• Home
  • |
  • |
  • News
  • Additional Information

    Site Information

     Loading... Please wait...

    Kingpin Eras

    Posted by Mike Finnegan on

    Sixty-eight years ago, Bosley Crowther of The New York Times filed his assessment of “a rip-roaring film” that opened on this date, emphasizing: “We have carefully used that descriptive as the tag for this new Columbia film because a quality of turbulence and vitality is the one that it most fully demonstrates. In telling a complicated story of a self-made and self-styled ‘red-necked hick’ who batters his way to political kingdom in an unspecified southern state, the picture bounces from raw-boned melodrama into dark psychological depths and thrashes about in those regions until it claws back to violences again. Consistency of dramatic structure – or of character revelation – is not in it. But it has a superb pictorialism which perpetually crackles and explodes.” Crowther continued: “And because of this rich pictorialism, which embraces a wide and fluid scene, it gathers a frightening comprehension of the potential of demagoguery in this land. From ugly illustrations of back-room spittoon politics to wild illuminations of howling political mobs, it catches the dim but dreadful aspect of ignorance and greed when played upon by theatrics, eloquence and bluff. It visions the vulgar spellbinders and political hypocrites for what they are and it looks on extreme provincialism with a candid and pessimistic eye.” This is excerpted from his appraisal of All the King’s Men (1949), which Robert Rossen directed, produced and adapted for the screen from Robert Penn Warren’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1946 novel inspired by the resentment-based rise and corruption-plagued downfall of populist Louisiana kingpin Huey Long, whose campaign catchphrases included “Every man a king!” and “Share our wealth,” but whose terms as the state’s Governor and Senator were marked by consolidation of power at the top and a wielding of dangerously iron-handed influence in implementing self-described reform policies. Its unlikely star was a beloved mug of a veteran character player. “This grimly realistic film,” The Motion Picture Guide’s Jay Robert Nash and Stanley Ralph Ross write, “long a pet project of Rossen, served as a breakout film for Broderick Crawford, who had previously been confined to B films. In it he let loose a fierce and awesome character [the Long surrogate Willie Stark] whose cunning, brutality and ambition forever locked in the public imagination, a tour de force never again equaled by the actor and one which deservedly won him an Academy Award®.” It proved a diamond-hard, cynically driven, compulsively watchable experience that would also go on to grab Oscars® for film-debuting Mercedes McCambridge as Stark’s tough, comparably callous campaign aide and Rossen as producer of the year’s Best Picture. Crowther’s piece was film criticism of its earlier era. But today is also the one-year anniversary of a divisive national election that brought into the highest office an unlikely populist candidate (a “blue-collar billionaire”) in a “rip-roaring” climate of “turbulence and vitality” that “perpetually crackles and explodes” with the “dim but dreadful aspect of ignorance and greed when played upon by theatrics, eloquence and bluff.” “A hallmark political film” (The Motion Picture Guide) also starring Oscar® nominee John Ireland, Joanne Dru, John Derek and Shepperd Strudwick, All the King’s Men remains vital viewing on Twilight Time hi-def Blu-ray. Political vigilance is still required now, and astonishingly, Crowther nailed it then. Find it here: