A Face in the Crowd
Dir: Elia Kazan
Scr: Budd Schulberg
Pho: Gayne Rescher, Harry Stradling
Ed: Gene Milford
Music: Tom Glazer
Prod Co: Newtown Productions
Cast: Andy Griffith, Patricia Neal, Anthony Franciosa, Walter Matthau
1957 / B/W / 35mm / English / 125min
While out searching for the "voice of the common man", Arkansas radio presenter Marcia Jeffries (Patricia Neal) unearths motor mouthed drifter Larry "Lonesome" Rhodes (Andy Griffith) and put him on the air, inadvertently creating a monster. As Lonesome's no-nonsense salt-of-the-earth observations and commentary begin to resonate with the general public, his star quickly rises, and soon enough he finds himself on national television. However, Rhodes soon becomes drunk with power and nobody is safe from his all-consuming desire for fame and fortune, especially once his quest for glory turns from small-scale profiteering into a genuine interest in political manipulation.
Andy Griffith gives as an incredible performance as Lonesome and onscreen is a genuine force of nature in what was to prove his breakthrough role. This media monster is a far cry from the amiable law enforcers, in The Andy Griffith Show and Matlock, for which the recently deceased actor would later become a household name and remain on our screens for the rest of his life. But every bit as good is Patricia Neal as his "cold fish" producer Marcia. She can do little more than stand helpless and watch as the product of her own desires for success explodes into an unwieldy exploiter of the system, all the while nursing her own romantic feelings for a man physically unable to reciprocate.
Startlingly ahead of its time in its prescient depiction of media manipulation and the corrupting power of fame and celebrity, A Face In The Crowd nevertheless retains Kazan's tortured adoration for the United States, while underscoring numerous social issues of the time, such as the power of the media and the exploitation of the lower classes.
A Face in the Crowd was restored by UCLA and screened in our Festival of Preservation in 2004. Preservation funding provided by The Film Foundation and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.
||Cinema, Hong Kong Film Archive
*Post-screening talk with Lam Chiu-wing, in Cantonese
The contents of the programme do not represent the views of the presenter.
The presenter reserves the right to change the programme should unavoidable circumstances make it necessary.