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27 September 2016

The presidential debate: About 'Face'

Andy Griffith as "Lonesome" Rhodes in "A Face in the Crowd." (Courtesy: www.washtimes.com)

So what does a film critic, humorist, public speaker and author who likes to kid around a bit know about presidential politics?

Not much, really, and what I do know I prefer to keep to myself.  It's not that I'm that private. I'm also not the dumbest dangling chad in the pile of discarded ballots.  I'm in business here and just don't choose to alienate half of my potential speaking audience by hopping up on a personal political soapbox.

So why am I even writing this?

I was just as perplexed as you might be that a follower on social media indicated Monday that she was looking forward to what I had to say about that evening's upcoming, much-ballyhooed presidential debate  between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Although hoping to remain as objective as possible, I do have a few thoughts I will share:

I was surprised at how nervous debate moderator (and "NBC Nightly News" anchor) Lester Holt appeared to be, especially when addressing the audience in the final minutes before the debate began.  I love live theater in any form, so I was intrigued as the minutes wore on and both candidates continually pounded their speaking points (and, occasionally, each other).

Honestly, though, I kept thinking about a film.  That shouldn't shock anyone who knows that I've spent over 30 years sitting in the dark (literally, not so much figuratively) looking at movies both good and bad.

Recently, I spent a couple of hours being mesmerized by A Face in the Crowd, director Elia Kazan's 1957 blistering look at a charismatic man -- discovered by a local Arkansas radio host (Patricia Neal) in the local jail -- who enjoys a meteoric rise to national fame based on ever-growing media attention and a connection to "common folks" and turns out to be something altogether different than what most folks believed.

That man, by the way, is portrayed with a brash, cornpone style and chilling, kick-in-the-gut laugh by the late, great Andy Griffth.  It is Griffith's film debut and, let's just say he's playing a guy Andy of Mayberry would run out of town in a hurry.

I am not comparing Larry "Lonesome" Rhodes (Griffith) to anyone involved in last night's debate.

I'm just saying that I was asked to comment on the debate, or as the nearly giddy anchors on CNN said, "History is about to happen."  I will point out, though, that history happens all the time.  I'm making history now just punching these little computer keys.  And you're making history reading it.  The question is whether or not important history was being made last night.

From this aisle seat, I say definitely yes.  A Face in the Crowd is a film every serious movie fan needs to see, so seek it out.  Please just be mentally prepared to strap yourself in for a rough, compelling, mesmerizing ride before you hit the "play" button.



Thanks, Bill. You're right, the ending is haunting.
Patricia Neal won her Oscar opposite Paul Newman in "Hud," of course, but she was equally strong opposite Griffith in "A Face in the Crowd." Thanks for the comment.

A Face In The Crowd story was right on target. I have thought of that movie often during this "unusual" campaign. The climax is powerful.

Nicely done, Larry. And I agree about Face in the Crowd. I only recently discovered it and was amazed at Andy's performance. He's absolutely chilling. Watching The Andy Griffith Show is never the same after you see A Face in the Crowd.

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