Monday, April 7, 2014


This has always been a favorite movie, mostly because of the great performances by the two main actresses in it: Patricia Neal and Lee Remick (I think in the latter's first movie role). Surprisingly the most understated performance among the males is Walter Matthau's, the only role I can remember him not going big in.

But of course A FACE IN THE CROWD is carried and centers on Andy Griffith's incredible performance as Lonesome Roads (or perhaps it was spelled Rhodes, but the idea was roads). What amazed me about catching most of the film tonight on TCM was how relevant it still is. If you wanted, you could find Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, the Koch brothers and Fox News et. al. in this prescient 1957 flick. It was an expose of where the new phenomenon of television might lead us all, and now here we are.

If you've never seen it, to get all the subtleties, as well as the obvious, watch it from the very beginning to the end and pay attention not just to where the camera demands you look but to the edges of the movie frame as well. There's a lot going on. Much of it what would become reality TV. Some of it just masterful filmmaking.

Several years after this movie came out, my first wife and I were strolling through Central Park when we passed Lee Remick walking with an older man. She was as stunning in person as on screen. One of the most beautiful movie stars ever. Lovely to see her making what I'm pretty sure was her debut and giving a performance to match Patricia Neal's extraordinary acting chops with range and depth and quicksilver emotional changes.

After this breakout performance, Andy Griffith became a comic actor and a sentimental icon, but in one of his last roles, in THE WAITRESS, with the contemporary Lee Remick, i.e. Keri Russell, he showed the kind of nuanced realism he first displayed in the more quiet scenes in A FACE IN THE CROWD. Make sure this film is on your bucket list, despite it's sometimes over-the-top energy and obvious plot points, it's a total classic.


tpw said...

I saw the movie one summer around the time it first came out, when I was 11 or so, at the only movie house in Rockaway Beach in Queens. It was a run-down theater whose marquee never listed the film playing, only this same hopeful message: "Always A Good Show." The movie shocked & mesmerized me, and I've never forgotten it. And you're absolutely right---it's as relevant today as ever. "Elmer Gantry" was another populist expose that tore through hypocrisy. We need more movie of that ilk now.

Lally said...

Amen tp, and great memory...

AlamedaTom said...

1963: Patricia Neal wins the Oscar for best actress in "Hud." "Hud" is one of my favorite movies and would make a great Neal follow-up to "Face in the Crowd." As I have often said, "I have only to watch 'Hud' to see why my mother and her friends swooned over Paul Newman." But needless to say, as far as his acting chops go he was awesome in "Hud." Neal of course is astounding, giving a nuanced power-house performance. Sorry, but I just can't ever resist an opportunity to pound my "Hud" drum.

~ Willy

Lally said...

I'm not even gonna touch that last sentence Willy, but as for the rest, I hear ya.