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Monday, March 2, 2009

A FACE IN THE CROWD (1957)


Elia Kazan & Budd Schulberg’s follow-up to ON THE WATERFRONT/’54 was this wildly uneven tale about mass media, Populism & the political ties that join them to Ultra-Capitalist / Proto-Fascist Americanism. The young & shockingly raw Andy Griffith is the guitar picking layabout who catches the public fancy & goes bad while Patricia Neal is the reporter who lives to regret her discovery. But Kazan & Schulberg don’t trust their audience or their instincts in detailing Southern archetypes and provide a safe & sane Northerner (Walter Matthau in a career-making perf) as our guide to all the hysteria. Try this one as a double-bill with Frank Capra’s MEET JOHN DOE/’41 which trods similar terrain but with contradictory impulses. There’s a sense of terrified discovery in the Capra film, he barely seems to fully comprehend all the untidy implications he uncovers whereas Kazan & Schulberg know all too well what they’re up to; shooting clay pigeons.

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