Elia Kazan's hard-hitting film of Budd Schulberg's cautionary drama about the responsibility and nature of celebrity once again, in the wake of Andy Griffith's death last month, I found myself thinking two things.
First of all, it made me think about Patricia Neal and how all of her great roles seem to cast her as a strong, independent, self-made woman who meets her match and suddenly curls up in the shadow of a towering, more imposing male personality: THE FOUNTAINHEAD, DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, HUD. And then there is Griffith himself, who wisely turned from this almost unbearably hateful, taunting and angry performance to a career in neutered homespun comedy, as if the anger that was his muse was too blinding to allow for a more balanced career. Has any other debut performance burned, and I do mean burned, so brightly or shown us so much of an actor's potential?
It's true what they say about this film, that it's a prophecy of NETWORK and what has actually become of television in the decades since, and it was probably true even then, but it was made at a time when it still seemed within our reach to exercise our moral prerogative, and to expose the monsters we breed by pooling our popular vote, whether it's in a booth in a church basement or via a Nielsen rating. Why this movie doesn't occur to me when I'm selecting titles for a Top Ten, I don't understand; I always reach to another hemisphere of achievement, perhaps an idealized one, but this one remains powerful and unbreakably true. When kids reach a certain age, they need to hear John Lennon's "Working Class Hero" and they need to see this movie, which furthermore should be shown on TCM every election year in November.
Viewed via Turner Classic Movies.