Posts Tagged ‘Mayberry’

It’s fitting that on this American holiday that we mark the passing of an actor who represented an idealized slice of Americana.  Andy Griffith, who died yesterday at the age of 86, was best known for his portrayal of Sheriff Andy Taylor on The Andy Griffith Show.  On the show he and his deputy, the immortally funny Barney Fife, prowled the mean streets of Mayberry, a gentle North Carolina that has come to symbolize  America’s rural past for many.  Andy administered an equally gentle brand of justice with folksy common sense  and patience.  Of course, no real town could live up to the idyllic nature of Mayberry where everyone got along and even Otis the town drunk was lovably comic but it didn’t matter.  It was a lovely comic fantasy that was easy to buy into.

I know that I did.  I can still watch the show and laugh out loud or be touched when Andy straightens out Opie with a folksy moral tale.  A pure slice of goodness.

The flipside of that goodness was exhibited in Griffith’s performance in the 1957 film from Elia Kazan, A Face in the Crowd.  It’s a dark satire that chronicles the rise of Griffith’s character Lonesome Rhodes from drifting drunkard to a national media star  with great influence over public opinion that he wields in a cynical fashion.  Lonesome Rhodes is a classic film character, a larger than life personality that is a little over the top  with a veneer of charm and charisma that hides a truly nasty inner core.  He’s a far cry from anyone ever seen in Mayberry.   A Face in the Crowd is a great, great film that still rings true today.  I periodically hear rumors of people wanting to remake it today and I always hope that they let it be as it is.  I don’t think you could have a better Lonesome Rhodes than Andy Griffith.

Have a great 4th of July.  Here’s a taste of Lonesome Rhodes:

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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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