30 April 2005 | gftbiloxi
Although Flawed, This Noir-ish Political Film Is Still Powerful
There are certain subjects that films in general and Hollywood in particular never handled very well--and chief among them are politics. But even some fifty years after it first hit theatre screens, ALL THE KING'S MEN still has plenty of power. Filmed in a "noir" style and based on the famous novel which was in turn based loosely on the rise and fall of Louisiana's Huey P. Long, the film offers the story of Willie Stark, a small-town lawyer who is nominated for governor by a political party seeking to defeat their opponent by dividing the rural vote. When Willie gets wise to the plot he turns on his false benefactors and rockets to political power--but once in power the honest small-town-joe becomes even more corrupt than those who sought to manipulate him for their own gain.
Broderick Crawford justly earned an Oscar for his performance as Willie Stark, whose ego and thirst for power grows to horrific proportions--and whose corruption gradually taints even the most honorable people around him. The supporting cast of John Ireland, Joanne Dru, Anne Seymour, and Walter Burke (to name but a few) is also quite good. But the real knockout here is actress Mercedes McCambridge as Willie Stark's hard-edged assistant and sometimes lover; it is an astonishing performance which, in spite of its supporting status, remains locked in mind long after the film ends, a role for which McCambridge won an Oscar as Best Supporting Actress.
The script doesn't really do full justice to Warren's novel, the film is a bit slow to start, and the story itself feels a bit dry in the telling--but the performances and numerous memorable scenes carry it through to tremendous effect. ALL THE KING'S MEN is so explicit in its portrait of how corrupt politicians manipulate the public that it should be required viewing for every one of voting age. Recommended.
Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer