A Face in the Crowd (1957)

face in the crowd poster 1957 movie
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Clever, smart, and contemporary


Movie Info

Movie Name: A Face in the Crowd

Studio: Newtown Productions

Genre(s): Drama

Release Date(s): May 29, 1957

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

face in the crowd lonesome rhodes andy griffith patricia neal

Meet America’s new obsession!

Local radio reporter Marcia Jeffries (Patricia Neal) job is to find interesting people to talk to on the air.  When she discovers Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes (Andy Griffith) in an Arkansas jail, she realizes she’s hit gold.  Lonesome Rhodes quickly becomes a powerhouse on the radio and transitions to TV.  His hometown approach to life appeals to the masses, and Lonesome and with him Marcia are going places.  Fame has a dark side and sometimes things are too good to be true.

Directed by Elia Kazan, A Face in the Crowd is a satire film.  The movie initially received mixed to positive reviews but has gained a following over the years.  It adapts the short story “Your Arkansas Traveler” by Budd Schulberg which was in his story collection Some Faces in the Crowd from 1953.  The film was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2008.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the movie (Criterion #970).

I know a lot of people who are big into A Face in the Crowd, but I had never seen it.  Kazan has done a lot of smart stuff, and I finally got around to tracking the movie down.  A Face in the Crowd is a film that was very modern for its time and definitely has a contemporary appeal.

face in the crowd lee remick

Looks like Patricia Neal has been replaced…

The movie says a lot about celebrities and the political world.  Griffith’s character immediately taps into politics by targeting a sheriff that targeted him.  He also makes the point while later stumping for a senator that politicians and celebrities are one in the same…and they have to employ similar techniques.  In 1957, that was probably a bit of a radical idea, but it is naturally accepted in today’s standards.  Griffith callously rides his fame and shows he’s not as much of a bumpkin as he implies.  The behavior eventually catches up to him as he reveals his real feelings for those who support him…it could have a plot of parallels today.

It is weird seeing Andy Griffith in a role like this.  Not only is Lonesome slimy, but he has odious behavior which often contradicted Griffith’s later image.  I have seen him play bad guys on occasion but this feels different since he really still gets to dip into his “Andy Griffith” charm to make the corruption even worse…and it makes you question if that charm was fake as well.  Patricia Neal both builds Lonesome and is destroyed by him as they become a symbiotic team that feeds off of each other.  Walter Matthau is Neal’s sympathetic ally and Lee Remick makes her film debut as the shiny, baton twirling Betty Lou Fleckum.  The film also features cameos from multiple “real” celebrities and reporters.

face in the crowd lonesome rhodes vitajex andy griffith

Wouldn’t want to be a corporate sellout

The film is slick and gives incite to early TV programming.  Radio wasn’t king anymore but it still was a bigger factor and the power of TV was being explored.  The visuals of the film including the great “Vitajex” commercial and even the hometown Hee-Haw-esque “The Lonesome Rhodes on the Cracker Barrel” is done with style and feels like a behind the scenes look at TV (especially when it was made).

A Face in the Crowd is a clever and smart movie.  The film feels like a combination of movies like All About Eve, All the King’s Men, and even a bit of Citizen Kane in the rise and fall of Lonesome Rhodes.  While being over fifty years old, it is made in a way that still feels like a fresh take on society and shows where we were and where we’ve landed.  Tune in for Lonesome, and don’t forget your Vitajex!

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

Leave A Response