Andy Griffith goes right to the edge of overacting in this dark character study of an Arkansas hillybilly who overgrows his roots--then blasts all the way through it to some of the most inspired scenery-chewing you'll ever see in a mainstream movie. Lonesome Roads is discovered sleeping off a drunk in a local jail by radio announcer Patricia Neal, where she has brought her "portable" tape recorder to capture local flavor for her "Face in the Crowd" feature show on her daddy's radio station.
When Lonesome's road takes him straight to the big time as a national celebrity, he finds himself the darling of the business and political communities, and suddenly is providing homespun advice on how to run for political office that sounds alarmingly current.
Griffith is a revelation here, drawing the camera to him and filling it with all the energy and intelligence of Citizen Kane (Citizen Kane (Two-Disc Special Edition)), the intelligence and evil of the Joker (The Dark Knight (Two-Disc Special Edition + Digital Copy)), and the evil and cynicism of Joseph Conrad's Kurtz (Heart of Darkness). Even at his character's best, Griffith lets us see the dark and cynical heart that drives him, so that when the meltdown comes, as it must, we are surprised only by its suddenness. In Griffith's later TV character Andy Taylor, we see the likable side of Lonesome Roads, with his heart of darkness tamed by time and constrained by the genial boundaries of Mayberry.
The special features on the DVD are interesting, especially the discussion of Elia Kazan, his daliance with the Communist Party, and his naming of names in the Hollywood hearings in the 50s that earned him the vilification and blackballing of the Hollywood elite.
Andy Griffith succeeds in pulling off an act of pure madness in this chronicle of the rise and fall of a superstar. A Face in the Crowd is a mezmerizing film from start to finish. You get introduced to the character Lonesome Rhodes as he lay passed out in a jail cell. A local radio news reporter, played by Patricia Niel, is scouting for new talent and happens to see this explosive accident waiting to happen sprawled across the floor. She wakes him up and convinces him to sing … more
I love reading and writing about what I have read, making the connections and marking the comparisons and contrasts. God has given man the amazing power to invent language and the means to record it which … more
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More timely now, perhaps, than when it was first released in 1957, Elia Kazan's overheated political melodrama explores the dangerous manipulative power of pop culture. It exposes the underside of Capra-corn populism, as exemplified in the optimistic fable of grassroots punditryMeet John Doe. In Kazan's account, scripted by Budd Schulberg, the common-man pontificator (Andy Griffith) is no Gary Cooper-style aw-shucks paragon. Promoted to national fame as a folksy TV idol by radio producer Patricia Neal, Griffith's Larry "Lonesome" Rhodes turns out to be a megalomaniacal rat bastard. The film turns apocalyptic as Rhodes exploits his power to sway the masses, helping to elect a reactionary presidential candidate. The parodies of television commercials and opinion polling were cutting edge in their day (Face in the Crowdwas theNetworkof the Eisenhower era), and there are some startling, near-documentary sequences shot on location in Arkansas. An extraordinary supporting cast (led by Walter Matthau and Lee Remick) helps keep the energy level high, even when the satire turns shrill and unpersuasive in the final reel. There's an interesting parallel in Tim Robbins's snide pseudodocumentaryBob Roberts: both these pictures have almost as much contempt for the lemmings in the audience as for the manipulative monsters who herd them over the cliff.--David Chute