Sunday, January 20, 2008

"A Face in the Crowd"

Just happened to catch this movie this afternoon on AMC. It had been many years since I'd watched it, and those intervening years had added much more depth in my understanding. The main character Larry "Lonesome" Rhodes starts out as a loud, charming ex-convict and it follows his rise into small-time radio celebrity, then beloved TV star, and finally into a powerful media conglomerate. As time goes on, Rhodes reveals what he really is: a soulless shell of a human being desperate for power and God-like status. He's an opportunistic, womanizing jerk who's on the bottom of the totem pole of human decency and morals. Most shocking of all? Lonesome Rhodes is portrayed by Andy Griffith. That's right, Andy Griffith. The beloved TV icon best known as wholesome, laid back country boy Andy Taylor on "The Andy Griffith Show", screams, yells, leers, laughs maniacally, throws tantrums, and shows a frightening array of ugly emotions in a stellar performance. He initially plays Rhodes as a slovenly, deceptively innocent hick from the sticks. When he is given a shot at fame by ambitious talent scout Marcia Jeffries (Patricia Neal), she slowly is forced to bear the burden of knowing she's helped create a monster. Directed by Elia Kazan, "A Face in the Crowd" creates a scorching, brutal indictment of the media age and the corrupting power of celebrity. It is a surprising prophecy of the future for a film made in 1957. In today's celebrity worshiping times, when untalented kids make idiots of themselves on "American Idol" just for their 15 minutes, when Brittany Spears continues to unravel publically, and when Paris Hilton is famous just for, well, existing, a truer movie has not been made. A must see film, I am glad to have run across it again.

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