Welp, another election is upon us, so why not get a little political? Any of you who have read me at all may have gathered that I tend to lean to the left, so it may come as no shock to some of you that I like A Face in the Crowd. For my fellow left-leaning types, it may come as a shock that I do like this movie because, yes, Elia Kazan was a rat and named names to the House Un-American Activities Committee way back when. Still, he was a hell of a director in his time, and ranks right up there with the greats: Billy Wilder, Frank Capra, William Castle. And A Face in the Crowd is as good as Network, and in some ways is even better, I dare say! The screenplay is similarly excellent, insightful, satirical, and all those great qualities a good movie embodies. This is what Keith Olbermann is referring to when he calls Glenn Beck "Lonesome Rhodes."
So, what does make a movie timeless? Well, with a performance like Andy Griffith gives, it's a big plus. Ironically, this was the only time he played a 'heavy', so to speak, and spent the rest of his career playing the thing he satirizes here... if that makes sense. It's an epic journey for Larry Rhodes, from a local jail to New York City when he reaches the pinnacle of his "craft." When a film is good like this, it often gets called a 'meditation,' but it was a little ahead of Network in noticing that television is a powerful force in the universe, and it tends to bend people to its will. Even senators! I'll try not to spoil too much of the plot details, but as with All The King's Men, both involve exploiting hillbilly culture for personal gain. And for all you nice guys looking for witty banter with the ladies, ... oh good! They have it: "All mild men are vicious. They hate themselves for being mild, and they hate the windy extroverts whose violence seems to have a strange attraction for nice girls. You should know better," Walter Matthau tells Patricia Neal. Apparently, he plays the Budd Schulberg part. Surely this was part autobiographical, part based on the life of ... whoever. Gotta go to Wikipedia for this one: Andy Griffith's character is based in part on someone named Arthur Godfrey. And for anti-fans of Viagra and Cialis like me, the Vitajex ads are pretty riotous; also gotta like the scene where the nerd in the board meeting says "it's basically sugar tablets!!" Lamentably, today's aristocracy is better about holding back the truth, so we may have to settle for the little victories, like Matthau's at the end, and I'm talking about when he gives his big final speech, then goes "Beanie!!" I probably should've said Spoilers, but I don't think that will spoil the whole ride for you.
good double bill with: either Network or All The King's Men... the original!
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan