Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Face in the Crowd: Now More than Ever

one pill makes you dumber

Elia Kazan’s A Face in the Crowd

I can’t help myself from recommending, urging, and cajoling everyone I know to view this masterpiece; now more than ever its message is a timely one.
Andy Griffith plays a down on his luck drifter who is discovered by a radio producer (Patricia Neal) while he’s cooling his heels in a jail for a drunk and disorderly violation. Neal’s character, Marcia Jeffries, begins an interview with Griffith’s character, Lonesome Rhodes, and within a few minutes it is quite obvious that Rhodes is a natural with his home spun wisdom and his folk singing.

Soon Rhodes is offered a job at Jeffries’ radio station and he quickly discovers the power of the medium – it seems that Rhodes can tell the masses something -
anything - and they’ll do it. And just like that, a megalomaniac is born.

In time, Rhodes is courted by the New York media and is brought to the Big Apple to star in a TV show that quickly evolves into a bigger success than anyone could have imagined. Before long, Rhodes finds himself assisting a right wing political candidate who is supported by all kinds of special interest groups and faster than you can say,
Rush Limbaugh, Rhodes is showing his true colors ;he claims to be one of the common folk, but in actuality he has nothing but contempt for the rank and file (this ultimately leads to his undoing).

From pushing snake oil medicines to philosophizing on what is wrong with the United States, Lonesome Rhodes becomes the new Will Rogers, albeit a dark one. 

During his meteoric rise, Jefferies, though infatuated with him, is beginning to see the reality beneath his folksy veneer, and ultimately has to decide if she should expose him for the rat bastard he really is.

Considering that this film was made in 1957, it is astounding how much it echoes the world of mass media created demagogues we are surrounded by today. From
Bill O’Riley to Dr. Phil; they all are the sons of Lonesome Rhodes.

Maybe it’s time America sat down and discarded reality television and The Fox Network for one night and watched,
A Face in the Crowd. I wonder how many of us would recognize this timely story as the cautionary tale it really is.

1 comment:

T.L. Bugg said...

Absolutely positively without a doubt in my top 2 or three films of all time. It just keeps getting better with age as its message, as you mentioned, becomes more relevant.