Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

A Face in the Crowd (1957)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

A Face in the Crowd (1957)

In Elia Kazan's powerful political film about a demagogue:

  • the early scene in which KGRK radio reporter/producer Marcia Jeffries (Patricia Neal) conducted her local radio show ("A Face in the Crowd") from a jail-cell in rural Clay County, in the fictional town of Pickett, in northeast Arkansas; one of the inmates had been taken in the previous night for being "drunk and disorderly" - smiling, cornpone-spouting, back country Arkansas hobo Larry "Lonesome" Rhodes (Andy Griffith in his film debut); he spoke about his love for his guitar: "Ain't Mama a beauty? Oh, a guitar beats a woman every time! You know, I never have seen a woman I could trust like this old guitar. I love my Mama guitar. She's always there waitin' for me to pick her up and hold her. Never asks me for money or goes cheatin' around when I ain't lookin'. And if she gets a little sour, why, I just give her a little twist like so, and we're right back in tune together"; then, he was urged to sing "Free Man in the Mornin'" - it would mark the beginning of the discovery of his musical talent, bringing him from down-and-out drunkenness and obscurity to popular fame
  • the brief early sequence of Rhodes and Marcia boarding a train to leave Pickett - and Marcia's dismay when she realized Rhodes' hypocrisy when he waved at the adoring crowds, and then turned away and muttered to himself: "Boy, I'm glad to shake that dump!"
  • Rhodes was brought to Memphis, Tennessee to appear on TV, and introduced to bookish, well-educated staff writer Mel Miller (Walter Matthau), Marcia's friend and confidant
  • moving on to New York, Rhodes' clever commercial pitch for a product known as Vitajex - a dietary supplement promoted to increase energy and sexual virility
  • Rhodes' infatuation and elopement with a teenaged, 17 year-old baton twirler Betty Lou Fleckum (Lee Remick in her screen debut)
  • Rhodes' bold-faced statement about how he could be a political influencer: "I'm not just an entertainer. I'm an influence, a wielder of opinion, a force - a force!"
  • the bedroom scene with Marcia, in which Rhodes revealed his power-hunger in his quest to help Senator Worthington Fuller with his presidential campaign ("Fighters for Fuller"); he delivered a disturbing, arrogant power-trip confession that his audience would sheepishly follow him anywhere, and be directed to wherever he wished: ("Oh, honey. If I ask 'em, they gotta come. Baby, they'd be afraid not to come. I could murder 'em like this: (he guffawed loudly) ..... This whole country's just like my flock of sheep....Rednecks, crackers, hillbillies, hausfraus, shut-ins, pea-pickers. Everybody that's got to jump when somebody else blows the whistle. They don't know it yet, but they're all gonna be 'Fighters For Fuller.' They're mine. I own 'em. They think like I do. Only they're even more stupid than I am, so I gotta think for 'em. Marcia, you just wait and see. (he grabbed both sides of her face with his two hands) I'm gonna be the power behind the President, and you'll be the power behind me. You made me, Marcia. You made me. I always say that. I owe it all to you. I owe it all to you. All to you.")
"They're mine, I own 'em. They think like I do"
  • the shocking scene in which the fraudulent megalomaniac and demagogue celebrity concluded his national TV show ("Cracker Barrel"), thinking that his microphone had been cut off (although Marcia deliberately turned it back on), and expressing his utter contempt for his mass audience by personally and nastily insulting them as stupid morons: ("I'm glad that's over. I'm gonna start shootin' people instead of ducks....To those morons out there? Shucks, I can take chicken fertilizer and sell it to 'em for caviar. I can make 'em eat dog food, and they'll think it's steak. Sure, I got 'em like this. You know what the public's like? A cage full of guinea pigs. Good night, you stupid idiots. Good night, you miserable slobs. They're a lot of trained seals. I toss 'em a dead fish, and they'll flap their flippers")
  • the scene of rabble-rouser Rhodes, who was drunk and delusional in his top floor New York City hotel-penthouse, preparing for a fancy dinner party of political elites so that he could advance his own political fortunes, where he found an empty room attended only by black butlers and servants (whom he begged to love him); he was bolstered by an 'applause machine' manned by his old pal Beanie (Rod Brasfield), but he began to realize that he was suffering a major and spectacular downfall after being exposed as a fraud ("All of a sudden, I'm - I'm poison") - although he later claimed: "You think I'm washed up, don't ya? The same way I lost them, I'll get 'em back again. I'm gonna make 'em love me" and "I'll have 'em eatin' out of my hands again just like old times"
  • on the telephone speaking to Marcia in the TV studio (and at first not knowing that she was the one who turned his microphone on), he threatened to suicidally jump from the penthouse, and she encouraged him - with a scream of desperate hurt at being betrayed and duped: "Jump! Jump! Get out of my life! Get out of everybody's life - jump! Jump! Jump!"
On the Phone With Marcia, Who Encouraged: "Jump! Jump!"
Mel's Prediction of Rhodes' Comeback
Rhodes' Final Rant: "Because the people
listen to Lonesome Rhodes..."
  • in the film's final moments, Rhodes ranted on about himself: "Because the people listen to Lonesome Rhodes. Because the people love Lonesome Rhodes. Lonesome Rhodes is the people. The people is Lonesome Rhodes."
  • the devastating conclusion in which Mel Miller predicted that Rhodes would have a comeback, of sorts: ("Suppose I tell you exactly what's gonna happen to you. You're gonna be back in television. Only it won't be quite the same as it was before. There'll be a reasonable cooling-off period, and then somebody will say, 'Why don't we try him again in an inexpensive format? People's memories aren't too long.' And you know, in a way, he'll be right. Some of the people forget, and some of them won't. Oh, you'll have a show. Maybe not the best hour or, you know, top ten. Maybe not even in the top 35. But you'll have a show. It just won't be quite the same as it was before. Then a couple of new fellas will come along. And pretty soon, a lot of your fans will be flockin' around them. And then one day, somebody will ask: 'Whatever happened to what's-his-name? You know, the one who was so big. The number-one fella a couple of years ago. He was famous. How can we forget a name like that? Oh, by the way, have you seen, uh, Barry Mills? I think he's the greatest thing since Will Rogers.'")
  • in the conclusion, as Mel and Marcia entered a taxi on the street below, they looked up to the penthouse where they could still hear Rhodes as he pitifully called out to her on the street below: ("Marcia!... Don't leave me!... Marcia!...Come back, Marcia!...Marcia! Come back! Don't leave me! Don't leave me! Don't leave me! Marcia! Don't leave me! Come back! Come back! Come back!"); Mel commented that they both could now admit that they had been duped, but had become wiser and stronger: "I don't figure him for a suicide....You were taken in, just like we were all taken in. But we get wise to 'em and that's our strength. We get wise to 'em.")

"A guitar beats a woman every time!"

Marcia's Discovery of "Lonesome" Rhodes' Talent

Departure From Pickett - His Growing Popularity and Hypocrisy: "Boy I'm glad to shake that dump!"

"Free Man in the Mornin'" Public Performance

Vitajex Commercial Pitch

Rhodes' Elopement with Baton-Twirling Majorette Betty Lou Fleckum

"I'm a Force!"

Utter Contempt - Revealed with Microphone On

Leaving in a taxi with Mel: "We get wise to 'em"


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