Starring: Andy Griffith, Patricia Neal, Walter Matthau
Director: Elia Kazan
Running Time: 126 mins
A Face In The Crowd is an American film about a folk-singing drifter and his meteoric rise to national stardom, a rise that brings with it the perks and perils of power and influence.
The ultimate cautionary tale of acquiring fame and the immense power that comes with it, A Face In The Crowd is a simultaneously enthralling and terrifying drama, detailing not just the devastating corruption of a down-to-earth country man, but the astonishing reach and power of modern media.
Made in the early years of television’s reach across the United States, A Face In The Crowd is full of cautionary messages about the unlimited power and potential of the medium, many of which have proved themselves true time and time again.
With staggering thematic depth that looks in detail at both the corruption of an individual as he rises, but also the way in which the media is able to influence and shape the views of so many people by barely lifting a finger, this film is utterly enthralling throughout, gradually turning from a captivating story about the media into a terrifying psychodrama with devastating consequences.
At the centre of it all is Andy Griffith, who plays Lonesome Rhodes, a drifter found in an Arkansas jail who is propelled to stardom, reaching the dizzying heights of mingling with the media elite in New York. Griffith’s performance is really exceptional here, gradually and naturally nurturing his character’s terrifying rise to corruption having started his career out as the ultimate everyman.
Charismatic and effortlessly charming at first, the transformation of his character is the very definition of what happens when charisma touches millions around the country, as he develops into a loud, cantankerous and deeply, deeply arrogant man that seeks nothing more than to influence and control the people that seem to love him so.
Alongside Griffith stars Patricia Neal as the small-town radio host who first finds Lonesome Rhodes in a dirty corner of a local jail. Neal is the level-headed counterpart to her increasingly deluded and corrupted co-star, and gives a brilliant performance that really brings home the emotional trauma of someone left in the dust of another’s meteoric rise.
With both the terrifying portrayal of an ascent to stardom and power and the grounded emotional drama that we see in Neal’s character, A Face In The Crowd is a truly excellent story that covers all bases when it comes to telling a cautionary tale about the modern media.
Elia Kazan, director the equally intoxicating dramas On The Waterfront and A Streetcar Named Desire, puts everything into making A Face In The Crowd as mesmerising a watch as possible. Its themes are comparable to other stories of the age about the media like Ace In The Hole, but its style is even more exhilarating and theatrical.
As a result, there’s never a dull moment with A Face In The Crowd. Utterly enthralling from start to finish, the film proves a mesmerising watch as it details the ultimate cautionary tale of the potential for corruption in the modern media. With great performances, strong direction and a gripping story, it’s an exhilarating watch right up to the last minute, and that’s why I’m giving A Face In The Crowd an 8.3 overall.