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A Face in the Crowd (1957) *PBB

 

Note: Some reviews were written before we just about gave up on Hollywood--just like one of those couples that think, "This time it'll work out." These reviews may not be as bitter as the Bitter Balcony norm, and are noted by: *PBB (Pre-Bitter Balcony).

A Face in the Crowd (1957)

Director: Elia Kazan

Writer: Budd Schulberg

Starring Andy Griffith, Walter Matthau, Patricia Neal, Anthony Franciosa and Lee Remick.

In the glorious days of the fifties Golden Age of Television, the bold Elia Kazan and his On The Waterfront writer Budd Schulberg saw the shine dull in the tube box. Before my generation was exposed with the murderous misadventures of media darlings Mickey and Mallory, and even before Howard Beale wasn't "going to take it anymore", America was introduced to a charismatic, guitar playing nomad Larry 'Lonesome' Rhodes (Andy Griffith). When his ramblings catch the interests of radio producer Marcia Jeffries (Patricia Neal), little did they expect that the alcohol swilled, cavernous man could grow into a yee-haw orator of the masses. The misanthrope Rhodes does have a knack for manipulation, and he cunningly uses the transistor to win the love of an unsuspecting Nation. His aura even wins the heart of good-girl Marcia, who marries him in spite of his infidelity and genuine selfishness. Only the cynical journalist Mel Miller (Walter Matthau) can see that Rhodes is a default one eyed man in a country blinded by the tube's light emissions. Miller is no hero, however, since he too gains notoriety in his coverage of Rhodes, but his own love for Marcia compels him to revert his integrity and expose the conman. However, it is ultimately up to Marcia to tumble the Rhodes pillar, but can she find the strength to do so?

Elia Kazan was already a two-time Oscar winner and considered among the time's directing elite. A Face in the Crowd was very daring for it's day, since television was still not perceived as a subversive device but rather a safe family refuge of light entertainment and vigilant guardian of the perils of The Cold War. Kazan, who would face his own Red Scare demons, and Schulberg, an Oscar winner himself for his On The Waterfront script, foresaw the future of programming, an electronic brew where manufacturing of both celebrity and product could influence our judgment. In the DVD commentary for the film it was said that A Face in the Crowd was ill received at the Box Office, and it's pretty fair to say that America as a whole was not ready for this film. It wasn't until 1976 that a movie of similar satiric views was received with critical praise. Network, the story of two veteran journalists who adapt, (one consciously, the other maddeningly), to the carnival that t.v would become. This is not to say that Paddy Chayefsky's story of faux clairvoyants and lunatic anchors taking over the screen was not radical, but in that two decade gap between Kazan's parody and Sydney Lumet's classic, America had seen a President murdered, a divisive War escalate, and another President resign in humiliation. What Chayefsky and Lumet did was predict the decay of society by switching our interests to the banality of programming, but Kazan and Schulberg exposed the nature of the medium itself.

A Face in the Crowd also features a great performance by Mayberry's own Andy Griffith. Griffith is among the most admired and affectionate American actors of All-Time, but in this early role he shows an unrelenting, bare spectacle that rivals Marlon Brando's Stanley Kowalski in brawn and unapologetic vanity. As Brando in A Street Named Desire, Griffith was also a talented but relatively unknown actor when he did A Face in the Crowd. It is a measure of his talent that he played such a heel with the same naturalistic grace that made him so loved in The Andy Griffith Show. Another standout is Walter Mattau, who along with his villainous turn in Fail-Safe, showed that he was as gifted dramatic performer as a comedic one. Patricia Neal, who was established with roles in The Fountainhead and The Day The Earth Stood Still, is solid as the heroine that needs to shut Rhodes down, and the beautiful Lee Remick in her first film role as an eager beaver beauty queen that seduces Rhodes.





Source of the Bitter: John Rojas

 

Note: Some reviews were written before we just about gave up on Hollywood--just like one of those couples that think, "This time it'll work out." These reviews may not be as bitter as the Bitter Balcony norm, and are noted by: *PBB (Pre-Bitter Balcony).

A Face in the Crowd (1957)

Director: Elia Kazan

Writer: Budd Schulberg

Starring Andy Griffith, Walter Matthau, Patricia Neal, Anthony Franciosa and Lee Remick.

In the glorious days of the fifties Golden Age of Television, the bold Elia Kazan and his On The Waterfront writer Budd Schulberg saw the shine dull in the tube box. Before my generation was exposed with the murderous misadventures of media darlings Mickey and Mallory, and even before Howard Beale wasn't "going to take it anymore", America was introduced to a charismatic, guitar playing nomad Larry 'Lonesome' Rhodes (Andy Griffith). When his ramblings catch the interests of radio producer Marcia Jeffries (Patricia Neal), little did they expect that the alcohol swilled, cavernous man could grow into a yee-haw orator of the masses. The misanthrope Rhodes does have a knack for manipulation, and he cunningly uses the transistor to win the love of an unsuspecting Nation. His aura even wins the heart of good-girl Marcia, who marries him in spite of his infidelity and genuine selfishness. Only the cynical journalist Mel Miller (Walter Matthau) can see that Rhodes is a default one eyed man in a country blinded by the tube's light emissions. Miller is no hero, however, since he too gains notoriety in his coverage of Rhodes, but his own love for Marcia compels him to revert his integrity and expose the conman. However, it is ultimately up to Marcia to tumble the Rhodes pillar, but can she find the strength to do so?

Elia Kazan was already a two-time Oscar winner and considered among the time's directing elite. A Face in the Crowd was very daring for it's day, since television was still not perceived as a subversive device but rather a safe family refuge of light entertainment and vigilant guardian of the perils of The Cold War. Kazan, who would face his own Red Scare demons, and Schulberg, an Oscar winner himself for his On The Waterfront script, foresaw the future of programming, an electronic brew where manufacturing of both celebrity and product could influence our judgment. In the DVD commentary for the film it was said that A Face in the Crowd was ill received at the Box Office, and it's pretty fair to say that America as a whole was not ready for this film. It wasn't until 1976 that a movie of similar satiric views was received with critical praise. Network, the story of two veteran journalists who adapt, (one consciously, the other maddeningly), to the carnival that t.v would become. This is not to say that Paddy Chayefsky's story of faux clairvoyants and lunatic anchors taking over the screen was not radical, but in that two decade gap between Kazan's parody and Sydney Lumet's classic, America had seen a President murdered, a divisive War escalate, and another President resign in humiliation. What Chayefsky and Lumet did was predict the decay of society by switching our interests to the banality of programming, but Kazan and Schulberg exposed the nature of the medium itself.

A Face in the Crowd also features a great performance by Mayberry's own Andy Griffith. Griffith is among the most admired and affectionate American actors of All-Time, but in this early role he shows an unrelenting, bare spectacle that rivals Marlon Brando's Stanley Kowalski in brawn and unapologetic vanity. As Brando in A Street Named Desire, Griffith was also a talented but relatively unknown actor when he did A Face in the Crowd. It is a measure of his talent that he played such a heel with the same naturalistic grace that made him so loved in The Andy Griffith Show. Another standout is Walter Mattau, who along with his villainous turn in Fail-Safe, showed that he was as gifted dramatic performer as a comedic one. Patricia Neal, who was established with roles in The Fountainhead and The Day The Earth Stood Still, is solid as the heroine that needs to shut Rhodes down, and the beautiful Lee Remick in her first film role as an eager beaver beauty queen that seduces Rhodes.





Source of the Bitter: John Rojas

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