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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
Director Robert Rossen filmed in an unusual manner. Nobody in the cast had a script. Rossen let them read it once and took it away from them. According to Broderick Crawford, "We really had to stay on our toes." 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 »
Now, shut up! Shut up, all of you! Now listen to me, you hicks. Yeah, you're hicks too, and they fooled you a thousand times like they fooled me. But this time, I'm going to fool somebody. I'm going to stay in this race. I'm on my own and I'm out for blood.
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Robert Rossen (The Hustler) had better luck with the story of Louisiana's Governor Huey Long as he managed to capture every Best Director award he was nominated for except the Oscar.
The picture did win the Best Picture Award for my birth year, and the acting awards went to Broderick Crawford (Governor Stark/Long) and Mercedes McCambridge.
The corruption of power, the sleaziness of the political process, the willingness of people to be used are all explored in this moving film. Again, as in the Hustler, Rossen uses the black and white medium to its full effectiveness as he presents a taut and moving study of the rise of Stark/Long and his downfall.
"Jack, there's something on everybody. Man is conceived in sin and born in corruption. He passes from the stink of the dydie to the stench of the shroud. There's ALWAYS something."
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