Archive for September 25th, 2009

A Face In the CrowdIt’s funny sometimes how the truth behind a satire from another time seems to come to bear in the present.

This past weekend, I watched part of  A Face In The Crowd, the classic film that I’ve seen many times from 1957 starring Andy Griffith as slimy Lonesome Rhodes, a drunken Southern drifter who by virtue of circumstance becomes a media darling and mouthpiece for conservative populism a la Glenn Beck of today. It’s a great film, one that always provokes a strong reaction and always seems, even in its dated setting, to have something that we can see in our own circumstances today.  It was a tour de force performance from Griffith and a far cry from the gentle, wise Sheriff Andy Taylor of Mayberry.  Lonesome Rhodes was the type of character that would have had Barney Fife pretty nervous.

Lonesome Rhodes knows how to manipulate the people, spark them into a fiery force, yet has nothing but contempt for them.   He has a natural ability, like many cons, of being able to read people, sense their drives and triggers while ingratiating himself at the same time.   He is all charisma.  But beneath this patina of charm and folksy wisdom lies a core of anger, sex and violence- a dangerous timebomb who strives to shape the public opinion into his vision.

It’s a great depiction of how the public reacts to a man of the people, even when he may be a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  There is always talk of remaking this film and I always cringe at the thought.  Like most remakes of great films, it would probably lose that intangible spark that makes the original blaze, be it a stellar performance and natural charm like  that of Andy Griffith, a great supporting cast featuring Patricia Neal and Walter Matthau, or the sharp, angular storytelling from director Elia Kazan, a controversial figure himself.  I really hope that they choose to leave this one alone.

Anyway, if you like social satire check out this film.  Good stuff.  Here’s the original trailer-

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