In anticipation of our next proposal for the Criterion Collection, MMC! will lead the way a series of “Son of Wholphin” posts focusing on a group of short films that will set a path to and through our next feature subject. We start with People of the Cumberland, a documentary short from 1937 directed by Elia Kazan, William Watts, Eugene Hill (credited as Jay Leyda), and Sidney Meyers (credited as Eugene Hill). The film concerns a progressive adult education project, Myles Horton’s Highlander Folk School, located in the mountain community of Monteagle, Tennessee. Demonstrating the School’s impact on the impoverished coal mining region, the short pivots toward the growing labour movement and advocates for a “new kind of America” free from economic exploitation and privation. The film was made under the auspices of the Work Projects Administration, a New Deal agency, and as part of the Federal Arts Project program. Written by Erskine Caldwell and Ben Maddow (credited as David Wolff), the short is an excellent document of its time and a rousingly populist essay thanks to the narration of Richard Blaine and the footage shot by Ralph Steiner.
We knew it was coming and today it was announced: Elia Kazan’s A Face in the Crowd joins the Criterion Collection in April! MMC! imagined a Criterion edition of the film just one day shy of a year ago, although I must say that I think a few more extras might have been available looking back on our previous post. Still, I’m happy to take what I can get and glad to see this MMC! favourite in the Collection.
Those with more money burning a hole in their April 2019 pockets can pick up CC editions of Gillian Armstrong’s My Brilliant Career (1979), Jan Nemec’s Diamonds in the Night (1964), a set featuring Jackie Chan’s Police Story (1985) and Police Story 2 (1988), and blugrades of Jim Jarmusch’s Stranger Than Paradise (1984) and Night on Earth (1991)!
The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents A Face in the Crowd.
Before he brought Mayberry, North Carolina, into American homes and became an icon of moral rectitude as Sheriff Andy Taylor, Andy Griffith burst onto cinema screens as Lonesome Rhodes, a charismatic drifter with a canny, down-home wit and an avaricious taste for status and influence. After charming Arkansas radio reporter Marcia Jeffries (Patricia Neal) and becoming a local media star, Rhodes leverages his growing popularity into national television fame and a trusted position among political and industrial power-brokers. Gradually Rhodes is corrupted by his own success and his laid-back attitude gives way to a monstrous off-camera personality. With stand-out supporting performances by Walter Matthau, Anthony Franciosa, and Lee Remick, director Elia Kazan and screenwriter Budd Schulberg create a roaring statement against grassroots fascism, advertising fakery, and the pernicious influence of television on the political process.
- New 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
- Introduction by filmmaker Steven Spielberg
- New conversation between filmmaker Martin Scorsese and critic Kent Jones
- Ron Simon on A Face in the Crowd and the Golden Age of Television
- Facing the Past, a 2005 documentary on the making of the film
- Griffith’s 1972 appearance on the television show Morning Exchange
- “What It Was, Was Football,” Griffith’s 1953 comedy monologue
- Afterword by filmmaker Spike Lee
- PLUS: An interview with Elia Kazan on A Face in the Crowd, an essay by historian Foster Hirsch and a reprint of Budd Schulberg’s short source story “Your Arkansas Traveler”