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
Included among the American Film Institute's 1998 list of the 400 movies nominated for the Top 100 Greatest American Movies. 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 »
Reporter Jack Burden is sent by his editor to Kanoma County to cover political newcomer Willie Stark. Stark is railing against corrupt officials and is arrested by the corrupt police. He is the overwhelming underdog and loses the race for treasurer. He studies law at night to become a lawyer. He rises in fame when he takes on the government for shoddy school construction that killed some children. The governor needs help to win and his handlers pick Stark to split the opposition hick vote. He starts off poorly but eventually becomes a populist who wins it all. In turn, Stark's idealism is corrupted by vanity and greed turning him into yet another corrupt politician.
This is a terrific political drama. The acting is terrific from Broderick Crawford in the lead. Mercedes McCambridge is also terrific as political operator Sadie Burke. It takes a gritty dark look at the political system and its inherit corruption. It's also a character study of an idealistic man falling in love with his own persona. It is a long winding story which may be its only minor drawback. However Crawford's magnetic performance shines through.
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