Youthful Father Chuck O'Malley led a colorful life of sports, song, and romance before joining the Roman Catholic clergy, but his level gaze and twinkling eyes make it clear that he knows ... See full summary »
A cavalcade of English life from New Year's Eve 1899 until 1933 seen through the eyes of well-to-do Londoners Jane and Robert Marryot. Amongst events touching their family are the Boer War,... See full summary »
In eighteenth century England, "first cousins" Tom Jones and Master Blifil grew up together in privilege in the western countryside, but could not be more different in nature. Tom, the ... See full summary »
Jack Burden is a newspaper reporter who first hears of Willie Stark when his editor sends him to Kanoma County to cover the man. What's special about this nobody running for county treasurer? He's supposedly an honest man. Burden discovers this to be true when he sees Stark delivering a speech and having his son pass out handbills, while the local politicians do their best to intimidate him. Willie Stark is honest and brave. He's also a know-nothing hick whose schoolteacher wife has given him what little education he has. Stark loses the race for treasurer, but later makes his way through law school, becoming an idealistic attorney who fights for what is good. Someone in the governor's employ remembers Stark when the governor needs a patsy to run against him and split the vote of his rival. The fat cats underestimate Stark; but Jack Burden, Stark's biggest supporter, overestimates the man's idealism. To get where he wants to go, Willie Stark is willing to crack a few eggs - which ... Written by
Producer-director Robert Rossen offered the role of Willie Stark to John Wayne. Rossen sent a copy of the script to Wayne's agent, Charles K. Feldman, who forwarded it to Wayne. After reading the script, Wayne sent it back with an angry letter attached. In it, he told Feldman that before he sent the script to any of his other clients, he should ask them if they wanted to star in a film that "smears the machinery of government for no purpose of humor or enlightenment," that "degrades all relationships," and that is populated by "drunken mothers; conniving fathers; double-crossing sweethearts; bad, bad, rich people; and bad, bad poor people if they want to get ahead." He accused Rossen of wanting to make a movie that threw acid on "the American way of life." If Feldman had such clients, Wayne wrote that the agent should "rush this script... to them." Wayne, however, said to the agent that "You can take this script and shove it up Robert Rossen's derrière . . . " Wayne later remarked that "To make Huey Long a wonderful, rough pirate was great . . . but, according to this picture, everybody was shit--except for this weakling intern doctor who was trying to find a place in the world." Broderick Crawford, who had played a supporting role in Wayne's Seven Sinners (1940), eventually received the part of Stark. In a bit of irony, Crawford was Oscar-nominated for the part of Stark and found himself competing against Wayne, who was nominated the same year for Sands of Iwo Jima (1949). Crawford won the Best Actor Oscar, giving Rossen the last laugh. See more »
Near the end of the movie, on the courthouse steps, Stark is shown from the front with Sugar Boy standing directly at his right shoulder. From behind, however, Sugar Boy is nowhere near Stark. See more »
There are lots of movies about the rise of some obscure person into the celebrity life, and the person turns out to be an ambitious and unscrupulous phony. Some of them are pretty good -- "Citizen Kane," "All About Eve." Some are mediocre -- "Keeper of the Flame." This is one of the best.
The acting honors generally go to Broderick Crawford and he's not bad. He's rather like a switch who can toggle either into thoughtful candor or blustering Hickhood. (He used the latter persona to good effect as a New Jersey junk man later.) He also had a third position, the incredibly dumb goof, which he never used after becoming a serious actor, but see, "Larceny, Incorporated" for an example of what I mean.
If there's a problem with the script it's not his fault, although it involves his character. Hung over, still a bit drunk, Crawford steps on stage and instead of his usual boring "tax" speech he gives a redneck-rousing go-getter. And he never changes after that. Rather too quick a transition.
The direction is very good. There's a scene in which Mercedes McCambridge enters the hotel room in which John Ireland has been cooped up for four days in a depressed state. "Whew, lots of smoke," she says. "And lots of whiskey." The scene is almost perfectly staged, with Ireland crumpled on the bed in the foreground and reaching for his liquor out of the frame, while McCambridge busies herself emptying ash trays in the background and staring at her face in the mirror. "Smallpox," she says. (She's not nearly as attractive as Crawford's new girl friend, JoAnne Dru, nee Joanne Letitia LaCock, a name that could have come straight out of Andy Warhol's Factory.) Everyone's acting is quite up to par. It's John Ireland's best role. He was never Hollwyood-handsome with those squished up eyes, that deep hole between them, and that protruding nose beneath.
But the honors really should go to Mercedes McCambridge. Robert Rossen, the director, allows her a few seconds here and there to be unique. When Ireland slaps her face hard, she doesn't cry. She replies with a mixture of contempt and not entirely displeased surprise at having provoked him to violence. And that little speech about smallpox as she compares her face in the mirror to the glamorized portrait of Joanne Dru.
I won't go on, I don't think. If you haven't seen this, you really ought to. So should everyone inside the Beltway. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. That's been attributed so often to Lord Acton that I'm beginning to believe he said it.
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