The Crowd

1928

The Crowd

Critics Consensus

No consensus yet.

96%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 23

90%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 2,163
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Movie Info

As was the case with every film project that he cared deeply about, filmmaker King Vidor had to fight long and hard with his studio bosses to get The Crowd produced. Though Vidor's parent studio MGM was certain that this simple story of everyday people would take a bath at the box-office, the film earned back twice its cost. The story concentrates on John Sims, brilliantly played by James Murray, an extra boosted to stardom by Vidor. Born on the fourth of July in the year 1900, John convinced that he's destined to be a man of importance. 27 years later, however, Sims is merely one of the faceless crowd, an underpaid clerk in a huge New York office building. On a blind date, John meets Mary (Eleanor Boardman), a likeable if not overly attractive young lady (Boardman, the wife of director Vidor, balked at the notion of departing from her usual glamorous roles; Vidor prevailed, and as a result the actress delivered what is now considered her finest performance). John and Mary are eventually married, raising two children in their tiny New York tenement (complete with a balky toilet-the first time that this particular bathroom fixture ever appeared in an American film). As John's dreams of glory go unfulfilled, he becomes bitter and argumentative, while Mary grows old before her time. Just when John wins $500 in a slogan contest, tragedy strikes unexpectedly when the Sims' youngest child is killed in a traffic accident. Haunted by the memory of his child, John is unable to function properly at his job, and is soon fired. In despair, Sims contemplates suicide, only to be shaken back to reality by his son, who, oblivious to John's grief and disillusionment, declares proudly that he wants to be just like his daddy when he grows up. By chance, John gets a job as a street huckster for a local department store. Though both John and Mary know that this "triumph" is transitory, at least the family is together again, and at least they're reasonably happy. As the camera pulls back, back, back in a packed movie theatre, we leave John Sims just where we found him-one of The Crowd. At the behest of MGM, Vidor reluctantly filmed an idiotic alternate ending, wherein the Sims family, having inherited a fortune, are seen living in the lap of luxury. This finale was hooted off the screen wherever it was shown; thus, current prints of the film contain Vidor's original, ambivalent ending. A deceptively "small" film, The Crowd was assembled on as large a budget and with as much production polish as any "big" MGM picture. In 1934, Vidor produced a sequel with his own funds, Our Daily Bread. Alas, James Murray, the actor catapulted to the Big Time in The Crowd, was not a part of the project. A headstrong, irresponsible man, Murray had squandered the chance offered him by Vidor, and had descended into drunken dereliction. Unlike the hero in The Crowd, there was no one to pull James Murray back when, in 1936, he fell off a pier and drowned. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Cast

Critic Reviews for The Crowd

All Critics (23) | Top Critics (6)

  • Vidor, playing to that crowd, sternly warns against going it alone.

    Dec 15, 2014 | Full Review…
  • The camera style owes something to Murnau, but the sense of space -- the vast environments that define and attack his protagonists -- is Vidor's own.

    Feb 26, 2013 | Full Review…
  • A drab actionless story of ungodly length and apparently telling nothing.

    Jul 7, 2008 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Variety
    Top Critic
  • Throughout this subject Mr. Vidor shrewdly avoids the stereotyped conception of setting forth scenes, and in more than one case he uses his camera in an inspired fashion.

    Mar 25, 2006 | Full Review…
  • The performances are absolutely flawless, and astonishing location work in the busy New York streets (including a giddy tour of Coney Island on a blind date) lends a gritty ring of truth to his intensely human odyssey.

    Feb 9, 2006

    Tom Milne

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • What's extraordinary is that what could have come off as a case study instead packs a consistently strong emotional punch.

    Jan 1, 2000 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Crowd

  • Jul 14, 2018
    'The Crowd' is strong in its early scenes of the life of a young man, played by James Murray. He goes to New York to make it big, and is immediately swallowed up into the masses, a cog in the mighty machine of an office, and the shots director King Vidor uses to show this are fantastic. He then meets a young woman (Eleanor Boardman), and there are some lovely scenes of them courting at an amusement park, and then at Niagara Falls on their honeymoon. From there the film almost gets too realistic as it trundles through various phases of life. We see him in awkward family gatherings, tying one on with his friend (Bert Roach) and a couple of party girls, having marital arguments, becoming a father, giving his kids horsey rides, hitting incredible high points but also enduring a deep tragedy, struggling through difficult times, and getting depressed. In many of those, there are so many little moments that heighten the realism; how silly and petty the arguments are, needing to help his kids relieve themselves at the beach, and on and on. Most people will relate to at least some of the parts of the film, and it shows just how similar lives in the past were to our own, even though its trappings and technology were of course different. Vidor essentially shows us the universality of experience. He also shows us that ultimately love and sticking together are the way to persevere through adversity. I don't see the film as one of the greatest silent films of all time as some do, but there's a depth and quality to the film that certainly make it a good one, and worth seeing.
    Antonius B Super Reviewer
  • Jul 18, 2013
    One of the earliest films in the "indie" style coming to us almost at the birth of talkies. Vidor brings a tremendous amount of depth in the storyline and the actors involved are thankfully up to the challenge.
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Sep 12, 2012
    A film that still relates to us today. Not a fan of the silent era but this one I could endure. The acting is great and the story is done very well; it touches upon the many struggles that working Americans go through. Wouldn't watch this again, but I enjoyed it.
    Eric S Super Reviewer
  • Nov 29, 2011
    King Vidor's The Crowd doesn't spend its time telling you a grand science fiction or horror story, but instead tells the simple tale of a man who becomes part of a family and goes to the edge and back with his family. It sounds very corny, I suppose, but Vidor makes it work so well. The film is full of incredibly visual storytelling and marvelous performances from both Eleanor Boardman (Vidor's wife at the time) and James Murray, who consequently had his only leading role in this film. The sad story about his personal life and how he came to a tragic end outside the confines of the film lends itself to his fantastic performance, and you feel genuine sympathy for him at all times. Sometimes overlooked and underappreciated, The Crowd will pull at your heart strings and keep you interested through every turn. It's a reminder that grand storytelling isn't always necessary and that visuals are always more important than dialogue.
    Tim S Super Reviewer

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