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Doomed from the Start: Ace In The Hole/A Face In The Crowd (3/1/09) - Printable Version

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Doomed from the Start: Ace In The Hole/A Face In The Crowd (3/1/09) - phil - 03-01-2009

Discuss the dual douchebaggery of Kirk Douglas and Andy Griffith here!


- Judas Booth - 03-01-2009

These look like great choices, Phil.


- lima oscar lima - 03-01-2009

They are! Ace In The Hole is Douglas at his prick-twisting best... but I'll hold off on my views until I can yoink a copy of A Face In The Crowd.


- mr_adam - 03-05-2009

I scored them both today - I love my video store I found both films in 5 seconds. Will be watching them this weekend - I have plans tonight....


- ed209 - 03-06-2009

ACE IN THE HOLE is a favorite of mine. I've watched it quite often since the Criterion came out.

A FACE IN THE CROWD has been sitting on my shelf for months. Keep meaning to watch it.


- Iron Maiden - 03-06-2009

The most mind-boggling thing about A Face in the Crowd is that it turns out that Andy Griffith could have easily been a sex smbol. His TV show has created the image most people have of him, but if more people saw this, I think they'd be enormously surprised.


- anderson - 03-06-2009

I wouldn't go so far as to call Griffith a sex symbol.

But, he had the potential to be an A-lister. Still, the sex symbol aspect bugs me. Sure, you can make the case for the character play between Griffith's Lonesome Rhodes and Patricia Neal.

But, that would be forgoing the character defining moments. Betty Lou Fleckum (Lee Remick) shows that Lonesome Rhodes is a bastard that belonged in the county jail that Neal found him in. He's an animal waiting for the moment to pounce. That's not sexy, that's a potential rapist.

Contrast that against Douglas in "Ace in the Hole". Chuck Tatum (Douglas) is an opportunist that can't see the long view of a situation. He's not the libido driven animal that Griffith got to portray. He wants the best for the trapped man, but he wants to take a Capitalist approach to the situation. He creates a reality-celeb based industrial effort around the rescue.

Tatum's greedy, while Rhodes is waiting for his chance to do something horrible.

In that regard, I don't think Kazan went far enough with where Lonesome Rhodes could crash. But, that might be unfair of me.


- robert hill - 03-07-2009

Quote:

Originally Posted by Anderson
View Post
I wouldn't go so far as to call Griffith a sex symbol.

But, he had the potential to be an A-lister. Still, the sex symbol aspect bugs me. Sure, you can make the case for the character play between Griffith's Lonesome Rhodes and Patricia Neal.

But, that would be forgoing the character defining moments. Betty Lou Fleckum (Lee Remick) shows that Lonesome Rhodes is a bastard that belonged in the county jail that Neal found him in. He's an animal waiting for the moment to pounce. That's not sexy, that's a potential rapist.

Contrast that against Douglas in "Ace in the Hole". Chuck Tatum (Douglas) is an opportunist that can't see the long view of a situation. He's not the libido driven animal that Griffith got to portray. He wants the best for the trapped man, but he wants to take a Capitalist approach to the situation. He creates a reality-celeb based industrial effort around the rescue.

Tatum's greedy, while Rhodes is waiting for his chance to do something horrible.

In that regard, I don't think Kazan went far enough with where Lonesome Rhodes could crash. But, that might be unfair of me.

That is totally unfair. The role is one of the great movie villains. The movie is not about crime or violence, but the evil of the media and it power to control the masses.


- anderson - 03-07-2009

Quote:

Originally Posted by eenin
View Post
That is totally unfair. The role is one of the great movie villains. The movie is not about crime or violence, but the evil of the media and it power to control the masses.

That's a rather superficial way of going about it. The media isn't the only evil in both tales.


- phil - 03-07-2009

I think of Lonesome Rhodes as Max Cady's slightly more in control cousin.


- tati - 03-08-2009

Ace in The Hole was fantastic. Really a great movie. Douglas was amazing in it.

The script once again is top notch from Wilder and the story is so simple, yet so timeless. Imagine what the 24 hour media would do with something like that today. The problem is that the world wouldn't care about one single guy trapped. We have seen and read way way way worse than that.

Poor Leo, he went thinking Tatum was his best friend, he was so close of getting away with it too.

Fantastic film, Thanks Phil.


- anderson - 03-09-2009

Quote:

Originally Posted by Phil
View Post
I think of Lonesome Rhodes as Max Cady's slightly more in control cousin.

I get the Max Cady comparisons. But, Cady was a psychopath.

Lonesome Rhodes has some behavior issues, mostly psycho-sexual. But, Rhodes could be rehabilitated to a point. Cady's a murdered born and bred.


- phil - 03-09-2009

I was kidding a bit. I just like how they're both no-good, Southern rogues with an eye for young girls.

I love how the third act of A Face In the Crowd goes all film noir with the lighting. It's such a broad, Serling-esque, unsubtle presentation, but 50s morality plays get some kind of pass from me for unrealistic dialogue. Kazan's Vitajex montage is way ahead of its time, was cracking me up.


- anderson - 03-09-2009

The Vitajex montage is insanely great. But, what always hooks me are the quieter moments with Griffith.

He really did go balls out in terms of the creepiness factory. Especially, since it was realistic creepy. Not that sort of melodramatic bullshit that dominated the pseudo-Strasberg disciples of the time.


- renn brown - 03-09-2009

Perhaps it was just implanted by all of the recent comedy central ads, but I couldn't help but consider Larry The Cable Guy as I watched A Face in the Crowd. It's a shallow comparison to be sure, but the idea of amping up your own personal idiosyncrasies to levels of characicature for your audience... interesting thought.

The Vitajex montage was fucking nuts, but really really great. Definitely one of my favorite parts of the film.

Ace In The Hole was incredibly strong. Straightforward, universal- pretty goddamn sharp commentary in today's environment of economically apocalyptic doom-saying.

Anybody else get a slight feeling of misogyny with the way Lorraine was handled? Sure, Chuck plants the capitalism in her head, but she was pretty goddamned determined to get the fuck out, all the while her poor loving husband was trapped. I'm trying to fit this view of the female in with Wilder's other work that I've seen, but it's been awhile since I watched Double Indemnity or Some Like It Hot.

EDIT: I was righteously goddamned tired when I watched both of these, so forgive me if I misread things.


- mrdrow - 03-09-2009

I came across A Face in the Crowd a little less than 10 yrs ago and would occasionally look to see if came out on DVD. It was a very striking film and I wanted it for my collection. Last year I finally got it. The thing that I liked about Griffith in it is that even though he's unscrupulous, there's a sympathetic moment or two. Of course, this leads right back into him being manipulative. Griffith showed a strong charisma in the film.


- mr_adam - 03-09-2009

I had no idea about either film going in (aside from the 2 stars) and I have to say that A Face in the Crowd blew me away. Being from the UK, Andy Griffith means absolutely nothing to me, we never had his shows on TV, in fact the only other film I can recall seeing him in was Spy Hard. But again he was a revelation in this - manipulative, misanthopic but with a charismatic persona that almost carried him all the way to government. Did anyone else feel that deep-south faux-down-home right-wing political dimension reminded them of bush?

The what-goes-up storyline is a classic, but I have to say that I've not seen it done as well as it is here. It was nice to see Matthau (jesus, did he ever look young?) but i felt his character wasn't really given much room to grow - which also worked as Rhodes's light stealing kept everyone in the shade - I also felt that "Vanderbilt '44" was prone to lecturing and posturing which made it hard to root for him and marcia, but that it really played to the difference between him and Rhodes. Patricia Neal's gradual breakdown through the film could have made a film in itself, showing how she too went from (minor) media-personality herself to becoming 'gal friday' to a wife (to all intents), manager, nursemaid and finally to jilted lover - did she do what she did to get back at Rhodes or to let the world know what he was really like - the ambiguity of the fury of a woman scorned. The young Lee remick was superb as the obsessed ingénue, a small put important role that came across as a composite of what would have been a parade of jailbait wives.

One of the themes that really struck a chord with me was how Rhodes quickly became a modern version of his hated father, a manipulative philanderer, and a medicine show barker - vitajex being the updated yankee verson of the old southern snake oil/ health tonic. Hinting at the inevitability of repeating our father's mistakes but in bigger and more terrifying ways (bush again?). It also showed that there had been a pathetic nobility in being a drunk loser in the tank.

It sometimes felt like a companion-piece to Sunset Boulevard as far as illustrating how the fleeting fame game can tear people apart.
The political aspect of the film beautifully prophesised a warning about the way public office was becoming less about government and more about image (from the early sheriff revenge all the way to "Curly" Fuller) echoed the way JFK had stood for the Democratic nomination in '56 (the year before the film's release) and had improved his public profile so that he could win over Nixon in 1960 - widely acknowledged as the first TV-won election.

The powerhouse performance of Griffith is what makes this film, tyrannical, vindictive and grotesque yet naïve and charismatic. The final scene with him on the balcony like a 'great dictator' preaching his home-spun fascist bullshit to rapturous fake applause then the final "marcia! MARCIA!!!" Fantastic. In contrast, my wife fucking hated it, "sexist, racist crap from an ugly bastard", she had a point too.

An ace in the hole left me a bit more puzzled than anything else, I liked the hard-nosed journalist bit and Kirk Douglas just blows everyone else out of the water - the guy is a fucking mean machine (even now, after strokes etc. he's doing his one man show at 92). Starting the film after his fall from grace meant that we had to fill in the gaps but that wasn't hard as Wilder's something of a genius when it comes to ellipsis...
The whole engineering of a story by a reporter is again something of a classic but the completely self-serving and vindictive way it is orchestrated is quite dumb-founding. The way he manages to whip up a (literal) carnival of gawkers and milks it for days to get as much money as possible out of the newspapers. While he seems to want to get back the life he used to have by blackmailing his old boss into bringing him back, it seems there is more than a little revenge on his mind, getting back at the hacks who turned their backs and wrote him off. Similarly it's difficult to know if he really felt anything for Leo except as a meal ticket, or even if he cared that he had died because of him, if his final failed attempt to get the story of his confession was a genuine attempt to come clean or just as one last ditch effort to get back in to the game. Or even if it had been his intention all along to have Leo die under the mountain. When the carnival packed up and left I was half expecting Leo to be brought out alive so that tatum could have the exclusive whilst simultanously making everyone else look like fools. Another great film, kudos to Jan sterling as the wife forced to go along with tatum's wishes and as the phurbu that finally does Tatum in. Herbie (Arthur - who died last october) as the impressionable young photographer who becomes tatum's lackey, turning his back on the simple yet honorable life to go for the big bucks and fame, hypnotised by Douglas's manipulative charisma.

Both of these films feature charismatic master manipulators who will stop at nothing to achieve their ends, however both are brought to book - hoisted on their own pitards via situations they could no longer control. The movies caution is for the future when these people have nothing to puncture them and are permitted to continue their evil ways ad inifitum.

Look at the main "doomed from the start" thread for my picks for April.


- tati - 03-15-2009

Face in the Crowd was fantastic. Griffith gave a monster performance.
And it displayed the power of the media and the way it could corrupt anyone in a great way.

Rhodes got really creepy in several scenes. Specially his laughter, it's eerie.

Most of all, i loved how he thought he was in control and owning everything, and his agent fucked him in every aspect. Matthau was a great surprise as well. So straightforward and cool.


I enjoyed Ace in the Hole more, but both great choices. The difference as i see it is that Rhodes created the circus around himself, and Tatum created it around the misery of another man.

Can't wait for next month.


- stelios - 03-16-2009

Both of these kicked my ass. Great picks.

I have trouble seeing Kazan's '50s films without applying some political filter. With that in mind A Face In The Crowd really seems like an anti-populist screed combined with the cynicism that only disillusioned ideologues can muster. Both the ultra-populist Rhodes and his oligarchic backers are literally and metaphorically snake-oil merchants with the sole purpose of gaining power by manipulating the people. Neal and Matthau represent Kazan before and after his involvement with politics, especially with Matthau's 'We wise up' line.

Having no knowledge of Griffith, his performance didn't shock me that much but it was certainly great. And I can't deny the smile of satisfaction that I had during Matthau's goodbye to Griffith. He puts the final nail on his coffin by cutting down his ego, saying 'You weren't so special, anyway. You'll be replaced in no time.'

Now on Ace In The Hole. First, seeing Douglas wearing both a belt and suspenders after a year in Albuquerque killed me. Douglas' character is so singlemindedly dedicated in achieving success that he doesn't realize that the more successful he gets the worse he feels. The belt and suspenders gag and his colleagues' almost amused reaction to his ranting both indicate to me that his actual resentment of his time in Albuquerque didn't match the strength of his protests.

And it's interesting that other than the main protagonist, the other guilty parties in both movies not only didn't get their comeuppance but made out like bandits.


- tati - 03-19-2009

These threads are getting smaller by the MONTH!

GET ON YOUR ASSES AND WATCH THE FILMS!


- Dragon Ma - 03-20-2009

A Face in the Crowd

It's really amazing to think this film pre-dated Network in their depictions of how TV and the media influenced audiences to a somewhat unhealthy degree, Andy Griffith really put in the performance of his life in this film, his loud, brash, laugh is just very creepy on so many levels, the guy is a douchebag but no-one sees it because they all underestimate him, in a way, all the characters treat him with a form of snobbery, they assume he's just some dumb hick who stumbled into fame.

Walther Matthau is the only one who actually sees how dangerous he is which brings me to another point, the film brings up two diametrically opposing archetypes, the bad boy and the nice guy, Patricia Neal is seduced by Griffiths downhome charm until it turns sleazy but even then she's willing to forgive it because his charm is all pervasive. The final confrontation seems like a victory for nice guy and Matthau delivers the monologue fantastically, it's never really stated that Matthau get's the girl in the end, he just her pulled away from Lonesome's grip but I just thought there was an interesting commentary there.

It's a terrific film overall, some very pointed jabs at the nature of fame, the media and how, if used properly, can be a powerful weapon.

Ace in the Hole

The film is another commentary on a form of media, only this time it's the news who are targeted, Kirk Douglas just blows through this film like a cyclone, you can see his contempt for the small town paper, he's a cityboy through and through, like Lonesome he has a charisma, that's primarily what attracts Herbie and eventually, Lorraine Minosa. Unlike Lonesome, there are lines that he won't cross, when Lorraine comes onto him, he slaps her twice, all he cares about is the story and getting back into the big leagues, he initially sees her as a distraction from that goal, as the film goes on, he loses perspective, finally succumbing to Lorraine, when he finally does gain some perspective back, he get's stabbed, that came as a total shock. Like A Face in the Crowd, this film presents us with a woman who's drawn to a guy who clearly doesn't give a shit about her while the guy who loves her is slowly dying, unlike Neal's character, Jan Sterling is presented in a much more straightforward manner, she doesn't care about her husband, she only stays when the story starts getting more and more press and to maybe win over Tatum.

It's a terrific looking film, Wilder keeps expanding the scope of the film, starting out in a desolate small town and ending with huge crowds, circus tents etc

Both films, as I have mentioned, comment on two aspects of the media, television and the newspaper and their effects on people. Both films also comment on the bad boy/nice guy effect on women, although in Ace it's probably not handled as deftly. Great films, both of them.


- mr_adam - 03-24-2009

New thread for Dead man's shoes / Kind hearts and coronets is here.


- robert k. - 03-25-2009

Quite a bit late for the party, but I managed to watch both films even though I had both lying on my dvd shelf for quite a long time (I should blame my new obsession with screwball comedies and old westerns).

I really loved both films and not even sure I can pick a favorite out of two. What I really liked about "A Face in the Crowd" was how Kazan told this basically "a rise and fall" story which definitely left a big influence on many contemporary directors, especially Scorsese. Griffith's performance was one hell of an eye opener. Didn't know anything about him other than a few recent performances in movies like "Waitress".

Speaking of "Ace in a Hole", after the stabbing I got an impression that Chuck wanted to redeem himself with telling the truth and I wasn't sure it worked, but then I realized that he was still scheming to tell the biggest story even if it cost his career or even his life. And it perfectly fit with the character. The irony of course was that nobody listened. I have to agree with Dragon Ma about how subtly Wilder expanded the scope of the movie. It just got bigger and bigger and almost didn't notice it until that pan from the top of the mountain with all the circus and approaching train below.

Thanks again for giving me a motivation to watch these films. Really great stuff.


- Fat Elvis - 04-07-2009

Really, really late to the party!

Face In The Crowd was brilliant. Truth be told, left me a little shaken. More prophetic than even Network. Shame that what was a danger warning has now come to pass in both politics and media. (Movie anticipates aspects of the Reagan, Clinton, & Bush persona and I suppose Nixon's "silent majority"/ southern strategy, even Fox news)

Lonesome Rhodes reminded me a bit of Rush Limbaugh by way of Elmer Gantry.

With death of outrage, not sure a guy like this could be stopped--at least in the same way. Think of verbal faux pas by cult of personality, talking heads (i.e. O'Reilley, Fallwell)--only had a minor impact. People are perhaps less interested in truth; more dogmatic in support of whatever side taken in percieved culture war.

Great pick, Phil!


- Fat Elvis - 04-07-2009

Just watched the A Face In The Crowd special features documentary. Interestingly, suggests Kazan became a better director after testifying at HUAC. Have to agree.

Considering the screenwriter, Budd Sculberg, testified too, wonder if the Patricia Neal character was a veiled dig at communist loyalists or Stalin/ Soviet apologists?

In a small way, Matthau an authur stand in/surragate?


- Fat Elvis - 04-07-2009

Oh yeah, the baton twirling was amazing!


- Fat Elvis - 04-07-2009

The 70's, as a cinematic era, famous for an abundance of cynicism and the uncompromising and downbeat ending.

Well, Ace in the Hole about beats them all. Powerful stuff. (Talk about ahead of the times--not much hope of this going over with Eisenhower's america!)

Great Douglas performance; one of his greatest.

Do you sense at the end, deep down, his Tatum's almost equally torn up about blowing his sure thing/golden ticket as he is getting Leo killed?

Charge of misogyny regarding the handling of the wife. Fair charge or a very necessary part of the cynical vision?


- cylon baby - 10-11-2009

Well, I started a thread about Face in the Crowd, not knowing it had already appeared here. Now I've seen Ace in the Hole and can comment about both:

Love Face in the Crowd. What an eerily prophetic film! I'd seen Andy Griffith for years of course: always playing a toe cuffing, Comedic country boy (at heart). Never knowing until now that his very first film role subverted and critiqued the very persona he became famous for!

Patrica Neal was also amazing as a fresh faced, enthusiastic country girl who evolves (devolves?) into a cynical, embittered City Girl. And the guy who plays Lonely Rhodes second in command is one of the sleaziest characters I've ever seen.

Ace in the Hole I was ...not crazy about. Certainly a great performance by Douglas, but the way everyone falls into line with him, the over-the-top dialogue ("I've seen some hard boiled eggs, but your 20 minutes!" yeesh). Also I found the Stab Wound that Doesn't Bleed unintentionally hilarious.

So I guess adopting the Ebert system I'd say a thumbs up to Face in the crowd and a thumbs down to Ace in the Hole


- kevin macken - 07-11-2012

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cylon Baby View Post

Well, I started a thread about Face in the Crowd, not knowing it had already appeared here. Now I've seen Ace in the Hole and can comment about both:

Love Face in the Crowd. What an eerily prophetic film! I'd seen Andy Griffith for years of course: always playing a toe cuffing, Comedic country boy (at heart). Never knowing until now that his very first film role subverted and critiqued the very persona he became famous for!

I disagree with you on your last point. I just saw the film and loved it, and like you said, was just amazed by how prophetic it was.  Rhodes was basically a proto- Glenn Beck, or Larry the Cable Guy with a more political slant.  Griffith was OUTSTANDING,  this character he created probably ranks among my favorite film villains ever.  He's that good.

But I don't see his character or performance as a critique of Andy Taylor.  Griffith's character on the show was not really that exaggerated, or all that folksy.... he's played as pretty normal guy, who just happens to live in the south.  I'm not sure how much of the show you watched, but he really wasn't playing an over the top southern caricature at all, which is probably why the shows popularity extended far beyond just the south.

If you didn't guess already..... I like the Andy Griffith Show.  

Anyway...  fantastic film.




- Mangy - 07-11-2012

I think it's not a critique of Andy Taylor because it was released 3 years before the Andy Griffith Show.




- kevin macken - 07-11-2012

Yes, that too.

But even now, looking back at the two characters, it's apples and oranges.




- kevin macken - 07-11-2012

One more thing,  how fucking creepy/awesome was Lonesome Rhodes' laugh?

Very creepy and awesome is the answer.




- Mangy - 07-11-2012

One thing that really stuck with me is Rhodes' intro, when Patricia Neal taps him, thinking he's sleeping, and then he whirls around with a crazed look on his face, ready to strike like a feral cat. From the very first moment, he's not what he seems. A classic performance.

I haven't seen Ace In The Hole in years, but this:

Quote:
Certainly a great performance by Douglas, but the way everyone falls into line with him, the over-the-top dialogue ("I've seen some hard boiled eggs, but your 20 minutes!" yeesh).

I disagree. I don't think Billy Wilder's dialogue is over-the-top so much as it has an actual personality.




- chavez - 07-11-2012

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin Macken View Post

One more thing,  how fucking creepy/awesome was Lonesome Rhodes' laugh?

Very creepy and awesome is the answer.

My 5-yr-old daughter kinda does a laugh like that.

I sleep with one eye open these days.




- Nooj - 06-04-2015

Just saw FACE IN THE CROWD... a film I didn't even know existed until recently.



Holy moly, what a film.