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  • You know what I really appreciated about this political story? The filmmakers went overboard NOT to paint the main character as either a Republican or Democrat, Conservative or Liberal. It winds up, then, being more a human-interest story. In other words, there was no political agenda....unlike most films, especially in the last 50 years.

    At any rate, Broderick Crawford does an outstanding job portraying the self- proclaimed "hick" Willie Starks, who rises from nothing to become governor of a state and then gets carried away with power and ego.

    Mercedes McCambridge is equally riveting as one of his aides. She was a great actress, one of the most intense females I've ever seen on film. I'm sorry she didn't achieve stardom and make more movies than she did. She certainly had the talent. In fact, she won an Academy Award for this performance.

    John Ireland also does very well here as another person helping "Willie." Add some good cinematography and you have a fascinating film start-to-finish. I look forward to viewing it again.
  • There are lots of movies about the rise of some obscure person into the celebrity life, and the person turns out to be an ambitious and unscrupulous phony. Some of them are pretty good -- "Citizen Kane," "All About Eve." Some are mediocre -- "Keeper of the Flame." This is one of the best.

    The acting honors generally go to Broderick Crawford and he's not bad. He's rather like a switch who can toggle either into thoughtful candor or blustering Hickhood. (He used the latter persona to good effect as a New Jersey junk man later.) He also had a third position, the incredibly dumb goof, which he never used after becoming a serious actor, but see, "Larceny, Incorporated" for an example of what I mean.

    If there's a problem with the script it's not his fault, although it involves his character. Hung over, still a bit drunk, Crawford steps on stage and instead of his usual boring "tax" speech he gives a redneck-rousing go-getter. And he never changes after that. Rather too quick a transition.

    The direction is very good. There's a scene in which Mercedes McCambridge enters the hotel room in which John Ireland has been cooped up for four days in a depressed state. "Whew, lots of smoke," she says. "And lots of whiskey." The scene is almost perfectly staged, with Ireland crumpled on the bed in the foreground and reaching for his liquor out of the frame, while McCambridge busies herself emptying ash trays in the background and staring at her face in the mirror. "Smallpox," she says. (She's not nearly as attractive as Crawford's new girl friend, JoAnne Dru, nee Joanne Letitia LaCock, a name that could have come straight out of Andy Warhol's Factory.) Everyone's acting is quite up to par. It's John Ireland's best role. He was never Hollwyood-handsome with those squished up eyes, that deep hole between them, and that protruding nose beneath.

    But the honors really should go to Mercedes McCambridge. Robert Rossen, the director, allows her a few seconds here and there to be unique. When Ireland slaps her face hard, she doesn't cry. She replies with a mixture of contempt and not entirely displeased surprise at having provoked him to violence. And that little speech about smallpox as she compares her face in the mirror to the glamorized portrait of Joanne Dru.

    I won't go on, I don't think. If you haven't seen this, you really ought to. So should everyone inside the Beltway. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. That's been attributed so often to Lord Acton that I'm beginning to believe he said it.
  • Mike-76429 April 2003
    Story of Willie Stark, who starts out running for an Assemblyman in the south up against the local political machine, who eventually rises to governor of his state supported by the machine and every interest, Stark originally set out to fight, in the meanwhile ruining the lives of his family & associates. Crawford is very powerful in his role as Stark, delivering a very convincing performance. McCambridge is also excellent as Stark's conniving political aide (and mistress), Ireland effective as the reporter, from whom the story is viewed. Very good direction by Rossen, who turns the likeable Stark, into a despicable fink by the film's end. Sharp editing also by Clark. Nice moral play to watch. Rating, 10.
  • Recently I saw a pretty uninteresting movie, All the King's Men, starring Sean Penn, Jude Law, Anthony Hopkins, and Kate Winslet. I wasn't that impressed and I was embarrassed to see that it was actually a remake, I didn't realize there was another classic out there that had won best picture. But when I saw the remake, I was kinda scared to see this version due to the fact that maybe I was just not into the story, but it turned out to not only be a good film, but a great one that had no need to be a remake almost 60 years later.

    Willie Stark is a crooked lawyer who decides to run for senator, swearing up and down the people that he is just like them and making crazy promises, he gets elected and finds that it's harder than he realized to keep those promises. Things start to fall apart more and more when his son gets into some serious trouble causing bad press, the people are not satisfied with his duties, and his marriage begins to fall apart as well eventually leading up to a horrific ending to his term when he is threatened with impeachment.

    All the King's Men, the original, is a great movie that I would recommend for the classic lovers. The remake, trust me, it isn't worth watching, but in some sick way I am grateful for it, because I would have never had the opportunity to see this film. We have terrific performances and a great story that anyone could get into, not to mention the Oscar praise it got was well deserved. Sit back and enjoy the movie, the classics are always worth it.

  • While I admit that CITIZEN KANE portrays the corruption of power better than any motion picture ever made, let's also be fair, because any Hollywood movie will suffer when compared with it. A more appropriate comparison would be the recent docudrama of Huey Long, KINGFISH. While John Goodman is excellent as Long and the movie worthwhile, it reveals just how good a film ALL THE KING'S MEN is.

    Of course, Robert Rossen's picture has a drab look. It should. It suggests the drab appearance of most U.S. states (anyone who has visited Kansas will know why Dorothy and L. Frank Baum wanted to go over the rainbow) and the use of common townsfolk rather than Hollywood extras adds to this look, as do the drab locations (check out something like the Marlon Brando movie THE CHASE, a movie that should have a drab look, but instead looks like a glossy Hollywood backlot). Thank God Columbia, a studio that loved locations because it had no back lot, financed this movie!

    I wouldn't call this film realistic, but I've read the pulitzer prize winning novel, and I wouldn't call it realistic either. Every page brims with beautifully poetic language which the movie often incorporates and which Rossen makes sound more like natural conversation than it really is. Compared to the book, the film, I think, reveals its real weaknesses: it does simplify moral issues and also reduces some of the characters to the level of melodrama (Willie Stark, in the novel, resembles more someone like Andy Griffith's character in A FACE IN THE CROWD: a charming good ole boy you want to love, but who will knife you in the back the next minute). Broderick Crawford, with his Bronx accent, hardly suggests either a hayseed or, as he calls himself "a hick," but he has a bullying power that I think is brilliant for the role. Personally, I'm glad neither Spencer Tracy nor John Wayne (both of whom Rossen wanted) got the part.

    And I think this movie holds up very well, even in our post-Watergate era of cynical politics: like the novel, it shows how the populist leader can easily be a tyrant. This message is not in CITIZEN KANE: the lofty Kane was never one of the people; he just wanted to be one of the people. Considering how much Hollywood in the era of Harry Truman embraced the populist sentiment with the films of John Ford and Frank Capra, considering that dictators like a Hitler and a Stalin like to present themselves as one of the people and enjoyed popular support, considering how much Americans love politicians who are charming rather than substantial, I'd say Rossen's film hasn't dated at all.
  • Broderick Crawford always said that the greatest thing about winning the Oscar and the acclaim that goes with it for his performance of Willie Stark was that it broadened his casting potential. For a dozen years or so he played nothing but dumb henchmen and sidekicks to various star. He was quoted as saying he was not the world's greatest wit, but he hated always playing half a one. Though he eventually returned back to the ranks of featured performers, the Oscar for Best Actor in 1949 assured him better roles the rest of his life.

    Of course Crawford's Oscar was not the only one that the film got. It was also the Best Picture of 1949 and in her screen debut, Mercedes McCambridge got the Best Supporting Actress nod. McCambridge was maybe the toughest woman ever portrayed on film so far, a hard nosed political operative who's carrying an empress size torch for Crawford who can't see her in that way at all.

    As I said before All the King's Men though suggested by the life of Huey Long is not that life at all. Willie Stark is his own unique character. For one thing the unnamed state that All the King's Men took place in is not necessarily the American south. If it were you might see a black face or two in the film. Huey Long in his rise to power in Louisiana used economic populism in his rise to power. He did not like the race issue, felt it was not the future for the south. In that he was far seeing, but if he had to, Long could race bait with the best.

    Do you remember in Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams has Stanley Kowalski reference Huey Long by telling Stella and Blanche in no uncertain terms like Huey Long says, he's king in his own castle. Streetcar is set in New Orleans and Williams well knew the power of the Long name in Louisiana.

    Secondly, Stark's family consists of his wife, adopted son, and father who lives with them. Or rather lives on the old homestead as Stark decides that plain Jane Anne Seymour ain't quite what he needs for a first lady of the state. Although Huey Long was not a model husband to Rose McConnell Long, he never would have thought of divorcing her and leaving her with their three children for a nano-second.

    Long's family also consisted of a lot of brothers, eight in fact. Huey's brother Earl was three times Governor of Louisiana and his life story is told in the film Blaze with Paul Newman and Lolita Davidovitch. Huey's son Russell unlike being a crippled football hero as John Derek is here was elected at the age of 30 to the United States Senate in 1948 after World War II service with admittedly not any qualifications other than his name. But that name in Louisiana is to this day mighty potent and Russell Long had a distinguished career in the U.S. Senate for over 40 years. In fact when Huey was assassinated in 1935 and Rose McConnell Long received a temporary appointment to fill his seat, the Long family established a unique record of father, mother, and child to serve in the U.S. Senate. And a bunch of Long brothers and other relatives held various elective posts in Louisiana for generations.

    Like Long however Stark is a self made man with an all consuming passion to get ahead in life. He was born in the most humble of circumstances to a piney woods sharecropper family and lifted himself up to be Governor of his state with national ambitions. And like Long, Stark establishes a political machine in his state that bordered on fascism.

    Which is why the novel by Robert Penn Warren sold so well in 1947. Maybe it took a war with fascism to educate the American public as to exactly what Huey Long might have represented in the Thirties. Didn't matter in Louisiana though because Earl Long was elected in 1948 to one of his terms as governor as was Russell to the Senate.

    All the King's Men entertains us with a fascination for the characters created by Warren and brought to the screen so vividly by Director Robert Rossen. The whole film is narrated and seen through the eyes of John Ireland who as a reporter discovered Stark running for local office in his backwoods county. Ireland was also nominated for Best Supporting Actor in what was probably his career role, but lost to Dean Jagger for Twelve O'Clock High.

    At the time he was married to Joanne Dru who is also in the film and she was grateful to not be doing another western. She plays Ireland's love who later falls for Stark. As Henry Kissinger said about his romantic success, "power is the ultimate aphrodisiac" and I think Rossen was trying to prove it here. She got her career role here as did her brother Sheppard Strudwick who alone sees Stark for what he is.

    It will be interesting to see if the new version of All the King's Men measures up to this one.
  • VideoJoeD21 October 2006
    I viewed this film for the first time this past week. It was one of only a few "Best Picture" Oscar winners over the past fifty or sixty years that I had not previously seen. I have found most, but not all, of these films to be absorbing and/or entertaining with the majority deserving of the awards they received. I included this specific film in a personal test that I conducted recently. I initially viewed the current version of this film, which features an impressive cast headed up by Sean Penn, Jude Law, Kate Winslet and Anthony Hopkins. Then I rented this 1949 award winner to compare both versions.

    I am aware that when you first see a film or program that you find to be an excellent presentation and then you view a newer version of the same entity, the normal tendency is to find the new version not up to the standards of the original due to the unfairly high expectations. For the test conducted, I switched viewing order of the two versions. I anticipated finding the newer version more rewarding due to the more than half century difference in the two presentations and the fact that Sean Penn and Anthony Hopkins have each artistically created several roles which I have found to be top of the line performances. It did not work out that way in this case. I found the 1949 version withstood the test of time and in my opinion was the superior production. This had to do with several factors, the primary one being that the screen play of the older version seemed to be better paced and the presentation flowed more evenly. I believe this version more closely followed the novel and the depiction of the central character "Willie Stark". The novel loosely based this character on real life Louisiana politician "Huey Long". I concluded that the newer version tried to capture more of Longs' character along with his political successes and failures. In doing so it lost some of the novels flow and impact.

    Both versions have excellent casts and the performances given by both Sean Penn and Broderick Crawford (Oscar winning) as Willie Stark are first rate. I consider this version to be a top 25 all time political drama and gave it an 8 out of 10 IMDb rating, but I would recommend both versions for fans of semi-biographical political dramas.
  • Maybe "All the King's Men" is a bit long in the tooth now, but until "The Godfather" and "Patton" it was the best film ever made!

    The selection of Broderick Crawford as Willie Stark was gutsy, since Crawford can -at best- have been considered "good". Somehow, though, Crawford did not play Willie Stark - he Was Willie! Much like George C. Scott did not play Patton - he Was Patton.

    The "you hicks" speech was great. Not until the "Patton" speech was there anything better on film.

    Essentially, the thing making the film great was watching Willie "grow up" in the sense of casting aside his idealism for power. Turning point is the cemetery scene, when one of the attendees seeks divine forgiveness for not having voted for Willie.

    The turning moment was not unlike Michael Corelone saying "I'm with you Pop" when the Godfather was in the hospital. Michael did not mean physical proximity, but that he then "bought into" the business.

    In both cases, the storyline is a reminder about Power and Corruption.

    Like most movies made from books, there were some changes that did detract from the story (no where in the movie do we learn that the Judge is Jack Burden's father - yet that is so important). Yet, correspondingly, no one can accuse the book of word economy. It is a powerful story, but overly descriptive.

    Crawford's change of expression - the beginnings of insight - are classic.

    Definitely worth seeing.
  • Every dog has his day. Broderick Crawford (sometimes remembered for the TV series "Highway Patrol") hit the zenith of his career with an Oscar winning performance. As Willie Stark he reeks of the abuse of power we have seen in the year's since. Never again does Crawford turn himself loose in a role that was really written for him. (In Highway Patrol all the chases were shot on private land - Crawford's driving license was revoked for numerous DUI infractions). You can't leave out Mercedes McCambridge. She is the perfect second lead. Her performance is filled with depth. Mercedes is the role model for today's woman. Tough yet filled with compassion. She and Crawford provide sensation entertainment without one frame of CGI. If you haven't seen this film, rent it, buy it or go to a retrospective. Your film going life is incomplete without a viewing.
  • All the King's Men was a gutsy film in its day, and wonder of wonders it still plays this way after all these years. It's probably, with the exception of Beat the Devil, the most ragged film to ever achieve classic status. Directed by Robert Rossen, adapted from a novel by Robert Penn Warren, and strikingly photographed in cinema verite style by Burnett Guffey, it tells the story of the rise and fall of a Huey Long-like politician who starts out as a good guy, if a bit of a bully, and winds up a very bad guy, and even more of a bully, as he takes political control of his state.

    There are dozens of things wrong with the movie. It feels rushed, as if edited down from a much longer film. The editing creates an uncomfortable, jarring effect that makes it difficult at times not only to watch the movie but to follow it. It has some dreadful acting among many of its major players, while several of the smaller roles are quite well cast with interesting faces, which creates a tantalizing effect, as if the good stuff, the interesting inside dope stuff that we really want to know about, is too hot for the movie to handle, so we have to settle for a glance, a gesture, a heavy overcoat, and draw our conclusions accordingly. There's a cheap look to the film, not only in scenes where things are supposed to look shabby, like ramshackle farmhouses, but in the mansions of the rich and the governor's office. Nor is there much specificity in the movie. In the novel the state was clearly Southern, while in the movie it could just as well be California or Illinois. And the frenetic pace of the film seems tied to the staccato delivery of Broderick Crawford in the leading role, as if Crawford himself had produced, directed and written the movie to fit his personal idiosyncrasies like a glove.

    As luck would have it, these 'wrong' things make All the King's Men work better than a smoother, fancier, more refined approach could ever have done. Its newsreel intensity makes it feel real. The bad performances by relatively unknown actors likewise gives their characters the effect of being actual people who, after all don't always behave or speak as they ought to. In the unattractive sets we see things that look like life rather than movie life, as rich men's homes are not always pleasing to behold, and state capitals and court houses often have a rundown look. Brod Crawford plays his role as a grade B heavy, with perhaps a scintilla more charm, and his bull-necked King Of Alcatraz style of acting suits his character well; and if one finds Crawford too typically a Hollywood bad guy I recommend the documentary film Point Of Order, in which Sen. Joe McCarthy, with no dramatic training whatsoever, could well be Crawford's soul-mate, or at the very least his brother.

    Why do these elements work so well in All the King's Men and not in other movies, where a mess is just a mess? I think the political nature of the film made it controversial from the get-go. It probably was severely edited to take out 'offensive' material (i.e. anything that might appear to reflect badly on an actual person). The quick, driving pace gives the film at times the sensibility of a tabloid, certainly not Rossen's intent, but luckily this let's-rip-the-lid-off-of-everything feeling that the movie just naturally has suggests perhaps an even deeper problem at the core of its story than just one crazy man's ambitions gone wild, and as a result the film is in many places suggestive, and seems profound when what lies behind this impression is perhaps a deliberate vagueness on the part of Rosson & Co., which in turn forces the viewer to try to sort things out for himself, using the movie as a series of signposts, and what results is a more profound experience than the film itself: the film one plays in one's mind.
  • Reporter Jack Burden is sent by his editor to Kanoma County to cover political newcomer Willie Stark. Stark is railing against corrupt officials and is arrested by the corrupt police. He is the overwhelming underdog and loses the race for treasurer. He studies law at night to become a lawyer. He rises in fame when he takes on the government for shoddy school construction that killed some children. The governor needs help to win and his handlers pick Stark to split the opposition hick vote. He starts off poorly but eventually becomes a populist who wins it all. In turn, Stark's idealism is corrupted by vanity and greed turning him into yet another corrupt politician.

    This is a terrific political drama. The acting is terrific from Broderick Crawford in the lead. Mercedes McCambridge is also terrific as political operator Sadie Burke. It takes a gritty dark look at the political system and its inherit corruption. It's also a character study of an idealistic man falling in love with his own persona. It is a long winding story which may be its only minor drawback. However Crawford's magnetic performance shines through.
  • Robert Rossen (The Hustler) had better luck with the story of Louisiana's Governor Huey Long as he managed to capture every Best Director award he was nominated for except the Oscar.

    The picture did win the Best Picture Award for my birth year, and the acting awards went to Broderick Crawford (Governor Stark/Long) and Mercedes McCambridge.

    The corruption of power, the sleaziness of the political process, the willingness of people to be used are all explored in this moving film. Again, as in the Hustler, Rossen uses the black and white medium to its full effectiveness as he presents a taut and moving study of the rise of Stark/Long and his downfall.

    "Jack, there's something on everybody. Man is conceived in sin and born in corruption. He passes from the stink of the dydie to the stench of the shroud. There's ALWAYS something."
  • Viewed this film years ago and always liked the acting style of Broderick Crawford. He had a rough and tough voice along with his face and built, and in this picture he gave an outstanding performance. Crawford played ( Willie Stark),"The Vulture",'67, who set out to become a governor and promised the working people everything that they ever wanted. Willie's big project was a hospital that would meet the needs of everyone that needed help and free of hospital fees. This film also has great character actors who went on to be come big names on the Silver Screen in Hollywood. This picture is one of Crawford's best films and it is truly a great Classic Film of the late 40's.
  • Power corrupts and politics is Power. That's the message of this film. Robert Penn Warren wrote the novel in the 30's, the movie was made in the 40's, and here it is 50 years later and the message is just as true then as it is now. Clinton selling pardons to raise money for his presidential library - and his long line of cheap floosies. Pick another politician, one you don't like, same story.

    However, this movie has another message, stated by the corrupt politician himself: out of evil comes good. That truth is the only thing that makes Democracy work. Even while Broderick Crawford's character was corrupt, Nixonian corruption – selling out to protect his own power, he still kept his promises: roads, schools, hospitals. He strong armed and blackmailed but he got them built.

    Yeah, Democracy is ugly, but no uglier than the human clay it is made out of. As Churchill said, 'Democracy is the worst form of all governments – except for everything else.' Sadly, 50 years from now someone could again watch this picture and still see their own society mirrored in its images. Thankfully, it will still be a great film with solid performances across the board, fast pacing and good writing. There's no wasted motion in this picture.

    Hopefully, 50 years from now, good will still come out of evil. However, there is one other truth: if there is too much evil……no good will come out of it. Let's hope there's never too much of it here in America......
  • For any movie buff, the simple thought of putting "All the King's Men" on the same level than "Citizen Kane" is a blasphemy but I'm not afraid to say it: once you see both movies, you realize how much they have in common and how sometimes the humblest "All the King's Men" slightly beats Orson Welles' masterpiece in its portrayal of power's corruptive effect. So, the title might sound derogatory but it's not meant that way.

    "Citizen Kane" was about a man with guts and vision, who got so alienated by his obsession to be the voice of people that he ultimately lost his touch with people and ended up miserably with no connection whatsoever with his cherished past. He was misunderstood, but he had it coming. "All the King's Men" is a character study chronicling the same psychological process but rhyming this time with success, it's about a Southern politician named Willie Stark who never forgot where he came from and never lost his touch, which made him even more dangerous.

    The story is adapted from a Pulitzer-prize winning novel of the same title written by Robert Penn Warren, and based on the rise and fall of the legendary populist politician Huey Long. The ascension of Willie Stark, played by a mesmerizing Broderick Crawford, is a fictionalization of Long's life and one of the most powerful political movies ever made, for the simple reason that it hasn't lost any of its relevance, as long as politics exist, there will be men like Stark. Yesterday, France was shaken by the victory of French Populist Party in the European elections, politicians acted surprised while they could have seen it coming. Basically, the winners spoke the people's language.

    It's as simple as that, you've got to put yourself in people's shoes and it's not any politician who can accomplish it. Some see their vocations as something that elevated them above the crowd, they're not leaders but prophets allowing people to embrace their own visions, but men like Willie Stark are within the crowd, not above it. The pivotal moment occurs when after failing attempts to seduce people by talking about fiscal measures and other non-inspirational stuff, good old honest Willie Stark, understands he was the puppet of his own detractors, gets drunk, tears up his paper and enraged by his own anger, gives one of these great roaring speeches tailor-made for the big screen.

    And the film, directed by Robert Rossen, features the kind of editing the genre requires, crowd close-ups, big headlines, and an unforgettable gallery of flawed characters, starting with the protagonist himself, Willie Stark, who starts out as a nice and honest fellow, struggling to raise his voice, a man of the people, and undeniably for the people, a man revered by the journalist played by John Ireland, but whose rise to power's collateral damage will be a decline of honesty. Power would plant the seeds of a cynical mind. "All the King's Men" starts like a Capra film but ends in a film-noir mood. After World War II, world turned out to be more disillusioned and cynical for "Mr Smith" figures, and it's only voices like Willie Stark's that can be heard.

    Indeed, good old Ma Joad said 'we're the people', but in 1949, only Stark could make this statement audible, embodying in his huge body and larger-than-life personal those "Grapes of Wrath". And once Stark realized he had a natural charisma and capability to move the crowds, it's like Forrest Gump's braces breaking, the repressed ego finally implodes to the face of the political scene and from respect, the eyes and hearts are fueled with admiration and fear, starring with his titular inner circle, Mercedes McCambridge plays a sort of Jean Hagen-like character, going from antagonist to main counselor, she delivers her first and greatest (rightfully Oscar-winning) performance as a little woman with the toughest heart, venting her lack of seducing appeal in her infatuation with Stark.

    The rest of the cast includes Joanne Dru as Ireland's girlfriend, she's literally blown away by Stark's appeal and although her performance might be the one aspect of the film I disliked (God, how many times she had to turn her head theatrically!) the twist in her character –in all the meanings of the words- was quite gutsy and politically incorrect for its time. And there's Broderick Crawford as Stark, in the role of a lifetime, earning him the Oscar for Best Actor. My other favorite performance from him is in Fellini's "Il Bidone" and it's quite ironic and befitting that he played a swindler in the film, while Rossen would also direct another classic and favorite of mine "The Hustler", after all, isn't a politician a kind of hustler with power as the pay-off?

    But I'm still puzzled with Stark's character (this is how fascinating he is): did he turn into a bad guy or was he prone to corruption from the very beginning, it's hard to tell, but some of his insightful thoughts say a lot about his vision of politics: "good comes from evil" "but, who defines evil?" retorts one of the film's reasonable minds. Stark doesn't care, as long as he builds roads, schools, hospitals, as long as he puts his state on the maps, and allow people to stop seeing themselves as hicks, he'll believe in anything he says and does. Tyranny? Dictatorship? Well, we live in a Macchiavellian world where ends justify the means, but as the narrative progresses, we're in the eye of the tornado and can't see if power is an end or a mean for Stark.

    And maybe this is the power of "All the King's Men", Best Picture winner in 1950, a powerful film about power … even more because it has the kind of straight-forward appeal as if it deliberately embraced the simplicity of the very people targeted by Stark... hence my title as the poor man's "Citizen Kane".
  • I've watched this movie many times over the past forty years and with changing opinion each time. There are some wonderful scenes that are tightly written, well-staged, and wonderfully acted, and they add tremendous color and life to the cinematization of a Great American Novel, but as years go by, my respect for the movie as art has diminished. Perhaps in its day, ATKM was a spectacular accomplishment, but I find it nowadays stiff and somewhat disjointed. The problem with trying to make a great book into a movie is that just cobbling the great parts out of the book together doesn't make the movie great. The Robert Penn Warren novel was extraordinarily complex and carefully paced to followed a dumb hick from the cotton fields to the pinnacle (and abuse) of power, but the movie tries to cram the entire story into the standard Hollywood two hours, and to do that, it has to lurch from high point to high point, like climbing all the Colorado Rocky Mountains by trying to hop from one fourteener to another. It just doesn't work. It's tough making a movie from a great book because lovers of the book like me will criticize it because it doesn't meet our expectations of the novel. "All The King's Men" as a book has aged like oak-casked whiskey; as a movie, the cork has leaked.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Willie Stark seems like a man of the people. He is, that is if those people suit his agenda. When first seen, he is running for County Treasurer, having discovered graft that causes a tragedy at an elementary school. When you're discovered to be right about corruption that caused the deaths of innocent children, you are sure to be labeled a hero. He decides to run for governor. But his opponents are ruthless. Then, so is Stark. When the next election comes up, Stark is a shoe-in, and he turns the state around with improvements that win him much popularity. How does he succeed? A little blackmail, a bit of bribery, and LOTS of bullying. That's how. What seemed to be for the good of the people now becomes a lot clearer to the people around him as well as his enemies. Those who oppose him are destroyed: financially, emotionally, brutally. There's rumors of murder, even a suicide. Someone has gotten too big for his britches!

    That's what this Oscar Winning film is all about-evil motives behind good intentions, and that leads to Dante's Inferno, of course. But before that happens, a lot of people have to suffer, and the people around Governor Stark don't see what their support of him is more destructive than they could possibly imagine. This is only my second viewing of this all-time classic, and my image of Broderick Crawford was as the outwardly bullying Harry Brock in 1950's "Born Yesterday", made right after this won him a deserving Oscar. The difference between Willie and Harry is that you know right from the beginning who Harry Brock is. Controlling, power-hungry, uncouth (to quote Judy Holliday in that movie), and downright brutish. But as Willie, he's a seemingly devoted husband and father, underneath it all, cheating on his wife and pushing his son onto greatness more than his son cares to be pushed. Willie Stark is the greatest liar politics has ever seen...on screen that is. But as they say, you can only fool some of the people some of the time, and it all comes out in the end.

    John Ireland is excellent as the reporter who leaves his job at the newspaper during Crawford's first run for governor to work for him. He will regret that decision for the remainder of his days as he sees the moral laws he will have to break. Joanne Dru is the sweet daughter of a judge opposed to Stark, but for some reason, she gets involved with him even though she was in love with Ireland. The most unforgettable performance, next to Crawford's, is Oscar Winning Mercedes McCambridge as a cold and calculating secretary to Crawford that is equally as ruthless as her boss. She's also envious, a fact she attributes to the small pox which left her face "hard", while Willie's long-suffering wife (Anne Seymour) has aged gracefully (with a conscience) and Dru is naturally beautiful. Among the smaller roles is Paul Ford in a dramatic part rare in his repertoire.

    Political dramas have dominated Hollywood history ever since cameras started turning, and the story of corruption, desperation for power over democracy and the destruction of one's own soul in order to get that power is a timeless theme that is as old as time itself. Perhaps people in office should be made to watch films like "All the King's Men", "State of the Union", "Advise and Consent" and "The Best Man" once a year simply to remind them of what their duties really are and to stop serving only those who give them the highest campaign contributions. The film's ending may be a drastic move in order to squelch political abuse, but it is a metaphor for what will happen to one's soul if they continue to follow the same paths as fictional politicians such as Willie Stark.
  • I loved this movie and don't compare it to a more modern film. This was made in 1949! Movies are going to improve with time like most anything. But time doesn't have to impact dialogue. This was a very well written movie and it shows a more sophistication that today's flics. There is no security of special effects to rely on.

    Crawford was magnificent in this move...any other opinion is misguided. It was a perfect cast. I think the other credits were overplayed...they were good, but not Oscar worthy. Crawford was the main man here.

    I am amazed this was made in '49 and love to visit life way before I was born. People don't change and the heart remains the same, be it 2005 or 1949.
  • 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
  • Broderick Crawford's performance as Willie Stark stands alone in my mind as the most powerful lead actor performance ever. His transformation and psyche are amazing. John Ireland is equally transfixing as his more intelligent but weak-backboned friend. Shepherd Strudwick, Anne Seymour, John Derek, Joanne Dru, and Will wright are also magnificent. But, Mercedes MacCambridge's discarded kingmaker is probably the most spellbinding of the bunch. A must see.
  • Robert Rossen does a great job directing this movie. But he did an even better job in a literate and crisp screenplay that brings the characters springing to life even better than they jumped off the pages in Robert Penn Warren's book. Rossen captures the essence of each character adroitly with concise yet revealing dialogue.

    Beyond Rossen's heroic exploits, the most memorable aspect of the film is the wealth of memorable performances. Broderick Crawford deserved his Oscar and then some for his charismatic turn of the well-meaning-hick-turned megalomaniac governor. Anne Seymour is quietly perfect as his wife. And Mercedes McCambridge nearly steals the film, giving one of the best supporting actress performances --- EVER. John Ireland totally captures the sophistry and spinelessness of the erudite yet ineffective Jack Burden. Other excellent performances are turned in by Shepard Strudwick, Joanne Dru, John Derek, and Will Wright.

    All in all, this is a great piece of American filmmaking.
  • ALL THE KING'S MEN is certainly a well acted political melodrama from a novel by Robert Penn Warren and BRODERICK CRAWFORD is an ideal candidate for the role of Willy Stark (based vaguely on Huey Long), but I never thought it deserved to win the Oscar for Best Film of the Year. In my opinion, that award should have gone to William Wyler's masterpiece, THE HEIRESS, a film whose reputation increased over the years while ATKM's has diminished.

    But putting personal preferences aside, ALL THE KING'S MEN is a riveting drama peppered with some fine performances, including JOHN IRELAND who serves as onlooker and narrator of the tale and MERCEDES McCAMBRIDGE as the cynical Sadie who won a Best Actress Supporting Role Oscar for her work.

    Stories of political corruption are nothing new--such material having been handled previously in stories like STATE OF THE UNION and bios like "Wilson" and "Tennessee Johnson", but never with such searing intensity. It begins with an awareness that Willy Stark is a man who wants the truth to be told in a world of dirty politics. John Ireland is the crusading reporter who is on his side in the belief that the man seeking office is an honest man. Ireland also takes time out for a brief romance with JOANNE DRU while the saga of Willie gets put aside for a brief time, but Dru later becomes Stark's mistress.

    Willie evolves from a green campaigner to a man who starts making deals and learns the rules of the game. After a couple of failed campaigns, he becomes a winner and presents himself as the champion of the people.

    But as times goes, and montage after montage shows us Willie's progress as a champion of the mob, we hear John Ireland's narration saying: "His little black book was a record of sin and corruption." In other words, there's nothing subtle about this tale. It's laid out in pretty direct terms for the viewers to deal with with no particular insight into the power of corruption.

    Technically speaking there are problems with the editing. Scenes are cut abruptly short with quick fade-outs as though someone censored parts of the story, and motivations of the quirky McCambridge character are not clearly spelled out at all nor is the romantic relationship with Joanne Dru. Both are glossed over by the script and only hinted at. As a matter of fact, none of the supporting roles--including SHEPPERD STRUDWICK as the man who never trusted Willie from the beginning, are really fleshed out in the script. His involvement in the ending comes as somewhat of a surprise.

    Summing up: Intriguing drama with some technical deficiencies including some choppy editing, but it probably got the award because of its "social significance", at a time when Hollywood was intent on producing such serious, almost documentary films. As for Broderick Crawford, I've liked him much better in other films.
  • Broderick Crawford turns in a fantastic lead performance but I was ultimately disappointed by "All the King's Men," especially given the hype and weight that follow it. If you read the book first, you'll be turned off by how much the script deviates from it in major, obvious ways. But taken on its own, the movie doesn't hold up well for modern audiences largely because it feels too black & white and because of some of the choices made by the performers and the score. The music is terribly overwritten, as is the case with many movies of this era that haven't aged well. Most of the characters are played with some depth, including Willie and Jack, even if the latter is made into too much of a boy scout in this version. But Anne is played as a nitwit with all kinds of dramatic head twisting while that aforementioned score cranks up and makes her scenes feel like the end of the world has come. This movie is terribly sad and its story is a classic meditation on the corruption of power. But of you really think about it, Willie isn't all bad. Even at his worst, he was still building great infrastructure, good schools and a beautiful hospital that would treat people for free. And clearly the people continue to love him. Throwing in the salacious storyline about his boys murdering man just for standing up to him was pointless Hollywood sensationalism. The scenes featuring Willie's speeches and the montages of clips during the time passages are brilliant and still intense but much of the movie sadly feels dated and overdone. After seeing stuff like "House of Cards," this feels pretty safe.
  • Contrary to what John Wayne claimed when he read the script, "All the King's Men" is not smearing the American way of life. What it's doing is showing the unfortunate reality of our political system, as idealistic lawyer Willie Stark (Broderick Crawford) runs for governor on a populist platform but falls prey to corruption once in office. Watching the movie, one can feel the tension between the various parties involved in the events portrayed, especially as Willie becomes just like the people whom he previously condemned, covering up misdeeds and granting favors to cronies.

    If this seems like it mirrors current events, it shouldn't be any surprise. Of course, these sorts of things are nothing new, as "ATKM" was based on the career of Huey Long. I would actually say that the president who most represents Willie Stark is Bill Clinton, who had good ideas but sold out.

    Anyway, this is a movie that I recommend. Also starring Joanne Dru, Mercedes McCambridge and John Derek. I as yet haven't seen last year's remake.
  • Willie Stark is an upstanding pillar of the community, when he is coaxed into standing in the local election he gets a thirst for politics. As he progresses through the political ranks he loses sight of the very things that he first stood for, with him, and all those associated with him getting muddier by the day.

    Adapted by Robert Rossen (director and screenplay) from the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Robert Penn Warren, All The King's Men is the story about the rise and fall of a rotten politician. Almost certainly based on Louisiana Governor, Huey Pierce Long, it's a towering piece of work that is as politically cynical as it is ego centrically human. Not merely just another film about "when good guys go bad", this picture serves notice to the many things that drives politics on, for better or worse. The role of the press is under scrutiny for example, and just how come simple things such as rallies can be staged by some conniving aide sitting at the back? All roads in this gritty piece are paved with suspicious looking stones, the very foundations of which have been murkily formed.

    It's a testament to Rossen and his excellent cast that All The King's Men is still as potent today as it obviously was back at the tail end of the 40s. Every once in a while a similarly themed film will come our way, but few, if any, can boast the hard hitting realism that seams throughout Rossen's film. Helped by location shooting at run down Stockton in California, and boosted by a powerhouse performance from Broderick Crawford as Stark, this film most definitely is a hallmark in the political genre. Nominated for seven Academy Awards, it won three in the main categories, Best Actor (Crawford), Best Picture (rightly) and Best Supporting Actress (Mercedes McCambridge with an incredible debut performance). 9/10
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