Monday, February 4, 2008

All the King's Men (1948)

"All the King's Men" (Robert Rossen, 1948) The Oscar-winner for Best Picture of 1949 and it's hard to argue. Rossen's adaptation of Robert Penn Warren's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about the corrupting powers of politics, it boasts two powerful (and Oscar-winning)performances: Broderick Crawford as innocent-turned-player Willie Stark and Mercedes McCambridge as his cynical-to-the-marrow political assistant. McCambridge is so good and so inventive that she might just as well have been given the statue for the next five years. Would that the other performances have been as electric as these two, but one could say that they shine even more brightly next to the lesser lights. It's particularly interesting to see Crawford so restrained at the beginning of the film, but once he sees how the game is played he turns on the after-burners and soars over everybody else in the frame with him. Mention should be made of the ocassional glimpses of a documentary style in the rally scenes amid the more traditionally blocked studio framing. And the film may seem a bit abrupt in places--but that's because Rossen, determined to get the film below two hours, gave his editor instructions to take most of the scenes and cut precisely thirty seconds from the front of it and thirty seconds from the back (making sure not to clip off any dialog). What was left was the hard nugget of the scene's core and "All the King's Men" feels more brutal in its pace and attitude because of this uncompromising strategy.

No comments: