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A FACE IN THE CROWD

title: A FACE IN THE CROWD year: 1957 cast: Andy Griffith, Patricia Neal, Walter Mattau, Lee Remick director: Elia Kazan rating: ***

The first half has charm and a nice story arc of a guitar-slinging slick-talking bum turned radio personality then TV host i.e. the man of the people aka "Lonesome Rhodes", played with sublime gusto by Andy Griffith. Patricia Neal, as a radio show producer, pulls the strings, falls in love, and eventually Rhodes glides into womanizing and worse yet, backing a politician. This occurs during the second half as the characters, and the story, declines into an overly-obvious over-the-top message: not that too much fame will ruin a normal man, but that politics, when mixed with television, doesn't work and can be America's downfall. (Ironic how, three years after this film, one of the most popular presidents of all time would be elected for that very reason.) Rhode's climb to the top, from rags to riches, is a treat; but once he arrives, the movie, like the main character, loses focus and never quite regains.
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