A Face in the Crowd (1957)
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Andy Griffith makes a spectacular film debut in this searing drama as Lonesome Rhodes, a philosophical country-western singer discovered in a tanktown jail by radio talent scout Patricia Neal and her assistant Walter Matthau. They decide that Rhodes is worthy of a radio spot, but the unforeseen result is that the gangly, aw-shucks entertainer becomes an overnight sensation not simply on radio but, thereafter, on television. As he ascends to stardom, Rhodes attracts fans, sponsors and endorsements by the carload, and soon he is the most powerful and influential entertainer on the airwaves. Beloved by his audience, Rhodes reveals himself to his intimates as a scheming, power-hungry manipulator, with Machiavellian political aspirations. He uses everyone around him, coldly discarding anyone who might impede his climb to the top (one such victim is sexy baton-twirler Lee Remick, likewise making her film debut). Just when it seems that there's no stopping Rhodes' megalomania, his mentor and ex-lover Neal exposes this Idol of Millions as the rat that he is. She arranges to switch on the audio during the closing credits of Rhodes' TV program, allowing the whole nation to hear the grinning, waving Rhodes characterize them as "suckers" and "stupid idiots." Instantly, Rhodes' popularity rating plummets to zero. As he drunkenly wanders around his penthouse apartment, still not fully comprehending what has happened to him, Rhodes is deserted by the very associates who, hours earlier, were willing to ask "how high?" when he yelled "jump". Written by Budd Schulberg, Face in the Crowd was not a success, possibly because it hit so close to home with idol-worshipping TV fans. Its reputation has grown in the intervening years, not only because of its value as a film but because of the novelty of seeing the traditionally easygoing Andy Griffith as so vicious and manipulative a character as Lonesome Rhodes. … More
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Critic Reviews for A Face in the Crowd
What starts out as a seemingly liberal tract rapidly becomes a smug, cynical exercise in misanthropy.
This sizzling and cynical exposure... also presents Andy Griffith as the key figure in his first screen role.
Andy Griffith, as a hick radio star modeled on Arthur Godfrey, delivers an astonishing, sinister performance in Elia Kazan's 1957 essay on media demagoguery.
A fascinating early look at the unholy alliance between politics and entertainment, the corporations controlling it all. With Griffith's wild performance, even though the film has its flaws, it's worth viewing.
Another fruitful collaboartion between Kazan and Budd Schulberg (On the Waterfront), a poignant film about celebrity, the mass media, and the political process.
It's a biting 'rise and fall' satire, sending out a warning to watch out for legends created on the boob tube.
...an important cautionary tale for all of us not take everything we see and hear at face value.
Next time you feel like you're getting fooled again by a demagogue, rent this movie and get centered
Didactic but highly effective little black comedy from the folks who gave you 'On the Waterfront.' Andy Griffith is downright scary.
The remarkable thing about A Face in the Crowd is the way in which this 50-year-old film only seems to become only more relevant with the passing of time.
The first half of A Face in the Crowd is genuinely intriguing and competently handled by Kazan, but it quickly degenerates into moralizing diatribe.
A little overdone, but Neal and Remick are brilliant.
Audience Reviews for A Face in the Crowd
This one is disturbing for all the right reasons. Watching Andy Griffith play a money-grubbing, amoral, unlikeable bastard is like watching Mister Rogers play Hannibal Lector. After all, this is the same Andy that kept the streets of Mayberry safe for all those years and the same Andy that taught Opie how to fish and throw a curve ball. It's even more unnerving because Griffith does it so well.More
Holy central performance Andy Griffith! This movie is full on fantastic. Elia Kazan has brought to life a story that is years ahead of it's time. A must see.More
I never thought I'd ever use the word amazing to describe any performance by Andy Griffith but I've got to hand it to the man -- he was amazing. He played a folksy and infinitely lovable hick and a power-drunk bastard with equal magnificence. Director Elia Kazan's initial shot at a burgeoning form of entertainment serves as an eons ahead of its time lightning rod that's more relevant now than ever. Kazan's direction is fantastic (especially when the spectacular Patricia Neal snaps in the sound booth) and the script is biting. The supporting cast (particularly Walter Matthau) was brilliant and I see yet another movie I want to kick myself in the ass for not seeing sooner. I loved this movie so much I want to freak out.More
WOW. Who knew he had it in him?!! Andy Griffith -- yes, THAT Andy Griffith -- gives a blistering performance in his first film role as Larry "Lonesome" Rhodes, a drunk, belligerent drifter "discovered" by Arkansas radio personality Patricia Neal. He starts off small as a hayseed philosopher/musician, then gets more and more famous until he is a nationwide star and teen heartthrob with his own show. In the process, he becomes (or maybe reveals himself to be) a megalomanical bastard. He's a womanizer, a heavy drinker, loud, abusive, moneygrubbing and insensitive. But also, he is handsome and lusty, and brings Miss Prim Patricia Neal out of her sexual shell. The scene of her inviting him into her hotel room and the kiss in the hall was HOT. The scene close to the end where he is on a balcony, his life and fame falling apart around him, reminds one almost of Adolf Hitler or Mussolini, getting high on the adulation of his fans.
How he went from a wildman character like this to mild-mannered Mayberry Sheriff Andy Taylor I will never know. I remember years ago another film -- called Murder in Coweta County -- in which Griffith played an amoral character, and people were shocked -- that is, except for anyone who had ever seen this film. I'm curious though....I wonder if the impact was the same for the people who didn't have Andy Taylor to compare Lonesome Rhodes to? Maybe they were instead amazed how such a complete asshole could play a quiet noble character like Andy? The world may never know...
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