"A Face In The Crowd" Is Released
A Face in the Crowd (1957) is a motion picture starring Andy Griffith, Patricia Neal, and Walter Matthau, and directed by Elia Kazan.
The screenplay was written by Budd Schulberg, based on his own short story "Your Arkansas Traveler." The story centers on a "country" comedian, a wanderer named Larry "Lonesome" Rhodes (Griffith, in a role starkly different from the amiable "Sheriff Andy Taylor" persona), who is discovered by the producer (Neal) of a small-market radio program in rural northeast Arkansas.
In 2008, A Face in the Crowd was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
The meteoric popularity of Arthur Godfrey was allegedly the basis of the 1957 drama Face in the Crowd. Andy Griffith makes a spectacular film debut as Lonesome Rhodes, a philosophical country-western singer discovered in a tanktown jail by television talent coordinator Patricia Neal and her assistant Walter Matthau. They decide that Rhodes is worthy of a TV guest spot, the result being that the gangly, aw-shucks entertainer becomes an overnight sensation. As he ascends to stardom, Rhodes attracts fans, sponsors and endorsements by the carload, and soon he is the most powerful and influential entertainer on the airwaves. Beloved by his audience, Rhodes reveals himself to his intimates as a scheming, power-hungry manipulator, with Machiavellian political aspirations. He uses everyone around him, coldly discarding anyone who might impede his climb to the top (one such victim is sexy baton-twirler Lee Remick, likewise making her film debut). Just when it seems that there's no stopping Rhodes' megalomania, his mentor and ex-lover Neal exposes this Idol of Millions as the rat that he is. She arranges to switch on the audio during the closing credits of Rhodes' TV program, allowing the whole nation to hear the grinning, waving Rhodes characterize them as "suckers" and "stupid idiots." Instantly, Rhodes' popularity rating plummets to zero. As he drunkenly wanders around his penthouse apartment, still not fully comprehending what has happened to him, Rhodes is deserted by the very associates who, hours earlier, were willing to ask "how high?" when he yelled "jump". Written by Budd Schulberg, Face in the Crowd was not a success, possibly because it hit so close to home with idol-worshipping TV fans. Its reputation has grown in the intervening years, not only because of its value as a film but because of the novelty of seeing the traditionally easygoing Andy Griffith as so vicious and manipulative a character as Lonesome Rhodes. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide