Friday, April 3, 2015

A Face in the Crowd (1957)

There’s a scene during the final 20 minutes of A Face in the Crowd – the strikingly prescient and enduringly potent 1957 drama that showcases the greatest film performance ever by the late, great Andy Griffith – that has sufficient smash-mouth impact to make you forget, if only for a few minutes, that you ever saw the same actor play the ingratiating peacekeeper of Mayberry.

Three years before he assumed the lead role in the long-running sitcom that bore his name and ensured his immortality, Griffith mesmerized moviegoers with his galvanizing performance as Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes, an ingratiatingly folksy fraud who’s discovered by a broadcast journalist (Patricia Neal) in a small-town Arkansas jail, hired as a tale-spinning, guitar-strumming entertainer at her radio station – and launched as a local superstar on a relentless trajectory toward national celebrity.

Right from the start, Marcia Jeffries, the aforementioned journalist, has ample reason to believe that this good-ol’-boy is a ne’er-do-well whose artless sincerity is more apparent real. Still, she goes along for the ride – motivated, evidently, by equal measures of infatuation and ambition – when Lonesome Rhodes is hired away by a TV station in Memphis.

That is where they meet Mel Miller (Walter Matthau), a bookish and bespectacled TV writer who’s repeatedly ribbed by the casually anti-intellectual Rhodes for his Vanderbilt education. (I don’t have to tell you that this guy crushes on Marcia, do I?) More important, Memphis also is where they meet Joey DePalma (Anthony Franciosa), the conniving office assistant to the mattress-store owner who buys commercial spots on Rhodes’ TV show, and is so infuriated by Rhodes’ mocking presentation of his ads that he’s only partly mollified when his sales start to skyrocket. Joey is the one who sells Rhodes, a budding regional phenomenon, to Manhattan advertising agencies.

One thing leads to another, Rhodes – in one of the movie’s funniest sequences – suggests a surefire way to sell a vitamin supplement of dubious worth, and pretty soon the “Arkansas Traveler” (as Rhodes is nicknamed) is reaching a devoted national audience of 50 million viewers and rising.

But wait, there’s more: The retired general (Percy Waram) whose company produces the vitamin supplement – which, weirdly enough, is none-too-subtly pitched as a 1950s version of Viagra – sees Rhodes as a potential “wielder of opinion” who could utilize his aw-sucks soft-sell shtick to promote widespread fealty to “a responsible elite.” Which would make Rhodes a valuable asset in the general’s campaign to push a stuffy isolationist senator (Marshall Neilan) as a viable Presidential candidate.

The longer he basks in public adulation as host of a top-rated variety show, however, the more Rhodes is convinced of his superiority to his viewers, most of whom he secretly despises as credulous fools, and his intimates. He claims to love Marcia – but he marries, more or less on a whim, Betty Lou Fleckum (Lee Remick), a 17-year-old baton-twirling cutie, mainly because he’s intimidated by Marcia’s independence, and feels safer with what he assumes (wrongly, or course) is a docile bimbette.

And when Rhodes decides to start a different type of national TV show, Lonesome Rhodes’ Cracker Barrel, in which he’ll offer conservative political commentary camouflaged as nuggets of country-boy wisdom, he has little trouble bending to his will both the general, who grudgingly signs on as a sponsor, and the senator, who dutifully drops by to make disparaging comments about such Radical Leftie constructs as social security and unemployment insurance. “I’m not just an entertainer,” Rhodes rants while browbeating the general. “I’m an influence… A force.”

That brings us to the scene where, after sending Betty Lou into exile for her infidelity, Rhodes pays a late-night visit to Marcia’s Manhattan apartment and, while confiding in her, drops any pretense that he’s anything like the good-hearted homespun sage he pretends to be on TV.

Sure, he admits, he’s backing the senator for President – selling him like any other product, really -- because the candidate has promised him a newly created cabinet post, Secretary for National Morale. And because Rhodes knows damn well that he can get this guy into the White House.

“This whole country’s just like my flock of sheep,” Rhodes rants while Marcia blanches. “Rednecks. Crackers. Hillbillies. Hausfraus. Shut-ins. Peapickers. Everybody who’s got to jump when someone else blows the whistle…

“They’re mine,” Rhodes insists, absolutely certain of his mastery of the unwashed masses. “I own ‘em. They think like I do.

“Only they’re more stupid than I am. So I got to think for them.”

Marcia listens attentively. And fearfully. And then, without fully realizing at first what goal she has improvised, she sets out to destroy the man Mel Miller has aptly described as a “demagogue in denim.”

Like many movies that are years (if not decades) ahead of their time, A Face in the Crowd was neither warmly embraced by audiences nor universally praised by critics during its initial theatrical release. During subsequent decades, however, the film – directed by Elia Kazan and written by Budd Schulberg three years after they memorably collaborated for On the Waterfront – has attained the status of an essential and influential classic, and now is widely admired as one of the relatively few movies (along with Network, Quiz Show and a small handful of others) to fully comprehend and vividly convey the immense power of mass media to shape opinions, create icons – and, at its worst, deceive millions.

The name Lonesome Rhodes has evolved into a kinda-sorta shorthand for any sort of telegenic huckster whose affects a beguiling Everyman manner to sell products and/or propaganda. When Keith Olbermann used to sneeringly refer to Glenn “Lonesome Rhodes” Beck, his taunt struck many – including, I’ll admit, yours truly -- as devastatingly accurate.

And when Rick Perry collapsed as a 2012 Presidential candidate during his notorious “Oops!” moment at a nationally broadcast debate, it was hard for some movie fans not to recall Rhodes’ climactic self-destruction during an unguarded moment of on-the-air, open-mic candor.

Of course, anyone who wants to characterize A Face of the Crowd as a cautionary tale about media manipulation by treacherous right-wingers must also acknowledge that Kazan (who died in 2003) and Schulberg (who made it all the way to 2009) infuriated folks on the Left back in the 1950s -- and, indeed, continue to be viewed unkindly by many liberals in Hollywood and elsewhere – because the filmmakers, both of them disillusioned ex-members of the Communist Party, infamously named names while testifying before the House Un-American Activities Committee. And while they lost many friends because of their actions, they remained steadfast in their assertions that they were motivated by love of country, not fear of blacklisting.

And yet: In his 1988 autobiography, Kazan noted with some bemusement that, years after his and Schulberg’s HUAC testimonies, A Face in the Crowd received a rave review in the Communist Party’s West Coast People’s World newspaper – and a withering pan in the right-wing journal Counterattack. And while critics and academics have suggested everyone from Arthur Godfrey to Will Rogers as real-life inspirations for Lonesome Rhodes, the late director deemed it more important that Schulberg “anticipated” another charismatic entertainer with political ambitions: Ronald Reagan.

As for Andy Griffith: It’s practically impossible to overestimate the irresistible appeal of Sheriff Andy Taylor, his beloved sitcom alter ego, a character that seemed to embody all the best qualities of a loving father, a reliable friend, a folksy sage, and a droll yet compassionate observer of human foibles.

At the same time, however, it’s doubtful that even Griffith would have claimed that throughout his half-century as a stage, screen and television actor, he ever had a role as complexly multifaceted, or gave a performance as fearlessly full-bodied, as he did when he made his big-screen debut in A Face in the Crowd


  1. website

    New Year 2019 is one of the extraordinary minute for everyone. we tend to people would like nowadays for our family, friends and whom we like happy new year 2019 SMS, Messages, Quotes, wishes. Before this here are the Best SMS, Messages and Greetings for happy new year 2019 we’d like to allow you to understand many certainties of the new year 2019.

  2. windows and android applications are spam free apps that never share or store user details in any manner.


  3. AGT The Champions: I’m really happy to say it was an interesting post to read. I learned new information from your article, you are doing a great job. Continue -> AGT The Champions Winner

  4. Packers and Movers Chennai Give Safe and Reliable ***Household Shifting Services in Chennai with Reasonable ###Packers and Movers Price Quotation. We Provide Household Shifting, Office Relocation, ✔✔✔Local and Domestic Transportation Services, Affordable and Reliable Shifting Service Charges @
    Packers And Movers Chennai

  5. Packers and Movers Pune Provide High Quality ***Household Shifting, Home/Office Relocation, Insurance, Packing, Loading, ###Car Transportation Service Pune and High experiences, Top Rated, Safe and Reliable, Best and Secure Packers and Movers Pune Team List. Get ✔✔✔ Affordable Rate Charts and Compare Quotation and Save Money and Time .
    Packers And Movers Pune

  6. A week ago I was looking for something to occupy myself on the Internet. And I stumbled upon a single site. I spend every evening. I’ve already created my own strategy and I’ll manage everything. I’m leaving a link. Would you like to take a chance? adorable best slots you will succeed

  7. Packers and Movers Bangalore as a Services providing company can make all the difference to your ###Home Relocation experience. Bangalore based Company which offers versatile solutions, Right team that easily reduce the stress associated with a ✔✔✔Household Shifting, ***Vehicle Transportation. we help things run smoothly and reduce breakages and offer you seamless, Affordable, Reliable Shifting Services, Compare Shifting Charges @
    Packers And Movers Bangalore

  8. Hello, do you want to tell you a story? A month ago, nadybala, this site young casino web is so cool here everything is drawn everything is clear where and how to click a lot of gambling slots and all sorts of slot machines

  9. Packers and Movers Pune Provide High Quality ***Household Shifting, Home/Office Relocation, Insurance, Packing, Loading, ###Car Transportation Service Pune and High experiences, Top Rated, Safe and Reliable, Best and Secure Packers and Movers Pune Team List. Get ✔✔✔ Affordable Rate Charts and Compare Quotation and Save Money and Time .
    Packers And Movers Pune

  10. Packers and Movers Gurgaon Provide Reliable, Safe and Certified Service Provider list, Get Free ***Best Price Quotaition and Compare Charges. ✔✔✔ Hassle free Household Shifting Services, High Quality packing Material, Office Relocation, Car Transportaion, ###Local and Domestic Shifting Service @
    Packers And Movers Gurgaon

  11. Packers and Movers Hyderabad Give Certified and Verified Service Providers, Cheap and Best ###Office Relocation Charges, ***Home Shifting, ???Goods Insurance worth Rs. 10,000, Assurance for Local and Domestic House Shifting. Safe and Reliable Household Shifting Services in Hyderabad with Reasonable Packers and Movers Price Quotation @
    Packers And Movers Hyderabad

  12. Packers and Movers Pune

    Book Best and Verified packers and movers in Pune, Expert in Home Relocation within or outside Pune. Compare 3 quotes from nearby packers and movers in Pune. Get 100% safe & affordable packing moving from Professional Packers and Movers.

    Packers and Movers in Pune
    Packers and Movers in Hinjewadi
    Packers and Movers in hadapsar
    Packers and Movers in baner
    Packers and Movers in pimple-saugagar
    Packers and Movers in Viman nagar
    Packers and Movers in Pimpri
    Packers and Movers in Kothrud
    Packers and Movers in Aundh
    Packers and Movers in Magarpatta

  13. Local Packers and Movers Bangalore List, Get Best Price Quotes, Compare Movers and packers Charges, Top, Local Household Shifting Services
    Packers And Movers Bangalore

  14. Packers and Movers Hyderabad for 100% Affordable and Professional Packers and Movers in Hyderabad Compare Charges of Movers and Packers, Household Shifting Services @ Packers And Movers Hyderabad

  15. I simply would like to give a huge thumbs up for the good data you’ve Write here on this post. I shall be coming again to your weblog for extra soon.
    Packers And Movers Bangalore

  16. Nice post! This is a very nice blog that I will definitively come back to more times this year! Thanks for informative post.# @ Packers and Movers Ahmedabad

  17. Superb post, we enjoyed each and everything as per written in your post. Thank you for this informative article because it’s really helpful, I really like site.
    Please visit our website: @ Packers and Movers Kolkata

  18. Very nice article. I enjoyed reading your post. very nice share. I want to twit this to my followers. Thanks !. @ Packers and Movers Kolkata

  19. Get Packers and Movers Jaipur List of Top Reliable, 100% Affordable, Verified and Secured Service Provider. Get Free ###Packers and Movers Jaipur Price Quotation instantly and Save Cost and Time. Packers and Movers Jaipur ✔ ✔ ✔ Reviews and Compare Charges for household Shifting, Home/Office Relocation, ***Car Transportation, Pet Relocation, Bike SHifting @ Packers And Movers Jaipur

  20. I love this blog Phupo As its provide informative posts with Entertainment happenings and much more. Thank you so much to sharing such an amazing post. Showbiz News
    The blog deals with deep things and go with each and every topic. Like Farhan Malhi actor. They have all information about him in various posts. Farhan Malhi Biography
    Farhan Malhi Age
    Farhan Malhi Man Crush Monday
    Farhan Malhi Shirtless Make You Feel A Lot of things
    Farhan Malhi Interview Share Fitness Tips

  21. Excellent Blog! I would like to thank for the efforts you have made in writing this post. I am hoping the same best work from you in the future as well. I wanted to thank you for this websites! Thanks for sharing. Great websites!.@ Packers and Movers Ahmedabad

  22. I have watched this movie, it was entertaining. Also thanks for sharing this. Also checkout Nulls Clash.

  23. I think your writing style is awesome, thanks for sharing! Gbwhatsapp

  24. Special thanks to ( for exposing my cheating husband. Right with me i got a lot of evidences and proofs that shows that my husband is a fuck boy and as well a cheater ranging from his text messages, call logs, WhatsApp messages, deleted messages and many more, All thanks to

    (, if not for him i will never know what has been doing on for a long time


  25. Special thanks to ( for exposing my cheating husband. Right with me i got a lot of evidences and proofs that shows that my husband is a fuck boy and as well a cheater ranging from his text messages, call logs, whats-app messages, deleted messages and many more, All thanks to

    (, if not for him i will never know what has been going on for a long time.

    Contact him now and thank me later.

  26. Thanks for the detailed article on this topic. I would like to see more such awesome articles from you. Download GBWhatsApp APK

    1. But sir which is better GBwhatsapp or COC Mod APK? The information you have shared here is very helpful. I really like and appreciate your work. Thanks again for it, keep us updated in future!

  27. Thanks for sharing this valuable piece of information. Keep sharing more such awesome articles in the future.
    Regards GBWAMOD

  28. Assuming that the issue continues, contact the QB online login help group. Then, at that point, return to the QB online login page

    QuickBooks Running Slow

    QuickBooks Error 6000