The Crowd (1928) Poster



Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
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Several years after the film was made, alcoholism had taken its toll on lead actor James Murray, who was reduced to panhandling in the street. Ironically, one of the passers-by he solicited for money turned out to be King Vidor, who offered him a part in the film's semi-sequel, Our Daily Bread (1934). Murray declined the offer, thinking it was only made out of pity. He died in 1936 at the age of 35 in a drowning incident. Vidor was sufficiently compelled to write his life story as an unrealized screenplay, which he called "The Actor".
Despite the film's widespread critical and (mild) box-office success, MGM head Louis B. Mayer despised it, partly because of the depressing theme but mainly because he thought it was obscene due to the bathroom scene that featured a toilet.
King Vidor shot nine different endings before settling on the one used in the finished film, because MGM did not like to release films without a positive ending.
One of 31 films that Joseph Farnham wrote the title cards for in the 1927-28 period. Farnham was awarded an Oscar for Best Title Writing in 1928, the only time in the Academy's history that this award was given out. He died two years later, giving him the unique distinction of becoming the first Academy Award winner to die.
Asked in the 1960s why no one was making films about ordinary people, Jean-Luc Godard said "Why remake The Crowd (1928)? It has already been done."
King Vidor filmed many scenes in New York City streets using real crowds instead of extras, real buses and trains and even real traffic cops. In one scene a police officer is looking toward the camera, admonishing someone to "move along". In fact, he was actually addressing Vidor and his disguised film crew. Vidor cleverly incorporated it into the scene.
In 1989 this was one of the first 25 films to be selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.
Having achieved great financial success with some of his earlier productions, King Vidor had the clout to get this experimental film made at MGM. He was able to convince studio production chief Irving Thalberg that it was a risk worth taking (Thalberg believed that every now and then a studio should make a movie for prestige, not profits). His boss, MGM chief Louis B. Mayer, however, felt somewhat differently; he hated the film because of its bleak subject matter and downbeat ending. In fact, in the very first Academy Award submissions, Mayer spoke out vehemently against his film, urging his fellow board members not to vote for it. They didn't, giving the first (and only) Academy Award for Best Film--Unique and Artistic Production to F.W. Murnau's Sunrise (1927).
This film has been hailed by many to be the first film to show toilets. With so many silent films lost, that can only be an assumption not a fact.
King Vidor deliberately chose not to cast any big-name stars in his film, which was a tale of the Everyman. James Murray was a studio extra whom Vidor had bumped into on the studio lot, while Eleanor Boardman was a minor actress (and the director's second wife).
While MGM liked the script, it thought there was very little chance the film would turn a profit. Despite the risk, studio production head Irving Thalberg let King Vidor film this as a pet project because Vidor had made many successful pictures for the studio, making the studio a lot of money. As it turned out, the film grossed more than twice what it cost to make.
The office building facade was laid on its side, allowing the camera to appear to rise to the upper floors, as it ran along the track to the proper window.
MGM head Louis B. Mayer hated the film. He insisted that a new ending be shot, set in a mansion showing John and Mary by a glittering Christmas tree. John has become a success at writing ad slogans. Mary's new dialogue title was to read: "Honest, Johnny, way down deep in my heart, I never lost faith in you for a minute."
Uncertain how the film would be received by an audience, producer Irving Thalberg held it for a year before MGM released it.
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Adjusting for inflation, the $500 award that John wins for his slogan "Sleight-O-Hand, The Magic Cleaner" is worth $6,977.80 in 2017 (assuming that the money was awarded in 1928).
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Included among the American Film Institute's 1998 list of the 400 movies nominated for the Top 100 Greatest American Movies.
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Dorothy Sebastian was originally cast as John's sweetheart, and can be easily identified in still 293-137, but she does not appear in the final film.
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