In our continuing series of ’47 Films to see before you’re murdered in your dreams’, we look at Eli Kazan’s prophetic political satire A Face in the Crowd.
Anyone wondering at the bizarre events of the 2016 presidential election could do worse than watch Eli Kazan’s 1957 political satire A Face in the Crowd. Written by Budd Schulberg, the film is an insanely accurate prophecy of exactly what we’ve been living through with Herr Trump.
When colorful inmate and singer is plucked from the obscurity of the town drunk tank and given his chance on the radio, no one could have predicted the meteoric rise of Larry ‘Lonesome’ Rhodes, played by Andy Griffith. Am ‘aw shucks’ man of the people, Lonesome’s full of refreshing energy and no-nonsense common sense, harking back to frontier values of freedom and liberty. From a role on the Grand Ole Oprey, he thumbs his nose at the establishment and is soon being lauded by top corporations as he morphs into an advertising Midas, giving the common touch and lending products and his own show huge boosts in sales and ratings. Soon he’s being sought to give advice to a possible Presidential candidate, whose image he revamps. His trajectory is witnessed by a jaded Walter Matthau (was Matthau ever not jaded?) and a beautifully tragic Patricia Neal as Marcia, a woman who discovers Rhodes, falls in love with him, only to be thrown over for a baton-twirling cheerleader, played with minxy relish by Lee Remick.
The brash charm of Rhodes however hides an ambition and cunning that soon sees him vaulting all and leaving cinders in his wake. If none of this sounds even a little bit familiar then good morning Rip, you’ve got some catching up to do. Even Lonesome’s downfall, thanks to a microphone he thinks isn’t on, has an all too familiar sound.