“Forgotten Hollywood”- A Face in the Crowd…

Posted on May 3, 2016 by raideoman1 | No Comments

Manny P. here…

   A megalo-maniacal media type transforms the way pockets of our country views a 24-hour news cycle, modern advertising, television-viewing habits, and even, our political system. I’m not referring to the 2016 presidential race. Sixteen years after the celebrated, Citizen Kane, and two decades before the scathing, Network… There was A Face in the Crowd.

Afaceinthecrowdposter   Based on a collection of short stories compiled in 1953, A Face in the Crowd was smartly written by Budd Schulberg. Elia Kazan took on the controversial director’s assignment. And, the cast included Patricia Neal, Walter Matthau, Anthony Franciosa, and in their screen debuts, Andy Griffith and Lee Remick. To underscore the era of television culture in America, Kazan incorporated cameos by media personalities: Earl Wilson, Sam Levinson, Mike Wallace, John Cameron Swayze, and Walter Winchell. Schulberg and Kazan had previously collaborated on the Oscar-winning, On the Waterfront, which deservedly won eight statuettes.

   Griffith, in a role starkly different from the amiable Sheriff Andy Taylor persona, was quite ferocious in a down-home kind of way. Screenwriter Schulberg (channeling his inner David Mamet) based a significant part of the Lonesome Rhodes character’s facade on Will Rogers, adding a distinctively un-Rogers-like level of amorality and cruelty. Schulberg later explained that he interviewed Will Rogers Jr. during his candidacy for Congress. The younger Rogers reportedly told Schulberg his father socialized with the very establishment types he mocked in his public pronouncements, adding that his father was actually a political reactionary in private life; not the populist he claimed to be.

Will_Rogers_signed_Sintonia_photo   255px-GodfreyCBS1938

WILL ROGERS                                    ARTHUR GODFREY

   Aspects of the Lonesome Rhodes character were also likely inspired by 1940s and 1950s CBS radio-television star, Arthur Godfrey. The scene where Rhodes spoofs his sponsor in Memphis echoes Godfrey’s reputation for kidding his own advertisers. Godfrey claimed he would not advertise products he did not believe in, and routinely ridiculed both the sponsors’ stodgy ad copy, and occasionally, the companies’ executives. The more Godfrey did this, the more sales increased. At one point in the film, Rhodes states he is missing a broadcast, and requests that Godfrey fill in for him.

   The year was 1957 when A Face in the Crowd was released, at the heart of the Cold War. Very real narcissists, who manipulated our fears and put a red scare on the radio and in newspaper columns, were the dominant spin-masters of the day. Walter Winchell and Hedda Hopper ruined the careers of actors, directors, and screenwriters with an anti-Communist diatribe that permeated society.

   To understand 2016 media, politics, and today’s influence of television on a frustrated nation, A Face in the Crowd is a must-see motion picture. It’s celluloid that birthed the screenplays of later generations, such as Network, Broadcast News, and last season’s Trumbo. After viewing the latter film, Kirk Douglas would write:

At 98 years old, I have learned one lesson from history: it very often repeats itself. I hope that TRUMBO will remind all of us that THE BLACKLIST was a terrible time in our country. But, we must learn from it. 

   Let me humbly suggest you screen A Face in the Crowd before you vote in this year’s general election.

Until next time>                               “never forget”

This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016 at 10:31 pm and is filed under Blog by Manny Pacheco. You can follow any comments to this post through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

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