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Program Details

Year Round Events

A Face in the Crowd

Arkansas Classics
Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts
Sunday, June 9, 2024
Show Starts: 2:30pm
Doors Open: 2:00pm
Tickets: $15 General Admission, $10 Kids + Seniors

Ambitious young radio producer Marcia Jeffries (Patricia Neal) finds a charming rogue named Larry "Lonesome" Rhodes (Andy Griffith) in an Arkansas drunk tank and puts him on the air. Soon, Rhodes' local popularity gets him an appearance on television in Memphis, which he parlays into national network stardom that he uses to endorse a presidential candidate for personal gain. But the increasingly petulant star's ego, arrogance and womanizing threaten his rise to the top.

While Andy Griffith is best known for his role as Andy Taylor in The Andy Griffith Show, his extraordinary debut as “Lonesome” Rhodes in Budd Schulberg’s A Face in the Crowd is a revelation. Indeed, Griffith’s work in the film led him to such dark places personally that he vowed to stick to folksy, good-natured roles thereafter -- hence Matlock, etc.

Director Elia Kazan and screenwriter Budd Schulberg had scored a major hit with On The Waterfront in 1954 with Marlon Brando. Their followup, the 1956 A Face in the Crowd, is far less well known, but is perhaps their masterpiece. As Chris Galloway writes, “Though the film was a flop on its initial release, subsequent generations have marveled at its eerily prescient diagnosis of the toxic intimacy between media and politics in American life.”

A searing satire on media, marketing, politics, and television, the  film was partly shot in Piggott Arkansas, with many locals and children as extras; listen closely for a few Little Rock references. Also featuring Walter Matthau, Lee Remick, and the great Patricia Neal.

Discovered in a drunk tank, Griffith’s “Arkansas Traveler” Rhodes quickly goes on to become a popular radio talk show host, then the star of a sort of reality television show and then a populist demagogue backed by powerful right-wing forces. Keith Roysdon notes that the movie is “possible more relevant today than when it was first released in movie theatres.”

The film is all the more terrifying because this manipulative, adulterous, reactionary  yet charming monster is played by kindly sheriff Andy from Mayberry.

“Essentially, a political horror film.”--  J. Hoberman

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