A Face in the Crowd (1957) - Rotten Tomatoes

A Face in the Crowd (1957)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

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
Rating: Unrated
Genre: Drama, Classics
Directed By:
Written By: Budd Schulberg
In Theaters:
On DVD: May 10, 2005


Andy Griffith
as Lonesome Rhodes
Patricia Neal
as Marcia Jeffries
Walter Matthau
as Mel Miller
Lee Remick
as Betty Lou Fleckum
Percy Waram
as Col. Hollister
Charles Irving
as Mr. Luffler
Howard Smith
as J.B. Jeffries
Kay Medford
as First Mrs. Rhodes
Alexander Kirkland
as Jim Collier
Marshall Neilan
as Sen. Fuller
Big Jeff Bess
as Sheriff Hosmer
Henry Sharp
as Abe Steiner
Willie Feibel
as 1st Printer
Larry Casazza
as 2nd Printer
Faye Emerson
as Herself
Burl Ives
as Himself
Mike Wallace
as Himself
Sandra Wirth
as baton twirler
Kim Chan
as Radio Announcer
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for A Face in the Crowd

Critic Reviews for A Face in the Crowd

All Critics (25) | Top Critics (5)

A Face in the Crowd has never ceased to be relevant.

Full Review… | February 27, 2008
Village Voice
Top Critic

What starts out as a seemingly liberal tract rapidly becomes a smug, cynical exercise in misanthropy.

Full Review… | January 26, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

This sizzling and cynical exposure... also presents Andy Griffith as the key figure in his first screen role.

Full Review… | May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

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.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Griffith's hungry, lunging performance is a shock and a revelation to anyone who knows him primarily from The Andy Griffith Show or, God knows, Matlock.

Full Review… | August 3, 2015

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.

Full Review… | July 10, 2012

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.

Randy Tippy

Super Reviewer


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.

Ken Stachnik

Super Reviewer


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.

Michael Gildea

Super Reviewer

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