Classic Film Guide

All the King's Men (1949)

Broderick Crawford gives a tour-de-force (and Academy Award Best Actor) characterization of Willie Stark, from the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Robert Penn Warren (ostensibly based on the life of Louisiana Governor Huey Long). Most of the other characters, even Mercedes McCambridge who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar (in her screen debut!) for her performance, are wooden by comparison. John Ireland received his only Oscar recognition (a Supporting Actor nomination) as the writer who follows Stark's career. A longish film which is always timely for its demagoguery. Originally setup as a pawn by a political machine determined to reelect the incumbent by drawing (the "hick") votes from the "real" opposition, Stark gets "smart" and bullies his way to his state's top office in the subsequent election four years later. Producer Robert Rossen not only took home the Best Picture Oscar, but his Directing and Screenplay were also nominated; the film's Editing was nominated as well. It's essentially the classic tale of an initially honest man whose newfound self awareness and then boundless ambition drives him to "prove" the old adage that "absolute power corrupts absolutely". Added to the National Film Registry in 2001.

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