All the King's Men Reviews
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.
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.
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.
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