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A Face in the Crowd: Social Horror Film?

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klondike

A Face in the Crowd: Social Horror Film?

Postby klondike » April 14th, 2007, 3:24 pm

Okay, Gang, this one's no new slice o' pie: we've all seen Kazan's little comedie del negra "A Face in the Crowd"; we've all chuckled, and catcalled, and cringed and even shuddered as ol' Andy-Boy hits his mark as a Madison Avenue hybrid of Mr. Hyde & Pygmalion, like King Midas with a left-handed curveball, turning all he touches into hollow fool's gold.
But does its depiction of media cannibalism still work now as well as it did during the Ike administration?
To compare: for my money, the topicality of Lang's "Fury" is as fresh now as it was in the late 30's, its messages about mob mentality and the ethics of accusation still lacerate across my mind whenever I recall its brilliantly constructed scenes.
But "AFitC"? Does its heart of darkness still beat?
The missus says the biggest lasting effect for her was that it retroactively poisoned every episode she'd ever enjoyed of The Andy Griffith Show, so convincing was Mr. G in his portrayal of the venomous Lonesome Rhodes.
But, she adds, overall, she didn't find the movie itself all that jarring, or memorable.
Myself? I'm split between the offhand and the case in point.
I do find it sinuously ironic that TCM had this film scheduled to air just after the whole Don Imus scandal.
Course that herringbone hunyawk already knew that HIS audio was "On", now, didn't he?
So what do you Folks think?
Hmmmmm?

Klondike

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A Face in the Crowd (1958)

Postby moira finnie » April 14th, 2007, 4:21 pm

I think I'm pretty happy that I first experienced Andy Griffith via Mayberry and not Elia Kazan's dark vision, or I'd be in your wife's corner completely. Is it my imagination, or was A Face in the Crowd not broadcast for many years due to the uh, "controversial" light that it threw onto the electronic hearth aka tv? I don't remember seeing it as a whippersnapper in the '60s or even in the '70s. Finally caught up with it sometime in the '90s on, I think, TBS (remember when they broadcast really good old movies?).

Andy was one repellent dude, though I didn't think that Walter Matthau covered himself with roses either. I never cottoned to Walter until I was old enough to appreciate the corrosive charms of Billy Wilder's The Fortune Cookie (1965), in which Matthau portrayed the kind of guy who'd steal from a nun's poor box and make you laugh doing it. Still find him kind of unlikely, whenever I see Walter playing anyone with redeeming virtues.

Fortunately, my only quasi-adult exposure to Andy Griffith's other talents was two fold. As a pre-teen, a local radio station used to play one of the funniest comedy records I'd ever heard, entitled, "What it was, was Football!". On this record, made early in Griffith's career, he gives a country bumpkin's description of a football game. My other Non-Mayberry visit with Griffith was through the tv broadcast of the movie No Time for Sargeants(1958). I still fall out of my chair laughing when Andy makes the toilet seats stand at attention during inspection. And Myron McCormack is priceless as the long-suffering Sarge.

The Imus connection:
I'm one of those dolts, in retrospect, who'd sometimes watch the MSNBC simulcast of Imus when he'd have a Doris Kearns Goodwin, a Michael Bechloss or a Bob Schieffer on to discuss something of note in the news. I usually hit mute when he cavilled with his lunkhead producer or other minions, since that stuff didn't interest me. I think the media storm surrounding his dumb remarks was deserved up to a point, but since cruelty, easy slurs, and crossing the line will continue to attract the cretins in the audience he'll find a berth in satellite radio easily, if he wants one. Others say and do far worse however, and I've no time for the jackals who fed on Imus' scrawny media carcass. The fact that Imus knew better but didn't care when he said what he did makes him different and far worse than the vile character he paralleled in FITC. But--horrors-- this is off topic!
Last edited by moira finnie on April 14th, 2007, 5:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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A Face in the Crowd

Postby ken123 » April 14th, 2007, 5:01 pm

I think " A Face in the Crowd " is ever more relevant now than ever before, with hatemongers such as Limbaugh, Hannity,Coulter, and their ilk dominating much of the news and information,especially on the radio.

Fritz Lang's "Fury " has not lost any of its punch, and it's DVD has a great audio commentary. :P

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Other films about Mobs, the Media and Justice

Postby moira finnie » April 14th, 2007, 5:25 pm

I think that Fury without Spencer Tracy and Sylvia Sidney's eloquent perfomances wouldn't have the same impact today. Directorially, I think Fritz Lang's depiction of the convergence of the crowd on the jail and the newsreel footage helped to make it a more dynamic movie as well. Imagine the impact that must've had on audiences in the mid-'30s?

Along similar lines, thematically, but dealt with very differently, are the films Intruder in the Dust, Boomerang, and, believe it or not--Roxie Hart. The latter William Wellman film is a very funny dark look at the story that was later reworked into the musical Chicago. It also features the greatest performance by Ginger Rogers on film, imho. Too bad hardly anyone's seen this doozie.

Of course, Mr. Wellman dealt brilliantly with the theme of justice and the mob very seriously in his adaptation of Walter Van Tilburg Clark's The Ox Bow Incident.

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Postby Mr. Arkadin » April 15th, 2007, 8:20 am

Personally, I think that "Face" is very relevant today. We live in a world of increasing media coverage where so many things are not represented to us as they are--factual, but along political lines, personal opinons, and for monetary gain.

It's always been this way, but coverage is so swift and the availibility of having it 24 hours a day (instead of just a couple of papers to read) has intensified it's influence. "A Face in the Crowd" looks at people's motivations how they can be changed and how they change others perceptions.

Are people ever really who they present themslves to be? Are situations in our country (wars, legislation) what they are presented to us to be? Is there an underlying motive and if so what is it?

This film encourages people to think for themselves and check out who and what people are. Not to go along with "The Crowd". It's interesting that this film anticipated "Network" (1976) by almost 20 years. A great film about how people are manipulated and controlled for corporate profit. The basic idea is the same though.

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Postby sugarpuss » April 15th, 2007, 12:49 pm

I love how A Face in the Crowd and Network were shown back to back, since those two movies really compliment each other in mocking and revealing how people will take in anything as long as it's on the tv. If you're going for advertising and duping people, I think you could throw in Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? into the mix for some comic relief.

I loved the whole Vitajex montage. As someone who almost went into advertising for a living, it's great to see that nothing has changed in that realm.

I also really loved the cast. I thought Lee Remick was great in her role. And she looked like an actual 17 year old teenager (I was surprised to find that she was 22)--not some Hollywood version of a teenager. I thought some of the other baton majorettes looked older than her. Also, the scene where Lonesome dumps her was effective in showing how mentally young she still was--drinking an ice cream soda and then throwing a temper tantrum on her stuffed animal covered bed. Her part was really interesting--would a girl like her really go for someone like Lonesome if he wasn't famous, rich and on tv? Absolutely not!

Andy Griffith was lucky he never wound up typecast as Lonesome throughout his career. It's a shame he wasn't nominated for this role, although being a Kazan movie probably had something to do with it. It's a great performance though. The same goes for Patricia Neal. She's always wonderful (I don't think she's ever disappointed me), although I couldn't help but feel her character had a miserable life ahead. I don't think she and Walter Matthau's character even had a chance together. I think she just continued on with her drinking and living a life filled with guilt over what she had done. Her character was the most affected and changed by the end.

A great movie. I'm so glad I watched this. It's a good movie on so many different levels.

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Postby Dewey1960 » April 17th, 2007, 8:28 am

Hi Klondike et al -- nice to see all of you again! RE: A FACE IN THE CROWD, I think the film is probably every bit as effective now as it ever was, thanks largely to the uncompromising performances of everyone in the cast as well as Kazan's in your face direction. I first saw this on TV in the late 60s when my perception of Andy Griffith had already been firmly stamped by his Mayberry persona. Which only made the character of Dusty Rhodes that much creepier to me; there's a disturbing fine line that sometimes separates Andy Taylor and Dusty, but I can't quite put my index finger on it. The film's serio-comic climax has often been criticized for being outrageously over-the-top, but in the light of contemporary reality it seems curiously understated. I love this film.

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"The Lonesome Rhodes express...going down!"

Postby benwhowell » April 17th, 2007, 12:28 pm

Having "known" Griffith as Andy Taylor my entire life, I was mesmerized by his frightening performance as an Arkansas "good ol' boy" who becomes a "force."
This was Elia Kazan's follow up to "Baby Doll" and was similar in it's serio-comic depictions of mid-century Southerners' struggles for power.
I think it's interesting that "Baby Doll" was "condemned" and received 4 Oscar nominations..."A Face In The Crowd" received 0 Oscar nominations.
I worked as an extra on an episode of "Matlock" in Las Vegas in '87. It was filmed at the Maxim casino. I was chosen for a spot behind Griffith in one scene. (I had to walk from point a to point b, etc.) It was interesting to watch Griffith warm up for the scene-which involved him pacing back and forth. (Alas, my face was not visible in the scene.) Everyone was ushered into a dining hall for a buffet lunch. I loaded my plate and sat at an empty table. Lo and behold, Griffith and his wife appeared and sat at my table-along with the director(?) They sat on the opposite side of the table, so I was unable to hear any conversation in that noisy dining hall. That was the last time I saw Griffith that day.
It was probably my most pleasant experience working as an extra...and they paid you in cash that day-$65!

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RE:

Postby Sue Sue Applegate » April 19th, 2007, 11:54 pm

I love Sherriff Andy, but feat Lonesome Rhodes!

Wonderful story about your lunch with greatness!
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RE:

Postby Sue Sue Applegate » April 20th, 2007, 10:46 pm

SHolmes, Glad you're here!

I still think the best speech on film concerning the media is the one Kirk delivers in A Letter to Three Wives. Marshall McLuhan, Lonesome Rhodes, and Network... their prominence all came after A Letter to Three Wives.

Florence Bates as Mrs. Manley sitting and huffing and puffing in the living room while her beloved hen-pecked plays the "yes, mam" man is still the perfect symbol of the narrow-minded money-grubbing know-it-all in charge of deciding what we all should think and believe. Only now she doesn't just represent a radio station. It is a Megaculture who decides that we need to see some crazed college student pointing weapons and telling us how we're responsible for his madness 24 hours a day while the heroes of that debacle are buried on page nine, or at the bottom of the Yahoo news blurb list. Just stick Rosie O'Donnell's or The Donald's head on her prim shoulders and they yap around just as well while they are telling us what soap to buy or what line to buy into. Geeze!

I think I just need to go sit on the porch awhile and have a glass of iced tea.

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RE:

Postby Sue Sue Applegate » April 21st, 2007, 12:08 am

Back from the porch.

Thanks for the thumb's up, SHolmes.
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