watch if you're interested in political films, or if you're just looking for a movie that makes you think.
Super Reviewer
½ November 14, 2011
Politics has never been something that really sparks my interest very often (if at all), so to make something that involves politics in a big way that gets my The Long stand in is Willie Stark who is a pure populist through and through. He fights for the little guy in an honest way, and the film follows the typical rise and fall story.

It might be about Willie, but, much like The Great Gatsby (among others) the story is told from the perspective of someone else. In this case, that someone is Jack Burden- a journalist turned Willie's right hand man. The film also follows his life, but is primarily about Willie's and the impact Willie has on others.

I'm fine with the story following a typical formula, and I kinda expected it, really. My gripes about it though are that the scenes showing the rise from nothing to success happen way to quick, as does Willie's change from great honest guy to the corrupt scum that he once opposed before his own personal downfall. The film is a basic story of power and corruption, and, at one time (mostly when it was released), this sort of thing came off as a revelation. Nowadays it seems almost quaint and unoriginal, but the treatment here is still pretty decent and passable enough, though it wouldn't probably win the Oscars now that it did back in the day,

The performances arte quite good, and the film has a fairly good pace (the aforementioned issues being the exception), and the direction's not bad either. It's also shot pretty well, though nothing about the cinematography is really all that amazing.

All in all, an okay enough movie, though far from an amazing classic. See it if you want, but don't expect to be blown away or anything.
Jon J.
Super Reviewer
½ April 5, 2011
Politics aren't a kind playground. They can sully the hearts of the greatest men, tear down their integrity and spirit. All The King's Men is a powerful, polished focus on politics' nature, the avarice of humanity and how even the greatest intentions can turn awry.

Broderick Crawford steps into the role of Willie Stark, an ambitious, at first simple politcian wannabe with big dreams. The reporter Jack Burden (John Ireland) is supposed to document his efforts to shake up the residing governor's position but sees little there but a hopeful, naive yet kind hick. It's therefore a shock for him when he sees , as the time passes, Willie climb the social ladder ultimately leading to him becoming governer himself. However, the methods he took to make sure he won are shrouded in mystery; and it turns out that Stark has changed in the short time between his humble beginnings and his initiation to power.

What makes the film stand out is Crawford's chilling performance as the ephemeral Willie Stark. He first manages to gain the sympathy of the viewer, before changing into a brutal, cold and efficient enforcer of public will. He does what the people want, but through methods that are shady at best. It's a tell-tale depiction of innocence lost but when the time period is considered, it feels fresh and all the more memorable. What is particularly frightening is that Willie remains a messianic character in the eyes of his "subjects", they blindly believe in him through thick and thin. Stark therefore sees himself as the same savior as the people, ignoring everything else including his own son and wife. In the end, he loses pretty much everything and ends a shell of a man obsessed with temporary commodities of little value.

John Ireland is also memorable as the story's narrator, who becomes a close acquaintance with Willie throughout his campaign and political career. He is primarily his supporter for most of the film, but he is not a blind sheep like most others. He first and foremost admires Willie's tenacity and will, while questioning some of the decisions he makes. Other notable performances are Joanne Dru as the common affection of Willie and Jack, Mercedes McCambridge as the stern assistant of Willie and Shepperd Strudwick as Joanne's character's brother, each representing various viewpoints to Willie's descent into corruption.

In terms of overall production and presentation, the film occasionally makes its age become very clear. The traditional "fade" transitions are prominent and there come the occasional moments where the actors really break out of their traditional form going into overacting territory. This is counterbalanced by the impressive pace of the story itself and how the cinematography makes the most of it. The film isn't particularly long, so no time is taken with superfluous details. Some events are condensed to just a few pictures, but nothing is lost in the interpretation. There's basically no dull point.

All The King's Men remains as relevant today as it was all those years ago in 1949. It warns of the dangers of a mindless pursuit of something you cannot handle and criticizes the common deification of political figures for just the results of their actions. It may be most memorable for Crawford's brilliant performance, but its message and cinematic poignancy is equally as worthy of praise and cements All The King's Men as a true classic of cinema.
Super Reviewer
½ May 1, 2007
Don't let the bad critical reviews of the remake scare you away from the story. The story is very good and this original is very compelling. Mercedes McCambridge who provided the voice of the devil in the Exorcist is a young woman (still with a unique voice) in this film; she gives a memorable performance.
Super Reviewer
½ July 11, 2007
I absolutely refuse to see the Sean Penn version because I loved this film too much. It really came out of left field for me. I had no idea what the theme would be and it turned out to be a gripping tale of how populism often turns into corruption for elected officials. Fabulous!
Super Reviewer
½ May 18, 2008
An enjoyable classic movie full of deception and corruption.
Super Reviewer
July 5, 2006
An effective political film with character study roots, this one still holds up fantastically today. Magnificent performances and focused direction keep it soaring. Absolutely fantastic.
Super Reviewer
½ January 21, 2013
Age has dulled some of its power, but "All the King's Men" still stands as an insightful look into the roots of political corruption. As Willie Stark, Broderick Crawford has the voice and the stature to the fit the role, and he delivers each line with as much gusto as one can hope for, but he never seems quite as evil as he should. This can lessen the film's strength during some of its darker moments, but not so much that we don't get the point. What helps the film overcome some of its pratfalls are its supporting performances and an entirely relevant message.
Over the Rising Sun
Super Reviewer
½ July 27, 2010
Wow I was not expecting this to be as bad as it was. As part of my goal to watch every Best Picture winner this summer I was excited to see this movie because all of the reviews praised it so highly. It turned out to (and keep in mind I tolerate and enjoy old movies) be powerful, but full of an uncommitted cast and poor direction.

The story is like a poor man's Citizen Kane; a Southern lawyer who's an honest man and enjoys the little things in life goes on to become a corrupt politician and begins to deteriorate as a human being as his dirty deeds accumulate.

The story was nimbly paced and wasn't at all boring except for a few small parts.

The script is just like John Ford's adaptation of The Grapes of Wrath; what they took from the book worked, and what they added in doesn't work.

The film editing with the newspapers flying at the screen that told you what was going on is certainly a novelty, but I saw Battleship Potemkin this morning so ho-hum.

Robert Rossen had no signature directorial style that made any of the screenshots pleasurable to look at; which is a shame because it could have used some detail or design.

Broderick Crawford was more fun to watch than he was good because of his baritone voice and elaborate eyebrow movements. Mercedes McCambridge definitely had screen presence and stole the show for me.

John Ireland was horrible! His character (or acting) was uneven and he had no likability whatsoever to make him tolerable as a main character.

Highly unrecommended. Watch Citizen Kane instead. 57/100
Lord Naseby
Super Reviewer
April 26, 2010
I really enjoyed this movie quite a bit (as evidenced by my rating). The acting was fantastic (Broderick Crawford's Best Actor win was well deserved). the characters were amazing, the story was phenomenal. it was all around amazing. one thing i really liked was the character development of Willie Stark. I really liked seeing him go from naive honest politician to the corrupt power hungry, crush everyone in your way, politician. It's like the second he got that first little taste of power,he had to get more and more and more until it finally consumed him and everyone around him. and it did consume everyone. a quote I like that Willie Stark says is "Judge, you talk like Pillsbury was human. He isn't. He's a thing. You don't prosecute an adding machine if a spring goes busted and makes a mistake. You fix it. Well, I fixed him." it certainly shows just how evil and power hungry he is. although my favorite Willie Stark quote is his final one "It could have been - whole world - Willie Stark." wow. that's just great. Final Verdict: right on. a perfect choice for the 1949 Best Picture win.
Super Reviewer
½ March 12, 2010
In some ways, may it be about the corruption or the loss of primal innocence, this reminded me of "Citizen Kane". But apart from the main theme of both films, they both differ extensively, particularly the visuals. "All the King's Men" never strived to be an artful, technical film, because even the jump-cuts were at times very sudden and clumsily done. But what it simply want is to transcend its message and the culture of corruption that runs in the very veins of politics. What I mainly admired about this film is the timelessness of the story, just replace the characters with emperors, or kings, or shoguns, the power of the story will never be diminished. Broderick Crawford shined as governor Willie Stark, a man from his simple origins, became the very man he swore to destroy. And albeit his countless illegal acitivities and immoral behaviors while in gubernatorial seat, it is not politics but his own personal life that has caught up with him in the end, with him lying on the floor, still unsatisfied with the power he has already got. A most underrated Best Picture winner.
Super Reviewer
½ July 6, 2008
I was really glad I could keep up with this political drama... it was pretty enticing though and I was pretty into it even though politics turn great people bad... Really good acting, for sure.
Super Reviewer
June 9, 2008
This movie draws you in and that is the best thing about it.
November 19, 2011
Really good movie for its time. An interesting story about the metamorphosis of a real backwoods hick to a manipulative sociopath politician. It was a fantastic film with a great message and lots of entertainment value.
½ June 9, 2010
fantastic portrayal of an honest grassroots politician turned corrupt fatcat. Crawford captures his character's nuances brilliantly, growing more and more sinister the more power he tastes. the other characters aren't that interesting and occasionally give the film an unnecessary camp value. still, a very engaging and (for the most part) potently-written film.
½ February 24, 2010
This film is about some rural guy who becomes a lawyer and more importantly the governor of his state. He's quite idealistic to start but ends up as corrupt as everyone else. It's an okay film and it won best picture but it's nothing special.

½ September 20, 2009
The one major dramatic flaw in the film is that the politician's transformation occurs much too abruptly. Sure, there are a few scenes of him being good at the beginning of the film, but he sees one politician win an election, delivers a great monologue when drunk, becomes disgusted with humanity, and turns corrupt and demagogic at the snap of his fingers? Without its built-in pedigree, a film with that flaw today would be called only one thing - shallow. And this was proven by the critical panning of the recent remake. This film is pretty solid - the right amount of plot complexity, by that I mean some but not too much, good performance by the man playing Stark, a real opinion given on a real issue. But do to the simplification of the book in at least two large areas, namely, the narrative flaw above and the complete exclusion of blacks in this supposedly southern state, I do not feel this is a masterwork deserving of a bevy of awards and status as a classic.
September 5, 2009
A painful look at political corruption. Crawford is great as Willie Stark. Film goes a long way in destroying naiveté.
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