A Face in the Crowd


2h 5m 1957
A Face in the Crowd

Brief Synopsis

A female radio reporter turns a folk-singing drifter into a powerful media star.

Film Details

Also Known As
Budd Schulberg's A Face in the Crowd, The Arkansas Traveler
Genre
Drama
Music
Adaptation
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Jun 1957
Premiere Information
World premiere in New York: 28 May 1957; Los Angeles opening: 29 May 1957
Production Company
Newtown Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Chatsworth, California, USA; New York City, New York, USA; Memphis, Tennessee, USA; Piggott, Arkansas, USA; Bronx--Biograph Studio, New York, United States; Manhattan, New York, United States; Memphis, Tennessee, United States; New York City, New York, United States; Piggott, Arkansas, United States; Queens--New York International Airport, New York, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the short story "Your Arkansas Traveler" by Budd Schulberg in his Some Faces in the Crowd (New York, 1953).

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 5m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Black and White

Synopsis

Martha Jeffries, a reporter for an Arkansas radio station, one day broadcasts her man-in-the-street show, A Face in the Crowd , from the Pickett county jail. There, Sheriff Big Jeff Bess promises an early release to Larry Rhodes, who has been arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct, if he agrees to sing on air. Marcia, who recognizes the vagrant's innate vitality and charisma, nicknames him "Lonesome" and surreptitiously records him as he rambles poetically about his hillbilly relations in Riddle, Arkansas, and then sings a blues song with great dynamism. Back at the radio station, owner J. B. Jeffries, Marcia's uncle, decides to hire Lonesome for his morning show, and when they discover that he has already left town, they drive the roads out of town until they find him hitchhiking. Lonesome rejects their offer until Marcia convinces him of the job's money-making potential. Although Marcia finds Lonesome's rakishness and self-confidence alluring, she resists his coarse come-ons.

The next morning, his folksy humor, high energy and charming, homespun stories prove an instant hit on air, and soon advertisers are clamoring to sponsor the show. At a bar one night, Lonesome reveals to Marcia that his stories about his family are all tall tales, as in reality he was neglected and ran away from home. His boisterous laughter, while impressive to Marcia, disturbs Big Jeff, who is jealous of Marcia's attentions to Lonesome. The two men fight, and the next day, Lonesome launches an on-air diatribe against Big Jeff, who is running for mayor, in which he urges the citizens to send him their stray dogs. When within hours Big Jeff's yard is filled with dogs, Lonesome and Marcia realize with delight the power he now has to marshal his adoring audience. Marcia deflects Lonesome's advances, but finds herself jealous when she sees the other women he seduces. Proud of his success, she is thrilled to see Lonesome shrewdly manipulate a Memphis television station owner who wants to hire him, negotiating a high salary for both of them. Their departure from Pickett is marked with huge fanfare, and Marcia, who is leaving her hometown for the first time, is shocked when Lonesome charms the crowd but then derides them under his breath.

At the Memphis station, Lonesome takes an immediate dislike to Vanderbilt-educated writer Mel Miller, and ignores his scripts in favor of ad-libbing. Lonesome's fresh approach, in which he speaks directly to the camera and seems to eschew all pretense, fascinates the viewers, who respond to his plea to support a black station employee by sending in thousands of contributions. Mattress maker S. J. Luffler signs on as a sponsor, and although he is infuriated by Lonesome's refusal to read the scripted ads, his sales soon soar. Finally, however, Luffler threatens to have Lonesome fired unless he tones down his commentary, and Lonesome shows up at Marcia's door late at night to announce that he is leaving town. Unable to let him go, Marcia kisses Lonesome and leads him into her room for the first time. The next morning outside Luffler's workplace, fans are picketing Lonesome's departure, prompting ambitious office boy Joey de Palma to call New York advertising agencies claiming to be Lonesome's agent, thus securing him his own show on a national network. In New York, the ad agency brings in Lonesome, Joey and Marcia to revitalize a leading client, Vitajex vitamins. Ignoring account manager Macey's advice to find a dignified approach to their sales pitch, Lonesome boisterously advocates positioning the inert pills as libido boosters. Soon, sales skyrocket, as do the ratings for Lonesome's show, and Vitajex's owner, Gen. Hainesworth, calls Lonesome to his estate.

There, to Marcia's repugnance, he explains that in all great societies "the masses had to be guided with a strong hand by a responsible elite," and therefore he plans to promote Lonesome along with Senator Worthington Fuller, who he hopes will be the next president. With Hainesworth's backing, Lonesome soon graces the cover of Life magazine and becomes a national treasure, hosting telethons and christening ships. Late one night, he calls Marcia and asks her to visit his penthouse apartment, claiming to be lonely. Although she sees one of his girl friends leaving just as she arrives, Marcia responds to Lonesome's assertion that she is the only person he can trust, and when he proposes, she accepts. The next day, however, a crass woman informs Marcia that she is married to Lonesome and demands a monthly stipend to keep quiet. Marcia is wounded, but Lonesome laughs off the woman's demands, explaining that he obtained a Mexican divorce, which the woman is illegally contesting. He promises to straighten out the situation during his next trip, during which he is to judge a majorette contest back in Pickett. While he is gone, Marcia reveals to Mel, who has also moved to New York, that she plans to marry Lonesome, and despite his disappointment and apprehension, Mel wishes her well and decides to return to Memphis. When Lonesome returns to New York, however, he greets the adoring crowd with his new wife, seventeen-year-old baton twirler Betty Lou Fleckum. He later explains to Marcia that he was afraid to marry her, as he finds her too critical of his crass commercialism, and in reply Marcia demands to be made an equal partner in his business.

Over the next months, Lonesome's influence grows, and soon he is able to dominate a roomful of politicos, insisting that Fuller adopt a more approachable, friendly persona. Despite Hainesworth's dismay at Lonesome's growing megalomania, he is forced to appease the star and finance a new show in which Lonesome will pontificate about political issues. Lonesome soon promotes Fuller on the show, calling him "Curly," and delights as the senator's popularity grows. One night, as Marcia watches from her customary seat in a nearby bar, Mel enters and reveals that he stayed in New York to write an expose of Lonesome entitled "Demigogue in Denim." Upon realizing that Marcia still loves Lonesome, a saddened Mel chastises her for allowing herself to be exploited. When Lonesome finds Betty Lou with Joey, he tries to fire the cad but Joey informs him that he now owns fifty-one percent of the company. Lonesome arrives on Marcia's doorstep blithely assuming that she will welcome him into her bed, and after he announces that he is hosting a party during which he will be named U.S. Secretary for National Morale and murmurs "you made me," she realizes that she must put a stop to his power.

The next day, the television program falls into chaos when Marcia fails to show up, and a furious, vitriolic Lonesome berates his staff but pours on the charm to his audience. Marcia stumbles in as the credits are rolling, and, sobbing, secretly turns on Lonesome's microphone so the audience can hear him deriding them as slobs and fools. By the time Lonesome reaches the lobby, his audience has turned on him and the show's advertisers have all withdrawn. Mel finds Marcia in the booth, despondent, and insists that she inform Lonesome what she has done in order to get him out of her life for good. When Lonesome calls her from his party to reveal that all of the guests have canceled, Mel escorts her there, where they find the former star raving on a balcony to the sound of pre-recorded applause. Lonesome brightens when he sees Marcia and vows that he can win back his public, but she denounces him and runs out. Following her, Mel tells Lonesome that despite his enormous popularity his fans will soon forget all about him. On the street, Marcia falters when she hears Lonesome screaming for her, but Mel bolsters her by stating that although they were all taken in by Lonesome's allure, their strength lies in the fact that they can now discern fantasy from reality.

Photo Collections

A Face in the Crowd - Lobby Card Set
Here is a set of Lobby Cards from A Face in the Crowd (1957). Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.

Videos

Movie Clip

Face In The Crowd, A (1957) - Vitajex! His new self-appointed manager Tony Franciosa helping with the pitch, crazed TV personality Lonesome Rhodes (Andy Griffith) performs and outlandish commercial, as imagined by screenwriter Budd Schulberg and director Elia Kazan, a famous scene from A Face In The Crowd, 1957.
Face in the Crowd, A (1957) - Lonesome Rhodes Small-time Arkansas radio hostess Marcia Jeffries (Patricia Neal) is doing her man-on-the-street show from the jail, where she meets prickly inmate Rhodes (Andy Griffith), and invents his name, early in Elia Kazan's A Face In The Crowd, 1957.
Face In The Crowd, A (1957) - You're My Idol! Lust in the heart of Andy Griffith, as now nationally famous media freak Lonesome Rhodes, back in Arkansas to judge a baton-twirling contest, won hands-down by Betty Lou (Lee Remick, in her first movie), in Elia Kazan's A Face In The Crowd, 1957.
Face in the Crowd, A (1957) - Cold Fish Respectable Girls Marcia (Patricia Neal), discoverer of radio phenom Lonesome Rhodes (Andy Griffith), introduces a Memphis agent (Henry Sharp), then follows him through a broadcast, a gag on her station-manager father, and an on-air negotiation, in Elia Kazan's A Face In The Crowd, 1957.
Face in the Crowd, A (1957) - Big City Pickle Hearts First show at the big Memphis TV station, Marcia (Patricia Neal) introduces writer Mel (Walter Matthau) to the new star she discovered the unscrupulous "Lonesome" Rhodes (Andy Griffith), who doesn't want a script, in Elia Kazan's A Face In The Crowd, 1957.

Trailer

Hosted Intro

Promo

Film Details

Also Known As
Budd Schulberg's A Face in the Crowd, The Arkansas Traveler
Genre
Drama
Music
Adaptation
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Jun 1957
Premiere Information
World premiere in New York: 28 May 1957; Los Angeles opening: 29 May 1957
Production Company
Newtown Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Chatsworth, California, USA; New York City, New York, USA; Memphis, Tennessee, USA; Piggott, Arkansas, USA; Bronx--Biograph Studio, New York, United States; Manhattan, New York, United States; Memphis, Tennessee, United States; New York City, New York, United States; Piggott, Arkansas, United States; Queens--New York International Airport, New York, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the short story "Your Arkansas Traveler" by Budd Schulberg in his Some Faces in the Crowd (New York, 1953).

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 5m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Black and White

Articles

The Essentials - A Face in the Crowd


SYNOPSIS

Radio reporter Marcia Jeffries (Patricia Neal) interviews a backwoods philosopher named Lonesome Rhodes (Andy Griffith) at a southern jail and his down home wit, personality, and talent with a guitar impresses her. Soon, she begins to develop him as a radio personality and after his initial debut Lonesome quickly becomes a star of the airwaves. But as his radio fame grows, the singer/philosopher sets his sights on television. His Will Rogers-like appeal to audiences is perfectly captured by the TV cameras and soon transforms him into a powerful national celebrity. However, Lonesome has a dark side and it begins to emerge as his ego grows larger, eventually requiring Jeffries and her assistant Mel Miller (Walter Matthau) to take control of their "creation."

Producer/Director: Elia Kazan
Screenplay: Budd Schulberg, based on his story "The Arkansas Traveler"
Cinematography: Gayne Rescher, Harry Stradling, Jr.
Editing: Gene Milford
Music: Tom Glazer
Art Direction: Paul Sylbert, Richard Sylbert
Cast: Andy Griffith (Lonesome Rhodes), Patricia Neal (Marcia Jeffries), Anthony Franciosa (Joey Kiely), Walter Matthau (Mel Miller), Lee Remick (Betty Lou Fleckum), Percy Waram (Colonel Hollister).
B W-126m.

Why A FACE IN THE CROWD is Essential

A potent message film about the power of celebrity in the mass media, A Face in the Crowd was not a big success when first released in 1957. Clearly ahead of its time, and certainly one of the first movies to question the influence of television, director Elia Kazan and screenwriter Budd Schulberg's jaundiced view of TV now seems entirely prescient. In this modern age of American culture, where the confluence of media and politics has never been more tightly intertwined, there have been many media celebrities who have captured the attention and the imagination of the American populace, not by their message, but by how they look and sound on television. Kazan and Schulberg intended A Face in the Crowd to stand as a warning: when we turn on our television sets, radios, or exercise our right to vote, we should be wary of the specter of Lonesome Rhodes. It is a warning that still rings true today.

A Face in the Crowd was made during a time when film productions fueled by independent producers were crossing the content line of what Hollywood studios had previously deemed inappropriate or too daring. Kazan and Schulberg's film crosses this line by not just criticizing Hollywood and the media, but demonizing it in scenes that demonstrate how it could be complicit in fooling the masses with charlatan personalities such as Lonesome Rhodes. Other films had spoofed Hollywood, such as Singin' in the Rain (1952), but very few major productions exposed the inner workings of the mass media and the calculated methods in which they influenced the opinions of urban and rural viewers

In Kazan on Kazan by Michael Ciment, the director commented on A Face in the Crowd: "One of the points we wanted to make with the picture was the fantastic upward mobility in this country, the speed with which a man goes up and down. That we both knew well, because we'd both been up and down a few times. It's best illustrated in the film when he goes down in the elevator. We were thinking of suicide at one time, but we abandoned it....Our basic interest in this picture was Lonesome Rhodes as a legend. It was to make a legendary figure of him, and to warn the public: look out for television. Remember, this was Eisenhower's time, and Eisenhower won the elections because everybody looked at him and said: "There's Grandpa!" We're trying to say: never mind what he looks like, never mind what he reminds you of, listen to what he's saying....We were also saying, however, that television is a good thing. Abraham Lincoln said: 'Tell the people the truth, and they will decide what to do.' Well, we said that television is good for that - it's a better way. Television deludes some people, exposes others."

A Face in the Crowd was filmed in various locations in Arkansas, Memphis, Tennessee, and New York City. It was in the 'Big Apple' that the production utilized the old Gold Medal Studio in the Bronx where D.W. Griffith and Thomas Ince made many of their pioneering pictures. But, if anything, the film's authentic milieu is due to the presence of a number of well-known television personalities playing themselves, such as Mike Wallace, Bennett Cerf, John Cameron Swayze, Betty Furness, Sam Levenson, Virginia Graham, and Walter Winchell. The film is also notable for launching the film careers of Andy Griffith and Lee Remick, both making their screen debuts here.

At the time of its release, A Face in the Crowd received a lukewarm welcome from the public and critics alike. Both its reputation has improved considerably over the years and French director Francois Truffaut was a champion of the film, writing, " What is important is not its structure but its unassailable spirit, its power, and what I dare call its necessity. The usual fault with 'honest' films is their softness, timidity and anesthetic neutrality. This film is passionate, exalted, fierce, as inexorable as a 'Mythology' of Roland Barthes - and, like it, a pleasure for the mind."

by Scott McGee & Jeff Stafford

The Essentials - A Face In The Crowd

The Essentials - A Face in the Crowd

SYNOPSIS Radio reporter Marcia Jeffries (Patricia Neal) interviews a backwoods philosopher named Lonesome Rhodes (Andy Griffith) at a southern jail and his down home wit, personality, and talent with a guitar impresses her. Soon, she begins to develop him as a radio personality and after his initial debut Lonesome quickly becomes a star of the airwaves. But as his radio fame grows, the singer/philosopher sets his sights on television. His Will Rogers-like appeal to audiences is perfectly captured by the TV cameras and soon transforms him into a powerful national celebrity. However, Lonesome has a dark side and it begins to emerge as his ego grows larger, eventually requiring Jeffries and her assistant Mel Miller (Walter Matthau) to take control of their "creation." Producer/Director: Elia Kazan Screenplay: Budd Schulberg, based on his story "The Arkansas Traveler" Cinematography: Gayne Rescher, Harry Stradling, Jr. Editing: Gene Milford Music: Tom Glazer Art Direction: Paul Sylbert, Richard Sylbert Cast: Andy Griffith (Lonesome Rhodes), Patricia Neal (Marcia Jeffries), Anthony Franciosa (Joey Kiely), Walter Matthau (Mel Miller), Lee Remick (Betty Lou Fleckum), Percy Waram (Colonel Hollister). B W-126m. Why A FACE IN THE CROWD is Essential A potent message film about the power of celebrity in the mass media, A Face in the Crowd was not a big success when first released in 1957. Clearly ahead of its time, and certainly one of the first movies to question the influence of television, director Elia Kazan and screenwriter Budd Schulberg's jaundiced view of TV now seems entirely prescient. In this modern age of American culture, where the confluence of media and politics has never been more tightly intertwined, there have been many media celebrities who have captured the attention and the imagination of the American populace, not by their message, but by how they look and sound on television. Kazan and Schulberg intended A Face in the Crowd to stand as a warning: when we turn on our television sets, radios, or exercise our right to vote, we should be wary of the specter of Lonesome Rhodes. It is a warning that still rings true today. A Face in the Crowd was made during a time when film productions fueled by independent producers were crossing the content line of what Hollywood studios had previously deemed inappropriate or too daring. Kazan and Schulberg's film crosses this line by not just criticizing Hollywood and the media, but demonizing it in scenes that demonstrate how it could be complicit in fooling the masses with charlatan personalities such as Lonesome Rhodes. Other films had spoofed Hollywood, such as Singin' in the Rain (1952), but very few major productions exposed the inner workings of the mass media and the calculated methods in which they influenced the opinions of urban and rural viewers In Kazan on Kazan by Michael Ciment, the director commented on A Face in the Crowd: "One of the points we wanted to make with the picture was the fantastic upward mobility in this country, the speed with which a man goes up and down. That we both knew well, because we'd both been up and down a few times. It's best illustrated in the film when he goes down in the elevator. We were thinking of suicide at one time, but we abandoned it....Our basic interest in this picture was Lonesome Rhodes as a legend. It was to make a legendary figure of him, and to warn the public: look out for television. Remember, this was Eisenhower's time, and Eisenhower won the elections because everybody looked at him and said: "There's Grandpa!" We're trying to say: never mind what he looks like, never mind what he reminds you of, listen to what he's saying....We were also saying, however, that television is a good thing. Abraham Lincoln said: 'Tell the people the truth, and they will decide what to do.' Well, we said that television is good for that - it's a better way. Television deludes some people, exposes others." A Face in the Crowd was filmed in various locations in Arkansas, Memphis, Tennessee, and New York City. It was in the 'Big Apple' that the production utilized the old Gold Medal Studio in the Bronx where D.W. Griffith and Thomas Ince made many of their pioneering pictures. But, if anything, the film's authentic milieu is due to the presence of a number of well-known television personalities playing themselves, such as Mike Wallace, Bennett Cerf, John Cameron Swayze, Betty Furness, Sam Levenson, Virginia Graham, and Walter Winchell. The film is also notable for launching the film careers of Andy Griffith and Lee Remick, both making their screen debuts here. At the time of its release, A Face in the Crowd received a lukewarm welcome from the public and critics alike. Both its reputation has improved considerably over the years and French director Francois Truffaut was a champion of the film, writing, " What is important is not its structure but its unassailable spirit, its power, and what I dare call its necessity. The usual fault with 'honest' films is their softness, timidity and anesthetic neutrality. This film is passionate, exalted, fierce, as inexorable as a 'Mythology' of Roland Barthes - and, like it, a pleasure for the mind." by Scott McGee & Jeff Stafford

Pop Culture 101 - A Face in the Crowd


You'll notice a number of long takes in A Face in the Crowd. This Elia Kazan technique is probably the result of his fascination with the work of director John Ford, of whom Kazan claimed, "I got more from Ford than anybody else." In his early years while working on the 20th-Century-Fox lot, Kazan watched Ford direct as often as he could, repeating as his mantra, "I must learn from Ford. I must learn to hold the long shot and trust the long shot, not cut into it."

A Face in the Crowd is given an unmistakable air of authenticity by the presence of a number of well-known television personalities playing themselves - Mike Wallace, John Cameron Swayze, Betty Furness, Fave Emerson, Virginia Graham, and Burl Ives, among others.

Walter Winchell, who also portrays himself in A Face in the Crowd, was the inspiration for another title in TCM's 'The Essentials" series - Sweet Smell of Success, which was released the same year as A Face in the Crowd.

Prior to his acting career, Andy Griffith studied to become a preacher but later abandoned that path to concentrate on his singing and guitar playing. He eventually changed his focus to drama and in the late forties and early fifties played Sir Walter Raleigh in the historical pageant Lost Colony.

by Scott McGee

Pop Culture 101 - A Face in the Crowd

You'll notice a number of long takes in A Face in the Crowd. This Elia Kazan technique is probably the result of his fascination with the work of director John Ford, of whom Kazan claimed, "I got more from Ford than anybody else." In his early years while working on the 20th-Century-Fox lot, Kazan watched Ford direct as often as he could, repeating as his mantra, "I must learn from Ford. I must learn to hold the long shot and trust the long shot, not cut into it." A Face in the Crowd is given an unmistakable air of authenticity by the presence of a number of well-known television personalities playing themselves - Mike Wallace, John Cameron Swayze, Betty Furness, Fave Emerson, Virginia Graham, and Burl Ives, among others. Walter Winchell, who also portrays himself in A Face in the Crowd, was the inspiration for another title in TCM's 'The Essentials" series - Sweet Smell of Success, which was released the same year as A Face in the Crowd. Prior to his acting career, Andy Griffith studied to become a preacher but later abandoned that path to concentrate on his singing and guitar playing. He eventually changed his focus to drama and in the late forties and early fifties played Sir Walter Raleigh in the historical pageant Lost Colony. by Scott McGee

Trivia - A Face in the Crowd - Trivia & Fun Facts About A FACE IN THE CROWD


Andy Griffith, who had earned rave reviews on Broadway for his performance in No Time for Sergeants, captured the Lonesome Rhodes character so well that it took him years to live down the role. But Griffith was not finished playing despicable characters, despite being stereotyped as the kind and understanding sheriff and father on the TV series The Andy Griffith Show. Griffith earned kudos for his role as an aging cowboy stuntman who turns out to be a not very admirable character in Hearts of the West (1975). He also gave a memorably evil performance in the made-for-TV movie Murder in Coweta County (1983), co-starring Johnny Cash.

A Face in the Crowd was not only Andy Griffith's film debut but also the first film for supporting actress Lee Remick as cheerleader Betty Lou Fleckum. The film also includes impressive supporting performances by Kay Medford, Burl Ives, Rip Torn, Diana Sands, Faye Emerson, Charles Nelson Reilly and Big Jeff Bess.

The Lonesome Rhodes character was based on several real-life personalities, including Arthur Godfrey, Huey Long, Will Rogers, and even Billy Graham.

The ad agency that Kazan and Schulberg studied as their research for A Face in the Crowd represented the Lipton's Tea account, which was the official sponsor of Arthur Godfrey's radio/tv appearances. The duo may have been trying to uncover the true nature of Godfrey's role as a media pitchman.

Before Elia Kazan ever meet Andy Griffith, he had heard his comedy monologue records, the most famous being the "What It Was, Was Football" routine which enjoyed constant airplay on Southern radio stations during the early Fifties. It's highly probable that Kazan first became aware of this monologue during his pre-production trip to Arkansas.

The Memphis scene in A Face in the Crowd parallels the popularity of Elvis Presley, who was a national star by 1956. The rock 'n roller began filming Love Me Tender the same month Kazan was filming in Piggott, Arkansas - August 1956.

In the book, The Great Man, a popular phrase was coined by writer Al Morgan - "The Great Unwashed" - which was a reference to the national radio-TV audience. Morgan later adapted his novel to the screen in 1956 with Jose Ferrer and Dean Jagger in key roles. It tells the story of a reporter preparing a memorial tribute to a beloved TV personality who in real-life was a despicable phony. Morgan's narrative was obviously a precursor to the Schulberg/Kazan movie in its themes and characters. Morgan was well aware of the true personality behind many public figures since he was a Today show producer (He was later involved in a six-year feud with Hugh Downs, the host of the Today show).

FAMOUS QUOTES from A FACE IN THE CROWD

Joey DePalma: Illegal? Honey, nothing's illegal if they don't catch you!

Lonesome Rhodes: I put my whole self into everything I do.

Lonesome Rhodes: This whole country's just like my flock of sheep! Hillbillies, hausfraus - everybody that's got to jump when someone else blows a whistle! They're mine!

Compiled by Scott McGee & Jeff Stafford

Trivia - A Face in the Crowd - Trivia & Fun Facts About A FACE IN THE CROWD

Andy Griffith, who had earned rave reviews on Broadway for his performance in No Time for Sergeants, captured the Lonesome Rhodes character so well that it took him years to live down the role. But Griffith was not finished playing despicable characters, despite being stereotyped as the kind and understanding sheriff and father on the TV series The Andy Griffith Show. Griffith earned kudos for his role as an aging cowboy stuntman who turns out to be a not very admirable character in Hearts of the West (1975). He also gave a memorably evil performance in the made-for-TV movie Murder in Coweta County (1983), co-starring Johnny Cash. A Face in the Crowd was not only Andy Griffith's film debut but also the first film for supporting actress Lee Remick as cheerleader Betty Lou Fleckum. The film also includes impressive supporting performances by Kay Medford, Burl Ives, Rip Torn, Diana Sands, Faye Emerson, Charles Nelson Reilly and Big Jeff Bess. The Lonesome Rhodes character was based on several real-life personalities, including Arthur Godfrey, Huey Long, Will Rogers, and even Billy Graham. The ad agency that Kazan and Schulberg studied as their research for A Face in the Crowd represented the Lipton's Tea account, which was the official sponsor of Arthur Godfrey's radio/tv appearances. The duo may have been trying to uncover the true nature of Godfrey's role as a media pitchman. Before Elia Kazan ever meet Andy Griffith, he had heard his comedy monologue records, the most famous being the "What It Was, Was Football" routine which enjoyed constant airplay on Southern radio stations during the early Fifties. It's highly probable that Kazan first became aware of this monologue during his pre-production trip to Arkansas. The Memphis scene in A Face in the Crowd parallels the popularity of Elvis Presley, who was a national star by 1956. The rock 'n roller began filming Love Me Tender the same month Kazan was filming in Piggott, Arkansas - August 1956. In the book, The Great Man, a popular phrase was coined by writer Al Morgan - "The Great Unwashed" - which was a reference to the national radio-TV audience. Morgan later adapted his novel to the screen in 1956 with Jose Ferrer and Dean Jagger in key roles. It tells the story of a reporter preparing a memorial tribute to a beloved TV personality who in real-life was a despicable phony. Morgan's narrative was obviously a precursor to the Schulberg/Kazan movie in its themes and characters. Morgan was well aware of the true personality behind many public figures since he was a Today show producer (He was later involved in a six-year feud with Hugh Downs, the host of the Today show). FAMOUS QUOTES from A FACE IN THE CROWD Joey DePalma: Illegal? Honey, nothing's illegal if they don't catch you! Lonesome Rhodes: I put my whole self into everything I do. Lonesome Rhodes: This whole country's just like my flock of sheep! Hillbillies, hausfraus - everybody that's got to jump when someone else blows a whistle! They're mine! Compiled by Scott McGee & Jeff Stafford

The Big Idea - A Face in the Crowd


Based on Budd Schulberg's short story "Your Arkansas Traveler," from his book Some Faces in the Crowd, A Face in the Crowd was the second successful collaboration between director Elia Kazan and Schulberg following their Academy Award-winning picture On the Waterfront (1954). Thanks to a strong theatre background, Kazan had solidified his high standing within the acting profession as a highly-regarded "actor's director." For his part, Schulberg had a sharp eye for satire and had written about another media-manufactured monster of the entertainment world in the controversial best-selling novel, What Makes Sammy Run?, based on Hollywood producer Jerry Wald and published in 1941. For the character of Lonesome Rhodes, Schuberg used beloved media personality Arthur Godfrey as the model.

Together, Kazan and Schulberg's combined talents in directing actors and creating memorable characters resulted in a film of considerable impact. Kazan later commented on their creative partnership on A Face in the Crowd: "Budd and I were a perfect team...I dug up research with Budd and helped plan the story structure. Budd rented a place near me in Connecticut, and we spent the summer working together." Kazan basically functioned as the storyteller, even though he did not write a word of the final script. Long known as an adapter of stage plays, Kazan continued his tradition of working with the best writers in the business with A Face in the Crowd. Budd Schulberg said later, "He's been a pioneer, sometimes I think the only pioneer, in treating screenplays with the same respect that he would give a work written for the stage."

Most importantly, what the two shared was a fervent belief in what television would someday do for American politics. Kazan said, "The thing that drove us was our belief in the theme, our anticipation of the power TV would have in the political life of the nation. 'Listen to what the candidate says,' we urged, 'don't be taken in by his charm or his trust-inspiring personality."

by Scott McGee

The Big Idea - A Face in the Crowd

Based on Budd Schulberg's short story "Your Arkansas Traveler," from his book Some Faces in the Crowd, A Face in the Crowd was the second successful collaboration between director Elia Kazan and Schulberg following their Academy Award-winning picture On the Waterfront (1954). Thanks to a strong theatre background, Kazan had solidified his high standing within the acting profession as a highly-regarded "actor's director." For his part, Schulberg had a sharp eye for satire and had written about another media-manufactured monster of the entertainment world in the controversial best-selling novel, What Makes Sammy Run?, based on Hollywood producer Jerry Wald and published in 1941. For the character of Lonesome Rhodes, Schuberg used beloved media personality Arthur Godfrey as the model. Together, Kazan and Schulberg's combined talents in directing actors and creating memorable characters resulted in a film of considerable impact. Kazan later commented on their creative partnership on A Face in the Crowd: "Budd and I were a perfect team...I dug up research with Budd and helped plan the story structure. Budd rented a place near me in Connecticut, and we spent the summer working together." Kazan basically functioned as the storyteller, even though he did not write a word of the final script. Long known as an adapter of stage plays, Kazan continued his tradition of working with the best writers in the business with A Face in the Crowd. Budd Schulberg said later, "He's been a pioneer, sometimes I think the only pioneer, in treating screenplays with the same respect that he would give a work written for the stage." Most importantly, what the two shared was a fervent belief in what television would someday do for American politics. Kazan said, "The thing that drove us was our belief in the theme, our anticipation of the power TV would have in the political life of the nation. 'Listen to what the candidate says,' we urged, 'don't be taken in by his charm or his trust-inspiring personality." by Scott McGee

Behind the Camera - A Face in the Crowd


Elia Kazan and Budd Schulberg spent months researching the advertising world, even gaining access to ad agency meetings, in order to understand the way Madison Avenue approaches and shapes the thinking of the American public. In Kazan on Kazan by Michel Ciment, the director said, "They let us into meetings though they knew we were going to write on it. We saw the product discussions, we saw the charts. Everything that's in that picture, we have an example for. We watched many sessions on the selling of Lipton's tea, the discussions of the word 'brisk' and how to picturise it.....The discussions were really ludicrous: you could hardly keep a straight face at them. But as well as the ridiculous side, you could feel the intense, neurotic pressure they all worked under." In addition to their advertising research, the duo also observed the political arena by going to Washington, D.C., where they interviewed future president Lyndon Johnson, studying the way he walked, talked, and presented himself in private and in public.

A Face in the Crowd was filmed on location in Arkansas, Memphis, and New York City. It was in the Big Apple that the production utilized the old Gold Medal Studio in the Bronx where D.W. Griffith and Thomas Ince made many of their pioneering pictures.

In the previously mentioned interview with Michel Ciment, Kazan recalled the Arkansas location filming for A Face in the Crowd: "We became acquainted with a community of strangers - it was not like a work experience, it was a life experience, a thing that affects you very deeply. We became a part of that Arkansas community settling down in new homes there. It was a terrific experience, right from the beginning, the people we met, the insights we got, the privilege we had of being inside a society that otherwise we would never have touched. We met the Governor of Arkansas, we met the mayor of this town, we everybody in this town. Everywhere I walked in Piggott, people were following me. It was like we had the whole town under the reverse of martial law! As though we had liberated the whole town."

When it came to casting, Kazan selected several "people from Nashville; Lonesome Rhodes's friend who twitches his toes, he's from the Grand Ole Opry, a regular comedian there. We went around a lot of clubs, picking up entertainers. I had heard Andy Griffith on record, then I saw him on TV...He was the real native American country boy and that comes over in the picture. I had him drunk all through the last big scene because it was the only way he could be violent - in life he wants to be friends with everybody."

For A Face in the Crowd, Patricia Neal returned to the screen after a four-year absence from Hollywood, an absence that was precipitated by a much-publicized affair with Gary Cooper (who was married at the time), and a subsequent nervous breakdown. In 1953, she married British writer Roald Dahl and raised a family with him. During their marriage, she was struck down by a series of strokes. Her determination to recover is well documented in her biography and the made-for-TV movie, The Patricia Neal Story (1981), starring Glenda Jackson and Dirk Bogarde. Unfortunately, Dahl and Neal divorced in 1983 after the actress discovered that her husband had been having an affair with her good friend.

Elia Kazan chose Neal for the Marcia Jeffries role after seeing her in the play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, a play that he originally directed on Broadway. According to Neal, the production would have been too expensive to film in Hollywood, which necessitated the need for on-location shooting. Neal later revealed in an article for Films and Filming entitled "What Kazan Did For Me": "When seeing one of Kazan's pictures, one will notice his keen and searching eye. It picks up every detail, analyses the character and almost dissects the very soul of the actor. This is Kazan's hallmark...The one important point when working with Kazan is to be honest and to give everything you have to the part."

Neal was also impressed with how Kazan directed her in the climatic scene in A Face in the Crowd when she betrays Lonesome Rhodes by throwing the microphone switch to Live-on-the-air during one of his insulting tirades against his adoring public meant only for the ears of his producers. "For this scene I had to hold onto the switchboard, crying, while about six men had to drag me away. For the first couple of takes I could not register quite what Kazan wanted. He told me to hold on as hard and as long as I could. He left me and went over to the men who were to drag me away. (I was not supposed to hear him tell them to pull me away from the board as quickly as they could!) We did the scene again, my hands bled and I sobbed as the men pulled me away. Gadge had his scene - and the way he wanted it."

Lee Remick, making her film debut as the sexy baton twirler, showed up at the film set three weeks early, so she could train with the local high school's majorettes.

by Scott McGee & Jeff Stafford

Behind the Camera - A Face in the Crowd

Elia Kazan and Budd Schulberg spent months researching the advertising world, even gaining access to ad agency meetings, in order to understand the way Madison Avenue approaches and shapes the thinking of the American public. In Kazan on Kazan by Michel Ciment, the director said, "They let us into meetings though they knew we were going to write on it. We saw the product discussions, we saw the charts. Everything that's in that picture, we have an example for. We watched many sessions on the selling of Lipton's tea, the discussions of the word 'brisk' and how to picturise it.....The discussions were really ludicrous: you could hardly keep a straight face at them. But as well as the ridiculous side, you could feel the intense, neurotic pressure they all worked under." In addition to their advertising research, the duo also observed the political arena by going to Washington, D.C., where they interviewed future president Lyndon Johnson, studying the way he walked, talked, and presented himself in private and in public. A Face in the Crowd was filmed on location in Arkansas, Memphis, and New York City. It was in the Big Apple that the production utilized the old Gold Medal Studio in the Bronx where D.W. Griffith and Thomas Ince made many of their pioneering pictures. In the previously mentioned interview with Michel Ciment, Kazan recalled the Arkansas location filming for A Face in the Crowd: "We became acquainted with a community of strangers - it was not like a work experience, it was a life experience, a thing that affects you very deeply. We became a part of that Arkansas community settling down in new homes there. It was a terrific experience, right from the beginning, the people we met, the insights we got, the privilege we had of being inside a society that otherwise we would never have touched. We met the Governor of Arkansas, we met the mayor of this town, we everybody in this town. Everywhere I walked in Piggott, people were following me. It was like we had the whole town under the reverse of martial law! As though we had liberated the whole town." When it came to casting, Kazan selected several "people from Nashville; Lonesome Rhodes's friend who twitches his toes, he's from the Grand Ole Opry, a regular comedian there. We went around a lot of clubs, picking up entertainers. I had heard Andy Griffith on record, then I saw him on TV...He was the real native American country boy and that comes over in the picture. I had him drunk all through the last big scene because it was the only way he could be violent - in life he wants to be friends with everybody." For A Face in the Crowd, Patricia Neal returned to the screen after a four-year absence from Hollywood, an absence that was precipitated by a much-publicized affair with Gary Cooper (who was married at the time), and a subsequent nervous breakdown. In 1953, she married British writer Roald Dahl and raised a family with him. During their marriage, she was struck down by a series of strokes. Her determination to recover is well documented in her biography and the made-for-TV movie, The Patricia Neal Story (1981), starring Glenda Jackson and Dirk Bogarde. Unfortunately, Dahl and Neal divorced in 1983 after the actress discovered that her husband had been having an affair with her good friend. Elia Kazan chose Neal for the Marcia Jeffries role after seeing her in the play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, a play that he originally directed on Broadway. According to Neal, the production would have been too expensive to film in Hollywood, which necessitated the need for on-location shooting. Neal later revealed in an article for Films and Filming entitled "What Kazan Did For Me": "When seeing one of Kazan's pictures, one will notice his keen and searching eye. It picks up every detail, analyses the character and almost dissects the very soul of the actor. This is Kazan's hallmark...The one important point when working with Kazan is to be honest and to give everything you have to the part." Neal was also impressed with how Kazan directed her in the climatic scene in A Face in the Crowd when she betrays Lonesome Rhodes by throwing the microphone switch to Live-on-the-air during one of his insulting tirades against his adoring public meant only for the ears of his producers. "For this scene I had to hold onto the switchboard, crying, while about six men had to drag me away. For the first couple of takes I could not register quite what Kazan wanted. He told me to hold on as hard and as long as I could. He left me and went over to the men who were to drag me away. (I was not supposed to hear him tell them to pull me away from the board as quickly as they could!) We did the scene again, my hands bled and I sobbed as the men pulled me away. Gadge had his scene - and the way he wanted it." Lee Remick, making her film debut as the sexy baton twirler, showed up at the film set three weeks early, so she could train with the local high school's majorettes. by Scott McGee & Jeff Stafford

A Face in the Crowd


Radio reporter Marcia Jeffries (Patricia Neal) interviews a backwoods philosopher named Lonesome Rhodes (Andy Griffith) at a southern jail and his down home wit, personality, and talent with a guitar impresses her. Soon, she begins to develop him as a radio personality and after his initial debut Lonesome quickly becomes a star of the airwaves. But as his radio fame grows, the singer/philosopher sets his sights on television. His Will Rogers-like appeal to audiences is perfectly captured by the TV cameras and soon transforms him into a powerful national celebrity. However, Lonesome has a dark side and it begins to emerge as his ego grows larger, eventually requiring Jeffries and her assistant Mel Miller (Walter Matthau) to take control of their "creation."

A potent message film about the power of celebrity in the mass media, A Face in the Crowd was not a big success when first released in 1957. Clearly ahead of its time, and certainly one of the first movies to question the influence of television, director Elia Kazan and screenwriter Budd Schulberg's jaundiced view of TV now seems entirely prescient. In this modern age of American culture, where the confluence of media and politics has never been more tightly intertwined, there have been many media celebrities who have captured the attention and the imagination of the American populace, not by their message, but by how they look and sound on television. Kazan and Schulberg intended A Face in the Crowd to stand as a warning: when we turn on our television sets, radios, or exercise our right to vote, we should be wary of the specter of Lonesome Rhodes. It is a warning that still rings true today.

In Kazan on Kazan by Michael Ciment, the director commented on A Face in the Crowd: "One of the points we wanted to make with the picture was the fantastic upward mobility in this country, the speed with which a man goes up and down. That we both knew well, because we'd both been up and down a few times. It's best illustrated in the film when he goes down in the elevator. We were thinking of suicide at one time, but we abandoned it....Our basic interest in this picture was Lonesome Rhodes as a legend. It was to make a legendary figure of him, and to warn the public: look out for television. Remember, this was Eisenhower's time, and Eisenhower won the elections because everybody looked at him and said: "There's Grandpa!" We're trying to say: never mind what he looks like, never mind what he reminds you of, listen to what he's saying....We were also saying, however, that television is a good thing. Abraham Lincoln said: 'Tell the people the truth, and they will decide what to do.' Well, we said that television is good for that - it's a better way. Television deludes some people, exposes others."

A Face in the Crowd was filmed in various locations in Arkansas, Memphis, Tennessee, and New York City. It was in the 'Big Apple' that the production utilized the old Gold Medal Studio in the Bronx where D.W. Griffith and Thomas Ince made many of their pioneering pictures. But, if anything, the film's authentic milieu is due to the presence of a number of well-known television personalities playing themselves, such as Mike Wallace, Bennett Cerf, John Cameron Swayze, Betty Furness, Sam Levenson, Virginia Graham, and Walter Winchell. The film is also notable for launching the film careers of Andy Griffith and Lee Remick, both making their screen debuts here.

At the time of its release, A Face in the Crowd received a lukewarm welcome from the public and critics alike. Both its reputation has improved considerably over the years and French director Francois Truffaut was a champion of the film, writing, " What is important is not its structure but its unassailable spirit, its power, and what I dare call its necessity. The usual fault with 'honest' films is their softness, timidity and anesthetic neutrality. This film is passionate, exalted, fierce, as inexorable as a 'Mythology' of Roland Barthes - and, like it, a pleasure for the mind."

Producer/Director: Elia Kazan
Screenplay: Budd Schulberg, based on his story "The Arkansas Traveler"
Cinematography: Gayne Rescher, Harry Stradling, Jr.
Editing: Gene Milford
Music: Tom Glazer
Art Direction: Paul Sylbert, Richard Sylbert
Cast: Andy Griffith (Lonesome Rhodes), Patricia Neal (Marcia Jeffries), Anthony Franciosa (Joey Kiely), Walter Matthau (Mel Miller), Lee Remick (Betty Lou Fleckum), Percy Waram (Colonel Hollister).
BW-127m.

by Scott McGee

A Face in the Crowd

Radio reporter Marcia Jeffries (Patricia Neal) interviews a backwoods philosopher named Lonesome Rhodes (Andy Griffith) at a southern jail and his down home wit, personality, and talent with a guitar impresses her. Soon, she begins to develop him as a radio personality and after his initial debut Lonesome quickly becomes a star of the airwaves. But as his radio fame grows, the singer/philosopher sets his sights on television. His Will Rogers-like appeal to audiences is perfectly captured by the TV cameras and soon transforms him into a powerful national celebrity. However, Lonesome has a dark side and it begins to emerge as his ego grows larger, eventually requiring Jeffries and her assistant Mel Miller (Walter Matthau) to take control of their "creation." A potent message film about the power of celebrity in the mass media, A Face in the Crowd was not a big success when first released in 1957. Clearly ahead of its time, and certainly one of the first movies to question the influence of television, director Elia Kazan and screenwriter Budd Schulberg's jaundiced view of TV now seems entirely prescient. In this modern age of American culture, where the confluence of media and politics has never been more tightly intertwined, there have been many media celebrities who have captured the attention and the imagination of the American populace, not by their message, but by how they look and sound on television. Kazan and Schulberg intended A Face in the Crowd to stand as a warning: when we turn on our television sets, radios, or exercise our right to vote, we should be wary of the specter of Lonesome Rhodes. It is a warning that still rings true today. In Kazan on Kazan by Michael Ciment, the director commented on A Face in the Crowd: "One of the points we wanted to make with the picture was the fantastic upward mobility in this country, the speed with which a man goes up and down. That we both knew well, because we'd both been up and down a few times. It's best illustrated in the film when he goes down in the elevator. We were thinking of suicide at one time, but we abandoned it....Our basic interest in this picture was Lonesome Rhodes as a legend. It was to make a legendary figure of him, and to warn the public: look out for television. Remember, this was Eisenhower's time, and Eisenhower won the elections because everybody looked at him and said: "There's Grandpa!" We're trying to say: never mind what he looks like, never mind what he reminds you of, listen to what he's saying....We were also saying, however, that television is a good thing. Abraham Lincoln said: 'Tell the people the truth, and they will decide what to do.' Well, we said that television is good for that - it's a better way. Television deludes some people, exposes others." A Face in the Crowd was filmed in various locations in Arkansas, Memphis, Tennessee, and New York City. It was in the 'Big Apple' that the production utilized the old Gold Medal Studio in the Bronx where D.W. Griffith and Thomas Ince made many of their pioneering pictures. But, if anything, the film's authentic milieu is due to the presence of a number of well-known television personalities playing themselves, such as Mike Wallace, Bennett Cerf, John Cameron Swayze, Betty Furness, Sam Levenson, Virginia Graham, and Walter Winchell. The film is also notable for launching the film careers of Andy Griffith and Lee Remick, both making their screen debuts here. At the time of its release, A Face in the Crowd received a lukewarm welcome from the public and critics alike. Both its reputation has improved considerably over the years and French director Francois Truffaut was a champion of the film, writing, " What is important is not its structure but its unassailable spirit, its power, and what I dare call its necessity. The usual fault with 'honest' films is their softness, timidity and anesthetic neutrality. This film is passionate, exalted, fierce, as inexorable as a 'Mythology' of Roland Barthes - and, like it, a pleasure for the mind." Producer/Director: Elia Kazan Screenplay: Budd Schulberg, based on his story "The Arkansas Traveler" Cinematography: Gayne Rescher, Harry Stradling, Jr. Editing: Gene Milford Music: Tom Glazer Art Direction: Paul Sylbert, Richard Sylbert Cast: Andy Griffith (Lonesome Rhodes), Patricia Neal (Marcia Jeffries), Anthony Franciosa (Joey Kiely), Walter Matthau (Mel Miller), Lee Remick (Betty Lou Fleckum), Percy Waram (Colonel Hollister). BW-127m. by Scott McGee

Critics' Corner - A Face in the Crowd


At the time of its release, A Face in the Crowd received a mixed reaction from the public and critics alike. Both its style and content were criticized as exaggerated, which is ironic, given the fact that film seems just as relevant today as it did nearly 50 years ago.

Elia Kazan later stated in Michel Ciment's interview book, Kazan on Kazan, that A Face in the Crowd "was in advance of its time. It foretells Nixon. I don't think it was about [Joseph] McCarthy particularly...The first part of A Face in the Crowd is more of a satire, and the second part tends to really involve you with Lonesome's fate and with his feelings... What I like in the film is the energy and invention and bounce which are very American. It's really got something marvelous about it, this constantly flashing, changing rhythm. In many ways, it's more American than any picture I ever did. It represents the business life, and the urban life, and the way things are on television, the rhythm of the way this country moves. It has a theme that even today is completely relevant."

The entry on A Face in the Crowd in The Oxford Companion to Film, edited by Liz-Anne Bawden, states that "the inherent dangers of personality-building, and the exploitation of the gullible viewing public, were exploited with humour, bitterness, and sharp observation."

In Guide for the Film Fanatic by Danny Peary, the author wrote "Lonesome Rhodes is guilty of taking advantage of the medium - through which you can fool all the people all of the time - but Schulberg is attacking us, the ignorant public who sits like sheep and believes whatever it sees on the tube. The scary thing is that if today Rhodes were caught expressing his real thoughts while thinking the mike was off, his popularity would probably go up - which is what happened to Reagan each time he said something hostile when he thought his radio mike was off. A well-made film; with strong performances by Neal and Griffith whose character is on the surface similar to the one he played on his television comedy series."

In Magill's Survey of the Cinema, Caroline McFeeley wrote "if A Face in the Crowd ends in melodrama, it is neverlessless highly effective satire, exposing the actual workings of an industry which has continued to demand attention for sparse entertainment and high levels of abuse."

Heather Joslyn of the Baltimore Citypaper Online wrote: "Some of director Elia Kazan's hard-hitting, issue-oriented movies of the '40s and '50s seem hopelessly stiff and sanctimonious today (Seen Gentleman's Agreement lately? Didn't think so.), but this raw, underappreciated drama keeps getting better. Maybe that's because it's proved so prophetic. There are echoes of Elvis Presley, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, and just about every TV pundit and celebrity flavor-of-the-month in Lonesome Rhodes (Andy Griffith), a no-account hillbilly singer who becomes a radio star, then a TV star, then a national folk hero, then a political figure, and eventually a monster."

But not everyone thinks so highly of Kazan's work. For instance, critic Andrew Sarris does not hold A Face in the Crowd in high regard. In his book The American Cinema: Directors and Directions, 1929-1968, he placed director Elia Kazan in the chapter "Less Than Meets the Eye" and doesn't even mention A Face in the Crowd in the course of his assessment of the director's career.

by Scott McGee

Critics' Corner - A Face in the Crowd

At the time of its release, A Face in the Crowd received a mixed reaction from the public and critics alike. Both its style and content were criticized as exaggerated, which is ironic, given the fact that film seems just as relevant today as it did nearly 50 years ago. Elia Kazan later stated in Michel Ciment's interview book, Kazan on Kazan, that A Face in the Crowd "was in advance of its time. It foretells Nixon. I don't think it was about [Joseph] McCarthy particularly...The first part of A Face in the Crowd is more of a satire, and the second part tends to really involve you with Lonesome's fate and with his feelings... What I like in the film is the energy and invention and bounce which are very American. It's really got something marvelous about it, this constantly flashing, changing rhythm. In many ways, it's more American than any picture I ever did. It represents the business life, and the urban life, and the way things are on television, the rhythm of the way this country moves. It has a theme that even today is completely relevant." The entry on A Face in the Crowd in The Oxford Companion to Film, edited by Liz-Anne Bawden, states that "the inherent dangers of personality-building, and the exploitation of the gullible viewing public, were exploited with humour, bitterness, and sharp observation." In Guide for the Film Fanatic by Danny Peary, the author wrote "Lonesome Rhodes is guilty of taking advantage of the medium - through which you can fool all the people all of the time - but Schulberg is attacking us, the ignorant public who sits like sheep and believes whatever it sees on the tube. The scary thing is that if today Rhodes were caught expressing his real thoughts while thinking the mike was off, his popularity would probably go up - which is what happened to Reagan each time he said something hostile when he thought his radio mike was off. A well-made film; with strong performances by Neal and Griffith whose character is on the surface similar to the one he played on his television comedy series." In Magill's Survey of the Cinema, Caroline McFeeley wrote "if A Face in the Crowd ends in melodrama, it is neverlessless highly effective satire, exposing the actual workings of an industry which has continued to demand attention for sparse entertainment and high levels of abuse." Heather Joslyn of the Baltimore Citypaper Online wrote: "Some of director Elia Kazan's hard-hitting, issue-oriented movies of the '40s and '50s seem hopelessly stiff and sanctimonious today (Seen Gentleman's Agreement lately? Didn't think so.), but this raw, underappreciated drama keeps getting better. Maybe that's because it's proved so prophetic. There are echoes of Elvis Presley, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, and just about every TV pundit and celebrity flavor-of-the-month in Lonesome Rhodes (Andy Griffith), a no-account hillbilly singer who becomes a radio star, then a TV star, then a national folk hero, then a political figure, and eventually a monster." But not everyone thinks so highly of Kazan's work. For instance, critic Andrew Sarris does not hold A Face in the Crowd in high regard. In his book The American Cinema: Directors and Directions, 1929-1968, he placed director Elia Kazan in the chapter "Less Than Meets the Eye" and doesn't even mention A Face in the Crowd in the course of his assessment of the director's career. by Scott McGee

Elia Kazan's A Face in the Crowd on DVD


This is not Opie's father's Andy Griffith.

I'd pay good money to see the dropping jaws of people who know Griffith only from his "nice" roles on TV's Andy Griffith Show and Matlock as they experience the new DVD showing him in his greatest and most uncharacteristic role, in 1957's A Face in the Crowd. Sure, Griffith is plenty folksy as Larry "Lonesome" Rhodes, the down-and-out drifter with the ear-to-ear smile and wide-eyed leer who becomes a big-headed radio and TV star in Elia Kazan's Budd Schulberg-written 1957 movie. But he's much more than folksy. He's sexual. He's nasty. He's in-your-face, at-your-throat dangerous.

Lonesome is the discovery of Marcia Jeffries (Patricia Neal), the Eastern-educated niece of the owner of Pickett, Arkansas' radio station. She heads to the Tomahawk County jail to interview inmates for her radio show A Face in the Crowd, and discovers Lonesome, pulled in for being drunk and disorderly the night before. The entire movie depends on Griffith's performance knocking us out during his early scenes, when hungover Lonesome takes a slug from a pint of hooch, straps on his guitar and wails a tune celebrating his imminent freedom. We feel charisma, passion and talent every bit as strongly as Marcia and the radio audience subsequently do. We never doubt for a second why she might encourage her uncle (Howard Smith) to give Lonesome a morning show or why Pickett's townfolks might instantly take to that show. As I said above, Griffith isn't just amusing and charismatic here, he's dangerous, taunting his jailers, eying attractive Marcia like the proverbial one-eyed cat peeping in a seafood store and pouring out emotion in quantities some would call unhealthy. He's a beast rattling his cage. And this is Griffith's very first sequence on the big screen. He'd had success as a comic monologist (check out 1953's hilarious What it Was Was Football) and in the stage and live-TV productions of the service comedy No Time for Sergeants (a movie adaptation followed A Face in the Crowd).

Lonesome's rise and fall provides the arc of the story, and his path to the power center of the country allows Schulberg to comment on the increasing role of television and media in our lives. Once Lonesome and Marcia leave Pickett, first for a TV show in Memphis and then a national show in New York, not everyone who takes him under his or her wing is as generous in intention as Marcia. They have more in mind than just filling up the 7-8 early bird spot on a Podunk radio station's schedule. They want to convince people to buy products and, eventually, ideas. The Lonesome we met in the jailhouse and in Pickett might have told them what to do with their products and ideas. But after innocently discovering the power of his popularity in Arkansas, when he turns the town against the sheriff (who was hoping to become the next mayor), and then getting a bigger and bigger taste of adulation and money, Lonesome slowly becomes corrupted. Eventually, he turns from corrupted to corruptter. He falls under the spell of his sponsor, a fascistic pharmaceutical tycoon (Percy Waram) who thinks the masses need to be guided by an "elite" that he wants Lonesome to be part of. Eventually, Lonesome "media coaches" the stuffy senator (Marshall Neilan) the tycoon is backing for president and begins starring in a self-serving new TV program in which he spouts canned ideas to a cast of yes-men hayseeds. But Lonesome's loss of the real human spark we saw in the Arkansas jailhouse is clear in more mundane ways, too, like the applause sign aiding audience response on the national show.

The sheer realism Kazan brings to the opening Arkansas action, by often featuring real exteriors and locals - Sheriff Big Jeff Bess is played by a guy named Big Jeff Bess, presumably the real sheriff - adds credibility to the more conventional action of the second half. As in many of Frank Capra's movies, Schulberg and Kazan¿s depiction of the public as one single, sometimes gullible being is a little troubling. It shows some of the same contempt Lonesome ends up having for his public. Still, Lonesome is an amazing Frankenstein monster for the TV age, with an insatiable taste for TV-aided power that causes him to twist that power from doing good for others (on his first Memphis show, he solicits donations for a woman whose house burned down) to doing what's good only for him and his cronies.

But, in a sense, A Face in the Crowd is as much Marcia's story as it is Lonesome's. We see her first and last, and she's the person who both discovers and exposes Lonesome in the very dramatic climax. Once again, the performer puts the character over as perhaps no one else could have. For a spell in time, I don't think any Hollywood actress had as potent a combination of sensuality and smarts, strength and vulnerability, as Patricia Neal. Bookend A Face in the Crowd with 1963's Hud, in which her character physically and mentally tangles with another ornery, self-centered man, and you've got the two great performances of Neal's career. Here, she convincingly portrays Marcia's very deep inner conflict. Marcia sticks with Lonesome, as his producer, friend and sometime lover, through different cities and different affronts to her affection, partly out of love and partly out of guilt for pulling him from the drunk tank and unleashing him on the world. As prescient as the movie's commentary about the marriage of entertainment and politics was for its time, that message is always filtered through the relationship of its two lead characters.

Although Kazan and supporting players Walter Matthau and Lee Remick are no longer with us, the DVD¿s outstanding half-dour documentary Facing the Past rounds up the surviving collaborators, including Schulberg, Griffith, Neal and Anthony Franciosa (the Franciosa interview clip appears to coming from a pre-existing interview). The doc does a great job of frankly detailing Kazan's and Schulberg's controversial history of cooperating with the House Un-American Activities Committee, with Neal bluntly commenting "I thought it was a bad thing for (Kazan) to do." I was unaware the two men didn't even know each other at the time, and it was only a letter of commiseration Schulberg wrote to Kazan that brought them together to do On the Waterfront and then A Face in the Crowd. The doc does an even better job of exploring Kazan's legendary talent for directing actors, thanks to colorful anecdotes by Griffith, who was an untrained actor unsure of himself at the time. He says Kazan told him, "If you think it and feel it hard enough, it will come out through your eyes, and the camera will see it," and gives two specific scenes as examples, which the doc smartly excerpts.

If A Face in the Crowd isn't the best DVD of the year, it's damn close.

For more information about A Face in the Crowd, visit Warner Video. To order A Face in the Crowd, go to TCM Shopping.

by Paul Sherman

Elia Kazan's A Face in the Crowd on DVD

This is not Opie's father's Andy Griffith. I'd pay good money to see the dropping jaws of people who know Griffith only from his "nice" roles on TV's Andy Griffith Show and Matlock as they experience the new DVD showing him in his greatest and most uncharacteristic role, in 1957's A Face in the Crowd. Sure, Griffith is plenty folksy as Larry "Lonesome" Rhodes, the down-and-out drifter with the ear-to-ear smile and wide-eyed leer who becomes a big-headed radio and TV star in Elia Kazan's Budd Schulberg-written 1957 movie. But he's much more than folksy. He's sexual. He's nasty. He's in-your-face, at-your-throat dangerous. Lonesome is the discovery of Marcia Jeffries (Patricia Neal), the Eastern-educated niece of the owner of Pickett, Arkansas' radio station. She heads to the Tomahawk County jail to interview inmates for her radio show A Face in the Crowd, and discovers Lonesome, pulled in for being drunk and disorderly the night before. The entire movie depends on Griffith's performance knocking us out during his early scenes, when hungover Lonesome takes a slug from a pint of hooch, straps on his guitar and wails a tune celebrating his imminent freedom. We feel charisma, passion and talent every bit as strongly as Marcia and the radio audience subsequently do. We never doubt for a second why she might encourage her uncle (Howard Smith) to give Lonesome a morning show or why Pickett's townfolks might instantly take to that show. As I said above, Griffith isn't just amusing and charismatic here, he's dangerous, taunting his jailers, eying attractive Marcia like the proverbial one-eyed cat peeping in a seafood store and pouring out emotion in quantities some would call unhealthy. He's a beast rattling his cage. And this is Griffith's very first sequence on the big screen. He'd had success as a comic monologist (check out 1953's hilarious What it Was Was Football) and in the stage and live-TV productions of the service comedy No Time for Sergeants (a movie adaptation followed A Face in the Crowd). Lonesome's rise and fall provides the arc of the story, and his path to the power center of the country allows Schulberg to comment on the increasing role of television and media in our lives. Once Lonesome and Marcia leave Pickett, first for a TV show in Memphis and then a national show in New York, not everyone who takes him under his or her wing is as generous in intention as Marcia. They have more in mind than just filling up the 7-8 early bird spot on a Podunk radio station's schedule. They want to convince people to buy products and, eventually, ideas. The Lonesome we met in the jailhouse and in Pickett might have told them what to do with their products and ideas. But after innocently discovering the power of his popularity in Arkansas, when he turns the town against the sheriff (who was hoping to become the next mayor), and then getting a bigger and bigger taste of adulation and money, Lonesome slowly becomes corrupted. Eventually, he turns from corrupted to corruptter. He falls under the spell of his sponsor, a fascistic pharmaceutical tycoon (Percy Waram) who thinks the masses need to be guided by an "elite" that he wants Lonesome to be part of. Eventually, Lonesome "media coaches" the stuffy senator (Marshall Neilan) the tycoon is backing for president and begins starring in a self-serving new TV program in which he spouts canned ideas to a cast of yes-men hayseeds. But Lonesome's loss of the real human spark we saw in the Arkansas jailhouse is clear in more mundane ways, too, like the applause sign aiding audience response on the national show. The sheer realism Kazan brings to the opening Arkansas action, by often featuring real exteriors and locals - Sheriff Big Jeff Bess is played by a guy named Big Jeff Bess, presumably the real sheriff - adds credibility to the more conventional action of the second half. As in many of Frank Capra's movies, Schulberg and Kazan¿s depiction of the public as one single, sometimes gullible being is a little troubling. It shows some of the same contempt Lonesome ends up having for his public. Still, Lonesome is an amazing Frankenstein monster for the TV age, with an insatiable taste for TV-aided power that causes him to twist that power from doing good for others (on his first Memphis show, he solicits donations for a woman whose house burned down) to doing what's good only for him and his cronies. But, in a sense, A Face in the Crowd is as much Marcia's story as it is Lonesome's. We see her first and last, and she's the person who both discovers and exposes Lonesome in the very dramatic climax. Once again, the performer puts the character over as perhaps no one else could have. For a spell in time, I don't think any Hollywood actress had as potent a combination of sensuality and smarts, strength and vulnerability, as Patricia Neal. Bookend A Face in the Crowd with 1963's Hud, in which her character physically and mentally tangles with another ornery, self-centered man, and you've got the two great performances of Neal's career. Here, she convincingly portrays Marcia's very deep inner conflict. Marcia sticks with Lonesome, as his producer, friend and sometime lover, through different cities and different affronts to her affection, partly out of love and partly out of guilt for pulling him from the drunk tank and unleashing him on the world. As prescient as the movie's commentary about the marriage of entertainment and politics was for its time, that message is always filtered through the relationship of its two lead characters. Although Kazan and supporting players Walter Matthau and Lee Remick are no longer with us, the DVD¿s outstanding half-dour documentary Facing the Past rounds up the surviving collaborators, including Schulberg, Griffith, Neal and Anthony Franciosa (the Franciosa interview clip appears to coming from a pre-existing interview). The doc does a great job of frankly detailing Kazan's and Schulberg's controversial history of cooperating with the House Un-American Activities Committee, with Neal bluntly commenting "I thought it was a bad thing for (Kazan) to do." I was unaware the two men didn't even know each other at the time, and it was only a letter of commiseration Schulberg wrote to Kazan that brought them together to do On the Waterfront and then A Face in the Crowd. The doc does an even better job of exploring Kazan's legendary talent for directing actors, thanks to colorful anecdotes by Griffith, who was an untrained actor unsure of himself at the time. He says Kazan told him, "If you think it and feel it hard enough, it will come out through your eyes, and the camera will see it," and gives two specific scenes as examples, which the doc smartly excerpts. If A Face in the Crowd isn't the best DVD of the year, it's damn close. For more information about A Face in the Crowd, visit Warner Video. To order A Face in the Crowd, go to TCM Shopping. by Paul Sherman

ELIA KAZAN, 1909-2003


Elia Kazan, one of the modern greats of American film and stage, and whose tremendous artistry in both mediums were overshadowed by his testimony to HUAC during the '50s, died on September 28 of natural causes at his home in New York City. He was 94.

Kazan was born Elias Kazanjoglou in Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey) on September 7, 1909. In 1913, he immigrated with his parents to New York City, where his father sold rugs for a living. At age 17, Kazan enrolled in Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. After graduation, he went to Yale University's School of Drama, where he studied musical theater and began acting and directing plays.

In 1932, Kazan joined New York's socialist minded Group Theatre as an actor and assistant manager. At the time, the Group Theatre was the epicenter for radical thought and activity in the arts. Kazan befriended such notable theater personalities as Lee Strasberg, Harold Clurman, Stella Adler and Clifford Odets. Kazan even joined the Communist party for two years (1934-36), before resigning because of his disillusionment with its leadership.

After his stint in New York, Kazan went to Hollywood, where he found work as an actor in two Warner Brothers films: City for Conquest (1940) and Blues in the Night (1941). He made his Broadway debut in 1942, directing Thornton Wilder's The Skin of Our Teeth with Tallulah Bankhead; Fredric March and Montgomery Clift. It was a huge hit. After that success, it was back to Hollywood, this time as a director for Darryl F. Zanuck at 20th Century Fox. Kazan's directorial film debut was the poignant A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945), based on Betty Smith's bestseller about tenement life. From the beginning, Kazan proved his talent for enticing natural performances from his actors; James Dunn and Peggy Ann Garner both won deserved Oscars for their work in this film.

1947 would prove to be a breakthrough year for Kazan. He notched two huge hits on Broadway: Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire and Arthur Miller's All My Sons; co-founded the Actors Studio with Lee Strasburg, a leading proponent of "Method" acting that is still widely practiced today; and two potent treatise on anti-Semitism Boomerang and Gentleman's Agreement, the latter earning Kazan his first Oscar. Kazan's next few films were not among his best, but they were well crafted and interesting: Pinky (1949), the story of a light-skinned black woman who passes for white (hampered by Jeanne Crain in the lead); and Panic in the Streets (1950), a taut thriller about efforts to contain a burgeoning epidemic which was shot entirely on the streets of New Orleans.

It wasn't until he brought Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire to the big screen that Kazan had a major impact on American cinema. Featuring an explosive Marlon Brando in the role of Stanley Kowalski, the films' raw sensuality brought a stark and galvanizing realism to cinema that simply hadn't happened before. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) not only earned Kazan another Oscar nod for Best Director, but it made a star out of Brando and earned best acting honors for the rest of the cast: Vivien Leigh, Karl Malden and Kim Hunter.

It was around this time that Kazan testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). On April 10, 1952, he informed on former associates from the Group Theater, including Clifford Odets, Lillian Hellman, John Garfield, and Lee and Paula Strasberg. Despite formal protests from many acquaintances from his past, including Odets and Arthur Miller, Kazan remained unapologetic to the end for his actions, and he would remain questioned by social critics for the remainder of his life.

Kazan continued his association with Brando in Viva Zapata! (1952), and then in the powerful On the Waterfront (1954), which took eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and a second Best Director Oscar for Kazan. Budd Schulberg's incisive drama about the corruption of longshoremen's unions was the perfect subject matter for Kazan's ever trenchant approach to social consciousness and cinematic naturalism.

Kazan's next effort, based on John Steinbeck's East of Eden (1955) featured James Dean in his first major role. Kazan's continued ability to draw such raw, vulnerable performances out of his actors (as exemplified by Dean) drew critical praise from all quarters, and the film still stands today as one of the most searing looks of a family in conflict.

After East of Eden, Kazan would never quite scale the artistic heights of his previous movies, yet he still came up with some first-rate cinema: the steamy, boldly suggestive Baby Doll (1956), with a thumb sucking Carol Baker as a provocative child bride; an early, superior look at populist demagoguery A Face in the Crowd (1957) with Andy Griffith giving the performance of his career as a corrupt media darling; the moving coming-of-age drama Splendor in the Grass (1961) starring Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty; the evocative America, America (1963), based on the experiences of Kazan's own uncle's immigration experience; and his final film The Last Tycoon (1976) an adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's unfinished final novel, which starred Robert De Niro.

Kazan was in retirement for several years, but he made a notorious return to the limelight when in 1999, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' decided to give Kazan an honorary Oscar® for lifetime achievement. It was a decision met with vocal protests from aging blacklisted artists as well as younger activists. At the time of the presentation, several audience members would not stand up as a form of protest. Still, Kazan attended the ceremonies, thanked friends and family, avoided political discussion, and went home, a most dignified handling of a very controversial moment. Besides his widow, Frances Rudge, Kazan is survived by his sons, Leo, Marco, and Nicholas, a screenwriter who was nominated for an Oscar for Reversal of Fortune (1990); daughters Judy and Katharine; and several grandchildren.

by Michael T. Toole

ELIA KAZAN, 1909-2003

Elia Kazan, one of the modern greats of American film and stage, and whose tremendous artistry in both mediums were overshadowed by his testimony to HUAC during the '50s, died on September 28 of natural causes at his home in New York City. He was 94. Kazan was born Elias Kazanjoglou in Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey) on September 7, 1909. In 1913, he immigrated with his parents to New York City, where his father sold rugs for a living. At age 17, Kazan enrolled in Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. After graduation, he went to Yale University's School of Drama, where he studied musical theater and began acting and directing plays. In 1932, Kazan joined New York's socialist minded Group Theatre as an actor and assistant manager. At the time, the Group Theatre was the epicenter for radical thought and activity in the arts. Kazan befriended such notable theater personalities as Lee Strasberg, Harold Clurman, Stella Adler and Clifford Odets. Kazan even joined the Communist party for two years (1934-36), before resigning because of his disillusionment with its leadership. After his stint in New York, Kazan went to Hollywood, where he found work as an actor in two Warner Brothers films: City for Conquest (1940) and Blues in the Night (1941). He made his Broadway debut in 1942, directing Thornton Wilder's The Skin of Our Teeth with Tallulah Bankhead; Fredric March and Montgomery Clift. It was a huge hit. After that success, it was back to Hollywood, this time as a director for Darryl F. Zanuck at 20th Century Fox. Kazan's directorial film debut was the poignant A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945), based on Betty Smith's bestseller about tenement life. From the beginning, Kazan proved his talent for enticing natural performances from his actors; James Dunn and Peggy Ann Garner both won deserved Oscars for their work in this film. 1947 would prove to be a breakthrough year for Kazan. He notched two huge hits on Broadway: Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire and Arthur Miller's All My Sons; co-founded the Actors Studio with Lee Strasburg, a leading proponent of "Method" acting that is still widely practiced today; and two potent treatise on anti-Semitism Boomerang and Gentleman's Agreement, the latter earning Kazan his first Oscar. Kazan's next few films were not among his best, but they were well crafted and interesting: Pinky (1949), the story of a light-skinned black woman who passes for white (hampered by Jeanne Crain in the lead); and Panic in the Streets (1950), a taut thriller about efforts to contain a burgeoning epidemic which was shot entirely on the streets of New Orleans. It wasn't until he brought Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire to the big screen that Kazan had a major impact on American cinema. Featuring an explosive Marlon Brando in the role of Stanley Kowalski, the films' raw sensuality brought a stark and galvanizing realism to cinema that simply hadn't happened before. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) not only earned Kazan another Oscar nod for Best Director, but it made a star out of Brando and earned best acting honors for the rest of the cast: Vivien Leigh, Karl Malden and Kim Hunter. It was around this time that Kazan testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). On April 10, 1952, he informed on former associates from the Group Theater, including Clifford Odets, Lillian Hellman, John Garfield, and Lee and Paula Strasberg. Despite formal protests from many acquaintances from his past, including Odets and Arthur Miller, Kazan remained unapologetic to the end for his actions, and he would remain questioned by social critics for the remainder of his life. Kazan continued his association with Brando in Viva Zapata! (1952), and then in the powerful On the Waterfront (1954), which took eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and a second Best Director Oscar for Kazan. Budd Schulberg's incisive drama about the corruption of longshoremen's unions was the perfect subject matter for Kazan's ever trenchant approach to social consciousness and cinematic naturalism. Kazan's next effort, based on John Steinbeck's East of Eden (1955) featured James Dean in his first major role. Kazan's continued ability to draw such raw, vulnerable performances out of his actors (as exemplified by Dean) drew critical praise from all quarters, and the film still stands today as one of the most searing looks of a family in conflict. After East of Eden, Kazan would never quite scale the artistic heights of his previous movies, yet he still came up with some first-rate cinema: the steamy, boldly suggestive Baby Doll (1956), with a thumb sucking Carol Baker as a provocative child bride; an early, superior look at populist demagoguery A Face in the Crowd (1957) with Andy Griffith giving the performance of his career as a corrupt media darling; the moving coming-of-age drama Splendor in the Grass (1961) starring Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty; the evocative America, America (1963), based on the experiences of Kazan's own uncle's immigration experience; and his final film The Last Tycoon (1976) an adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's unfinished final novel, which starred Robert De Niro. Kazan was in retirement for several years, but he made a notorious return to the limelight when in 1999, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' decided to give Kazan an honorary Oscar® for lifetime achievement. It was a decision met with vocal protests from aging blacklisted artists as well as younger activists. At the time of the presentation, several audience members would not stand up as a form of protest. Still, Kazan attended the ceremonies, thanked friends and family, avoided political discussion, and went home, a most dignified handling of a very controversial moment. Besides his widow, Frances Rudge, Kazan is survived by his sons, Leo, Marco, and Nicholas, a screenwriter who was nominated for an Oscar for Reversal of Fortune (1990); daughters Judy and Katharine; and several grandchildren. by Michael T. Toole

Quotes

Illegal? Honey, nothing's illegal if they don't catch you!
- Joey DePalma
I put my whole self into everything I do.
- Lonesome Rhodes
This whole country's just like my flock of sheep! Hillbillies, hausfraus - everybody that's got to jump when someone else blows a whistle! They're mine!
- Lonesome Rhodes
A guitar beats a woman every time.
- Lonseome

Trivia

Notes

The working title for the film was The Arkansas Traveler. The title card reads: "Budd Schulberg's A Face in the Crowd." The scene in which The Lonesome Rhodes Show rises in popularity is depicted through a montage of a ratings thermometer, various "Vitajex" advertisements, a climbing sales chart and a close-up of Andy Griffiths' laughing mouth. Throughout the film, various contemporary celebrities, including journalist Walter Winchell and newsman Mike Wallace, appear as themselves.
       Director Elia Kazan and screenwriter Budd Schulberg had previously worked together on 1954's Academy Award-winning film On the Waterfront (see below). Schulberg described in a June 1957 TV Guide article how, during the summer of 1955, the two developed the film from his short story, "The Arkansas Traveler," by thoroughly researching both Madison Avenue advertising companies and New York television stations. In a modern interview, Kazan recalled that he and Schulberg attended advertising account meetings for Lipton tea, in which the concept of being "brisk" was discussed, and used the popular ad campaign as a basis for the scene in which the advertising executives create the campaign for "Vitajex." Kazan added in a 1957 New York Times article that Schulberg's main theme in the script was the power that television can hold and how that power can be perverted.
       A Face in the Crowd was produced by Kazan's own company, Newtown Productions, Inc. According to studio press materials and a September 1956 New York Times article, location shooting took place in Piggott, AR, various areas of Memphis, TN, and in New York, including in Manhattan, at the Biograph Studio in the Bronx and at the New York International Airport in Queens. Modern sources add that some scenes were shot on location at the Iverson Ranch in Chatsworth, CA.
       A May 1957 Daily Variety article reported that Kazan had re-edited the film after a sneak preview in New Jersey just weeks before its premiere. That article stated that Schulberg helped Kazan with editing and scoring. Griffith made his feature film debut in A Face in the Crowd. He had previously worked as a stand-up comedian and earned acclaim for his starring role in the Broadway production of No Time for Sergeants, which Warner Bros. subsequently adapted into a film of the same name that also starred Griffith (see below). Lee Remick made her feature film debut in A Face in the Crowd, as did Charles Irving, who was also credited as a special assistant. Hollywood Reporter news items add the following actors to the cast: Sandra Wirth, Lloyd Bergen, Jay Sidney, Eva Vaughn, John McGovern, Kitty Dolan, Sandee Preston, Gus Thorner, Beverly Boatwright, Jane Baier and Gloria Mosolino. Their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. Modern sources also add John Bliss, Walter Cartier, Lois Chandler, Harold Jinks, Logan Ramsey, Charles Nelson Reilly, Diana Sands, Granny Sense, Fred Stewart and Vera Walton.
       Griffith received rave reviews for his performance. The Variety review commented, "Griffith turns in a performance that can easily skyrocket him to fame" and the Hollywood Reporter reviewer called his and Neal's performances "superlative." Contemporary sources speculated as to the real person on whom Lonesome was based, intimating a strong resemblance to popular television personality Arthur Godfrey. In a modern source, Kazan confirmed that he and Schulberg had modeled the character on Godfrey, as well as Billy Graham and Huey Long.
       A December 1993 LA Life article reported that Schulberg was considering a remake of A Face in the Crowd, to star Whoopi Goldberg, but that production was never realized.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Summer June 1957

Re-released in United States on Video July 6, 1994

Released in United States 1996

Screen debut for Andy Griffith.

Released in USA on video.

Shot in August 1956.

Released in United States Summer June 1957

Re-released in United States on Video July 6, 1994

Released in United States 1996 (Shown in New York City (Film Forum) as part of program "Kazan" November 22 - December 26, 1996.)