August 10th, 2010

20111112, Marilee

A Face in the Crowd

This movie co-stars the late Patricia Neal and Andy Griffith. I have never seen Griffith play such an evil character, and he plays it well. The DVD packet makes a big deal of having Burl Ives and Bennett Cerf play themselves, but Mike Wallace played himself, too!

Neal's character, Marcia, works for a family radio station and headed for the local jail to get some stories from the inmates. She meets Larry Rhodes (Griffith), finds out he can sing, and starts surreptitiously recording Lonesome Rhodes, her nickname for him.

He turns out to be well-liked in that little town, then Memphis, then New York City. His ego gets so big it could escape atmosphere. Walter Matthau plays Mel, who loves Marcia but follows her and helps her. Lonesome's told Marcia that he wants to marry her, but there's an existing wife to get rid of, and then he marries a teenage baton-twirler (Lee Remick). He has a new TV show called "Cracker Barrel" and when the audio is off, credits roll over him chatting with the other characters in that show. Marcia is so angry she turns the audio back on and everybody hears him calling the viewers idiots and puppets. The switchboard is immediately unable to handle all the calls from the people who formerly idolized him. His sponser gets rid of him. He doesn't know all this and goes home to an empty dinner table.

He'd planned to have a fancy political dinner, but everybody had cancelled out. This is when he finds out what happened and starts thinking of ways to get back in. As Marcia and Mel arrive, he says he'll kill the audio tech, but she tells him she did it. He almost collapses and asks her to help him get his influence back but she won't; Mel tells him how his career will devolve, and they leave. Lonesome calls from a very high balcony for her to come back or he'll kill himself, but she and Mel take a car away.

I really liked this. Elia Kazan made a great view into how prominence can get to people and when it goes, they deflate, too.