Saturday, August 1, 2009

A Face in the Crowd. A-

The stories of fictional radio/tv personality Larry 'Lonesome' Rhodes and the real life Petey Greene (see the terrific 'Talk to Me') are somewhat similar. Both began in prison, found a shot at radio due to their unique vocal presence, spoke what was on their minds, and then began the steady climb to maximal fame. The only difference is that Greene recognized that this was a dangerous path to take. Rhodes simply wasn't aware of it or just ignored it. And that's why a person like Greene is considered more of a hero than a person like Rhodes would be if he wasn't fictional (and believe me, there have been plenty of people who have lived a life like Rhodes). Andy Griffith, in a surprisingly dramatic role, plays Lonesome Rhodes, who is discovered by radio personality Marcia Jeffries (Patricia Neal) while in prison. He is then released so that he can try a life on the radio. After he receives acclaim for his teddy bear, truthful personality, Rhodes goes on to Memphis, where he continues to find success. Walter Matthau, in one of his best roles, plays Rhodes' script writer. Soon Rhodes, as he continues his ride into the central of the spotlight, gets involved with the wrong women, politics, and the desperate life that is a result of too much money and fame. It's an honest, perfectly executed portrait of how this process works. Before the end, we know what's coming, and yet there's still an empty feeling of sadness as we hear Rhodes screaming from a roof top, 'Marcia...Don't leave me!' 'A Face in the Crowd,' despite the strong cast and big director (Elia Kazan-'Gentleman's Agreement,' 'A Streetcar Named Desire' 'On the Waterfront' 'East of Eden') is a small film, and relatively unknown to most. But it's an overlooked classic that may be hard to track down, but in the end definitely worth your while. It's like one of those hidden treasures in the cinema gold chest.

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