A Face in the Crowd

A Face in the Crowd

It's hard to review a movie like this in terms of its theme, as so much of it was simply spelled out for the viewer. This isn't entirely a flaw, but the tragic rise and fall of Lonesome Rhodes pretty clearly depicts the costs of fame, manipulation, power, and so on. It's a bitter and cynical soul that it lays waste to, eventually, and it suggests baldly that this is what America has become. It's a warning and a cry for help.

The performance people talk about is Andy Griffith's, which is fair enough. He puts everything into it, giving us a startling intensity that he would later shy away from with his eponymous television show, and his country howl is as soulful as a bluesman's when he sings. It's fantastic to watch him control a crowd or half-preach, half-cajole an audience.

I would rather focus on Patricia Neal's anchoring performance as the woman who finds Lonesome Rhodes and turns him into a star through faith and inspiration. As he rises, she becomes more and more the reluctant and broken woman-behind-the-man, and in the end, it is crushing to watch her do the only thing she can do to keep him in check. Though Griffith is the bolt of lightning that makes this overblown (but enjoyably so) film work, she is the one who makes it poignant.

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