'A Face in the Crowd' (1957) Review: Kazan's film predicted the rise of Donald Trump about 50 years in advance

A Potpourri of Vestiges Review

By Murtaza Ali Khan

Featured in IMDb Critic Reviews

Andy Griffith as Larry 'Lonesome' Rhodes, in A Face in the Crowd, Directed by Elia Kazan

Elia Kazan's A Face in the Crowd is a naked portrait of fame and what it can do to a man in the absence of morality. It is not just a film but a prophecy that's more relevant today than ever. Many who have watched the film would feel that Kazan predicted the rise of Donald J. Trump about 50 years in advance. Demagoguery today sells like hot cakes and A Face in the Crowd presents a haunting take on how television serves as the perfect conduit for its propagation.
Patricia Neal as Marcia Jeffries, in A Face in the Crowd, Directed by Elia Kazan
Patricia Neal as Marcia Jeffries in Elia Kazan's A Face in the Crowd
The film revolves around a fast talking country boy named Lonesome Rhodes who goes on to become a television sensation. He is sought after by advertisers, business magnates and politicians. Rhodes, in his own words, is 'not just an entertainer, but an influence, a welder of opinion, a force'. But since it's the '50s, marked by the idealistic belief that morality must ultimately triumph, Lonesome's larger than life story could not be completed without dichotomizing his meteoric rise with his great fall. Kazan's visionary direction is brilliantly complimented by Andy Griffith who delivers one of the greatest performances in all cinema, only to be snubbed by The Academy.
Andy Griffith (centre) as Larry 'Lonesome' Rhodes in A Face in the Crowd
Andy Griffith (centre) as Larry 'Lonesome' Rhodes in A Face in the Crowd
The film also features an unforgettable performance from Patricia Neal who steals almost every scene she features in. The passion that the two of them exude in the scenes they are together is something that most actors of today would struggle to achieve even after resorting to nudity. The movie also marks the debut of actress Lee Remick who plays the part of a ravishing Southern majorette with great allure. Remick, of course, would go on to deliver unforgettable performances in films like Anatomy of a Murder (1959), Wild River (1960), and Days of Wine and Roses (1962).
Lee Remick as sexy Southern majorette, in A Face in the Crowd, Directed by Elia Kazan
Lee Remick as Betty Lou Fleckum in Elia Kazan's A Face in the Crowd
'A Face in the Crowd' is a reminder of what Hollywood once stood for. It is really heartbreaking to see what Hollywood has been reduced to today. There was a time it focused on real stories of substance that told so much about the different sides of humanity: the virtues, the vices and the follies. Those stores served as great lessons on morality, hypocrisy and hubris. Today all Hollywood seems capable of offering are endless superhero franchises, high on style but with little substance. It is high time the creatively and emotionally bankrupt studio bosses revisited an enriching film like 'A Face in the Crowd'.

Rating: 10/10

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