Thursday, December 9, 2010

My 7 Favourite Things About
Elia Kazan's A Face In The Crowd

**Spoilers ahead for those of you who worry about such things**

1) Andy Griffith's maniacal laugh that seems to be a cross between a country bumpkin who just watched his favourite Nascar driver win the big race and a mad scientist who just figured out how to bring the dead back to life (and then control them as an Earth-raging army of the undead) - or perhaps just a demented small town sheriff who just shot his idiot deputy down with the idiot deputy's own gun, using the one bullet he allows said idiot deputy to have (but perhaps, this being Mr. Griffith's film debut, this is just an omen of things to come in a hazy Mayberry future).

2) Elia Kazan's way of allowing his camera to record the entire room surrounding his characters, almost making the furniture and knick-knacks to be characters themselves, though with far less method acting on their behalf. 

3) Budd Schulberg's scathing screenplay.  Sure he named names (as did director Kazan) but whether he is a rat or not, his acerbic writing is an inspiration to any hard-hitting screenwriter that came after him.  Perhaps, without Schulberg, there would be no Aaron Sorkin writing today.  Perhaps some people would be more than okay with that, but I for one, would not be.

4) A 22 year old (playing and looking 17) Lee Remick twirling her baton (and her tail) for the camera and for Griffith's folksy rapscallion Lonesome Rhodes (and perhaps for some others too).

5) Not that anyone would know this by watching the film, but the majority of A Face In The Crowd was filmed at the old Biograph Studios of D.W. Griffith, Mary Pickford and Lillian & Dorothy Gish (considered the very first movie studio ever, founded by Edison in 1895) - and for a rabid film history lover like yours truly here, that just gives the film (in hindsight) an extra kick.

6) A drunk with power Andy Griffith, making snide cracks about the sheep of America and bedding every woman he comes across (especially risque in a 1957 Hollywood that was just then beginning to eat away at the Hays Code) and hawking what is basically an early form of speed for the TV cameras, is extra fun to watch after having grown up on the overly sweet and always helpful Andy Taylor on The Andy Griffith Show.

7) As a legacy, watching Keith Olbermann calling Glenn Beck "Lonesome Rhodes" in honour of Griffith's back-handed political huckster-cum-demagogue from A Face In The Crowd.  I know this really has nothing to do with the film itself, but rather with Beck's obvious similarity to this TV and radio shyster of a character - but anytime we get an opportunity to take a crack at Beck, we should not hesitate.  (Okay, political statement over now, we can move on).

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