Starring: Broderick Crawford, John Ireland, Joanne Dru, Mercedes McCambridge (in her film debut), John Derek, Sheppard Strudwick
Director: Robert Rossen
Summary: A backwoods politician rises to the top only to become corrupted
Other Nominations: Director, Actor (Crawford)*, Supporting Actor (Ireland), Supporting Actress (McCambridge)*, Screenplay, Film Editing
-This movie pulls no punches, and is a raw, gritty and cynical look at the corrupting force of political power, populism, the cult of personality and the inherent flaws in our government that come from kind of people who end up running for political office. It’s pretty timeless, as all of the problems that we see in the movie still exist (in the United States anyway), and I can’t imagine that we will ever be rid of them.
-The cast is good all around, with special mention to Crawford, who was plucked from obscurity into a great lead performance playing Willie Stark, a person who’s already-existing flaws were brought out when he decided to get involved in politics, and McCambridge who plays a very non-traditional female role as a cynical political advisor, although she unfortunately doesn’t do much in the second half of the film. Even if you haven’t seen McCambridge before, you’re probably familiar with one of her performances that I will be covering later-the voice of the demon Pazuzu in The Exorcist.
-The movie, especially in the first half, moves at a brisk pace while still conveying all the information we need with a lot of good scenes. This film is generally considered to be saved in editing: the original cut was an ungodly 250 minutes long, and was trimmed to the release version of 109 minutes when the director told the editor to cut out the beginning and end of every scene and see what it looked like; the result was a movie that made its points quickly and effectively.
-Most of the problems with the movie come from the second half, which peeters out a lot, as keeps covering the same point over and over again without moving forward all that much until the very end. I also didn’t get much out Dru or her character other than that she’s yet another character who gets lured in by power.
A bold movie for its time that would have felt right at home in the 70s with its cynicism about the political process, it’s really good but unfortunately it runs out of gas eventually.