#516) Commandment Keeper Church, Beaufort South Carolina, May 1940 (1940)

#516) Commandment Keeper Church, Beaufort South Carolina, May 1940 (1940)

OR “The Mark of Zora”

Directed by Zora Neale Hurston

Class of 2005

Not a lot of clips I could easily imbed for this post, so here’s a video on Zora Neale Hurston.

NOTE: Zora Neale Hurston’s raw footage of “Commandment Keeper Church” is 42 minutes, and this write-up is based on my viewing of a 16-minute edit made available on The Criterion Channel. 

OTHER NOTE: Zora Neale Hurston is a very important, nuanced figure in not only African-American history but also American history period. This post can only scratch the surface, and researching her life and work is well worth your time. A good starting point is her official website! 

The Plot: On the weekend of May 18th-19th, 1940, African-American anthropologist and author Zora Neale Hurston arrived in Beaufort, South Carolina with a skeleton crew to record the religious services at Commandment Keeper Church. The raw footage, mixed in some prints with raw audio of the visit, commemorates an energetic gathering at the church, complete with musical performances and an enthusiastic sermon. What seems like an ordinary church service is a record of specific time and place from one of the 20th century’s most notable Americans.

Why It Matters: The NFR admits that the film is “worthy of recognition” because of the then-recently discovered sound recordings that had been synched to the film. There’s also a more supportive essay by religious expert Fayth M. Parks, who is so far the only NFR essayist who mentions their Twitter account.

But Does It Really?: You had me at Zora Neale Hurston. I’m embarrassed to say I knew nothing about Ms. Hurston prior to this viewing, and researching her life for this post has been a satisfying experience. Like the congregation at Commandment Keeper Church, I have seen the light, and recognize Zora Neale Hurston for the significant figure she is. No argument here for the film’s NFR inclusion.

Everybody Gets One: Zora Neale Hurston grew up in Eatonville, Florida, one of the first all-black cities in America. It was during her time at Barnard College that Hurston started to seriously study anthropology, earning her degree in the subject in 1928. Hurston focused on studying various black cultures both in America and abroad. In addition, her research served as inspiration for her fiction novels, most notably the Harlem Renaissance classic “Their Eyes Were Watching God”. In 1940, fellow anthropologist Jane Belo commissioned Hurston to film religious services in Beaufort, South Carolina based on the success of Margaret Meade’s “Trance and Dance in Bali”.

Wow, That’s Dated: As a pseudo-sequel to the Solomon Sir Jones films, “Commandment Keeper” shows the evolution of “Sunday Best” clothing 15 years later. And Beaufort’s warmer weather gives us a better look at the suits and dresses no longer covered in winter coats.

Other notes

  • If you’re watching this footage with audio, keep in mind it’s not meant to synchronize with the film. The audio is courtesy of the Hurston collection in the Library of Congress, based on field recordings made at the same time as this film. The sound was recorded at a different speed than the film, making total synchronization a challenge for the Library of Congress.
  • I appreciate Commandment Keeper Church’s simple mission: You see those ten rules in stone? That’s what we’re going by.
  • The service at Commandment Keeper Church is very different from my experience in Catholic mass growing up. For starters, I was told to remain seated. But what if the spirit moves me?
  • It’s hard to understand what this congregation is actually singing, but you don’t need subtitles to know what they’re feeling.
  • There are a variety of percussion instruments being used here, but someone really loves cymbals, there are at least three pairs. Of course, with the right attitude, any two objects can become cymbals.
  • Look for Zora Neale Hurston making a director’s cameo playing a pair of rattles.
  • My takeaway from this film (especially once it moves outdoors) is that a church isn’t just a building; it’s a state of being anytime a group of devout followers gather. Not bad for a religious cynic like me.

Legacy

  • Like many of the greats, Zora Neale Hurston didn’t start getting serious recognition until long after her passing. Interest in Hurston’s work was revived in the early 2000s, resulting in a slew of tributes and honors. In 2014, she received the highest honor bestowed on any American: a Google Doodle.
  • Zora Neale Hurston is so prolific that she’s still getting new material published! Her non-fiction book “Barracoon: The Story of the Last ‘Black Cargo’” about the Atlantic slave trade failed to find a publisher in 1931 and was stored away for decades until being rediscovered in the early 2000s. “Barracoon” was finally published in 2018, 58 years after Hurston’s death.
  • In 1971, future “The Color Purple” novelist Alice Walker found the unmarked grave Zora Neale Hurston was buried in, and paid for a new marker praising Hurston as “A Genius of the South.”

#515) Empire (1964)

#515) Empire (1964)

OR “485 Minutes of Fame”

Directed by Andy Warhol and John Palmer

Class of 2004

There’s no way I can cover everything about Andy Warhol and pop art in this post, but Warhol’s work is fascinating and definitely worth a look. A good place to start is the official website for the Andy Warhol Museum in his home town of Pittsburgh.

The Plot: The Empire State Building.

That’s it. That’s the whole movie. It’s one static shot of the Empire State Building from late evening to early morning. That’s your movie. But why look at the Empire State Building for a few moments when you can watch it for 485 minutes (a little over 8 hours)?

Why It Matters: The NFR calls it “[p]erhaps Warhol’s most famous and influential cinematic work”, and stating that the film “redefines concepts of perception, action and cinematic time.” The write-up also includes a photo of the Empire State Building…in 1937. Interesting choice.

But Does It Really?: I will never scale Everest, nor will I see many of the Earth’s natural wonders, but today I watched Andy Warhol’s “Empire” from start to finish. Andy Warhol is the definitive pop artist of the 20th century, and his work should be preserved wherever it can. Having one of Warhol’s films on the NFR is a natural choice, and “Empire” stands out for its innovation and continued polarizing reception (“Nothing happens!”). A yes for “Empire” and its NFR inclusion, but please, you don’t need to spend eight hours watching this. Let that be my cross to bear.

Everybody Gets One: Andy Warhol spent most of the ’50s as an advertising illustrator in New York, doing his own work on the side and gaining interest in the rising pop art movement. His success as a pop art painter led to his expansion to other artforms, including music, and of course movies. Warhol attended the premiere of the 1962 static musical composition “Trio for Strings” and was inspired to create the first “static film”. His first such film was 1963’s “Sleep”, 321 minutes of Warhol’s then-partner John Giorno sleeping.

Seriously, Oscars?: Oh how I wish “Empire” (or any of Warhol’s films) had gotten some Oscar attention. Imagine how long the acceptance speech would have been…

Other notes 

  • In 1930, construction began on a new office building that would replace the original Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Financed by Empire State Inc., the building was originally to be 50 stories tall, but the “race to the sky” skyscraper competition of the late 1920s led to the plans being revised. The Empire State Building was completed in 1931, coming in at 102 stories and 1,454 feet tall, a world record at the time.
  • The idea for “Empire” came when filmmaker John Palmer was working for Jonas Mekas’ Film Maker’s Cooperative and took naps on the roof, which offered an impressive view of the Empire State Building. In 1964, the Empire State received floodlights so that the top of the landmark could be seen from that summer’s World’s Fair. Palmer thought the image of the building in floodlights would make a good Warhol film, and Mekas sold Warhol on the idea. Warhol repeatedly stated that the purpose of the film is “to see time go by”.
  • “Empire” was shot on the 41st floor of the Time-Life Building, about a mile away from the Empire State Building. Filming commenced at 8:06pm on Friday, July 24th, 1964, ending at 2:42am on Saturday, July 25th. Warhol, Palmer, Mekas, and a few others were at the shoot, and I wish that they had recorded the sound. To be a fly on that wall.
  • While “Empire” was shot at the standard framerate of 24 frames per second, Warhol had the filmed screened at 16 fps, extending the runtime by about 20%.
  • Warhol initially didn’t have any money to pay the film processor, so John Palmer agreed to co-finance, on the condition he receive co-director credit on the final film.
  • Watch closely during the reel changes; Andy Warhol and Jonas Mekas had to turn on the lights during the reel changes, and you can occasionally see their reflections at the beginning of a few reels.
  • Having now sat through this film, I’ll say that the first hour and a half is the best chunk. You watch as the sky changes from day to night, as one by one the city lights turn on, and the architectural details of the Empire State appear. It’s natural light giving way to artificial light.
  • I was not expecting so many planes in this film. It seems like every 30 seconds a flight is zipping across the screen (no doubt from LaGuardia or the recently renamed JFK). Most suprising was how many of these flights can be seen even late into the film’s shoot. How many redeyes were there in 1964? Also, this technically counts as the “Everybody Gets One” for all the passengers and crews.
  • Last summer I visited the Andy Warhol exhibit at the SFMoMA, going in with only the CliffsNotes version of Warhol (“the Campbell’s Soup guy with the hair”). While I’m sure there’s plenty of layers and commentary I didn’t get from viewing his art, they all had the same message for me: Look closer. You see this soup can every day, but have you ever really looked at? What about Marilyn Monroe’s face or the dollar bill? What do you notice when you really look at them? In “Empire”, we get that same idea in film: What if you just stared at a national landmark for 8 hours? What would you see? Personally I saw an iconic building that maintains its uniqueness amidst a sea of other well-known skyscrapers. A landmark’s landmark, if you will.
  • I was not expecting this film to have a twist ending! About 7 1/2 hours into the movie, the Empire State floodlights are turned off. You spend the last half hour of the movie in almost total darkness, proof at how important the footlights were in the presentation of “Empire”.

Legacy 

  • “Empire” premiered in March 1965 at the City Hall Cinema in Manhattan, and according to the Village Voice, a large amount of the opening night audience walked out after 10 minutes demanding their money back.
  • In a span of 14 years, Andy Warhol made 60 films and hundreds of shorts, though became more removed from the process following being shot at in 1968.
  • In the early 1970s, Warhol removed his films – including “Empire” – from circulation. After Warhol’s death in 1987, his films were revived and re-evaluated. In the interim, “Empire” had received a reputation of being “unwatchable”, which led to its notoriety. The film has since been screened in countless museums in exhibitions.
  • I guess Jared Leto is playing Andy Warhol in a new movie? I don’t know…maybe Leto will put his Method Acting to good use and become a pop artist.
  • Although it lost its standing as the New York’s tallest building in 1970 to the World Trade Center, the Empire State Building is still a New York landmark, and is visited by over four million tourists a year (Except maybe this year).

Further Viewing: I will take this opportunity to remind everyone that Andy Warhol appeared as himself in a 1985 episode of “The Love Boat”, in which he reunites with a former “Warhol Superstar” played by Marion Ross. It’s…something.

#514) The Wedding March (1928)

#514) The Wedding March (1928)

OR “The Honeymoon Is Over”

Directed by Erich von Stroheim

Written by von Stroheim and Harry Carr

Class of 2003 

The Plot: In Vienna on the verge of the Great War, Prince Nickolas (Erich von Stroheim) is encouraged by his parents (George Fawcett & Maude George) to marry for money instead of love. During a cavalry procession on Corpus Christi, Nickolas meets Mitzi (Fay Wray), a beautiful disabled woman who is engaged to abusive butcher Schani Eberle (Matthew Betz). While Nicki and Mitzi have a secret courtship, Nicki’s parents arrange for him to marry Cecelia Schweisser (ZaSu Pitts), the daughter of a wealthy factory owner. All of this comes to a head at –

Much like “The Wedding March”, the second half of this plot synopsis is missing, presumably lost forever.

Why It Matters: While the NFR write-up is a straightforward account of plot and production, the essay by film archivist Crystal Kui is a much more appreciative dissection of the movie.

But Does It Really?: My take on “The Wedding March” is about the same as my previous posts on von Stroheim’s films; a lavish production with an intriguing behind-the-scenes story, but ultimately a viewing experience reserved solely for film buffs. It doesn’t help that “Wedding March” is, in a sense, an incomplete film (more on that later). While Erich von Stroheim is an important filmmaker in the history of the movies, anything on this list other than “Greed” is, much like von Stroheim’s films, a bit excessive.

Everybody Gets One: Harry Carr was primarily a newspaper reporter, best known for his coverage of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. His subsequent film and theater criticism were also well received, and Erich von Stroheim was one of many filmmakers who called on Carr to co-write and “humanize” their screenplays.

Title Track: If you’re watching the 1998 restored version, you do indeed get to hear Wagner’s “Bridal Chorus“, aka “The Wedding March”. No one is certain when exactly we got the “Here Comes the Bride” lyrics, nor the line about “the bluest sky you’ve ever seen, in Seattle“.

Other notes 

  • The main thing to know about “The Wedding March” is that what you’re watching is the surviving first half of a much longer movie. The second half of the original film followed Nicki and Cecelia on their honeymoon, with its own melodramatic, tragic results. We’ll discuss what became of “The Honeymoon” in the Legacy section.
  • After parting ways with MGM in 1925, Erich von Stroheim persuaded independent producer Pat Powers to co-finance his next film. Powers was aware of von Stroheim’s difficult reputation, but was convinced he could reign von Stroheim in, and arranged for Paramount to distribute “The Wedding March”. Production of “The Wedding March” began in June 1926, and ended in January 1927; not because the film was done, but because Paramount shut down production after the budget quadrupled from $300,000 to $1,250,ooo.
  • This movie answers the question “Name a second Fay Wray movie“. Speaking of, who do you think Fay Wray would rather work with again: von Stroheim or King Kong?
  • Having now seen all three of von Stroheim’s NFR films, it’s interesting that they are all about money and how it motivates and/or corrupts people. It’s almost like von Stroheim had previous experience being financially irresponsible. I’m just glad he didn’t go into accounting.
  • The Corpus Christi procession sequence is all of von Stroheim’s excess in one sequence: a full battalion with authentic outfits and weaponry, hundreds of extras, an exact replica of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, and to top it all off, the whole sequence is in two-strip Technicolor!
  • An example of von Stroheim’s authentic attention to detail: a recreation of an entire apple orchid with thousands of individual blossoms tied to each tree. As von Stroheim was quoted as saying about his critics, “They say I give them sewers – and dead cats! This time I am giving them Beauty. Beauty – and apple blossoms! More than they can stand!”
  • So, everyone in Mitzi’s life is the absolute worst. Physical abuse, verbal abuse: I’m rooting for Mitzi and Nicki to get together just so she can escape from these awful people.
  • Even by von Stroheim’s standards, every scene in this movie is torturously drawn out. Though to be fair, all of these scenes were supposed to be the set-up in a longer movie’s first half.
  • The only people of color in this movie are the prostitutes in the brief orgy scene, and the demonic “Iron Man” at the end. Great, Erich, just great.
  • Ah, drunken intertitles: a lost art-form. “Wedding March” opts for drunken title cards that double as stuttering. “y-you h-have – a n-nice son.”
  • ZaSu Pitts really doesn’t get a lot to do in this movie. Maybe she had a bigger role in “The Honeymoon”?
  • While trying to convince Nicki to marry Cecelia, Nicki’s mother Princess Maria sits on his lap. What is this, “Hamlet”?
  • Von Stroheim takes the distressing wedding sequence from “Greed” and gives the climactic wedding ceremony here even more doom and gloom, including skeleton hands playing the organ! Seeing as how von Stroheim was on marriage #3 during production, I understand his expert knowledge/judgmental trepidation in regards to wedding ceremonies.
  • The ending is definitely an unintentional letdown. Without the follow-up film, “The Wedding March” ends on a cliffhanger with no resolution that doubles as a very dour standalone conclusion.

Legacy 

  • As we’ve come to expect from von Stroheim at this point, the first cut of “The Wedding March” was eight hours! Like “Greed”, von Stroheim intended to release “Wedding March” as two four-hour films, but Paramount called upon director Josef von Sternberg to cut the two films down to one film of manageable length. After an unsuccessful sneak preview, Paramount relented and released the film as two parts: “The Wedding March” and “The Honeymoon”.
  • “The Wedding March” was released in October 1928. In the almost two years that the film spent in post-production, “talkies” became the new industry standard, with silent movies an outdated relic. “The Wedding March” was a box office failure, which caused Paramount to cancel the release of “The Honeymoon” (though it did end up being released in Europe and South America).
  • After being fired from his next two films, Erich von Stroheim moved away from directing and pivoted towards acting. Highlights include Jean Renoir’s “La Grande Illusion” and Billy Wilder’s “Sunset Boulevard“.
  • In the early 1950s, von Stroheim was given an opportunity by the Cinémathèque Française to recut “The Wedding March” and “The Honeymoon”, possibly the first known director’s cut of a film. Unfortunately, this cut, as well as the last known print of “The Honeymoon”, was destroyed in a fire at the Cinémathèque Française in 1959, making “The Honeymoon” a lost film.

#513) From Stump to Ship (1930)

#513) From Stump to Ship (1930)

OR “The Maine Event”

Directed by Alfred K. Ames and Dr. Howard Kane

Class of 2002

The Plot: The NFR heads up to Machias, Maine for “From Stump to Ship”. Like the title suggests, the film is a documentation of the logging industry in 1930, from the cutting of the trees to its transport down the Machias River, to its preparation in a lumber mill, to its final loading on a boat bound for New York. Filmed by politician Alfred K. Ames, who would often narrate the film during public screenings.

Why It Matters: The NFR gives a rundown, and praises Ames (and Dr. Howard Kane) for “creat[ing] a cinematic record of the lumber industry.” There’s also an essay by Karan Sheldon, New England film archivist and advocate for home movies and amateur films, making her the perfect person to cover “Stump”.

But Does It Really?: Oh yeah. “From Stump to Ship” definitely stands on its own piece of ground compared to other NFR films: a detailed look at the long-gone logging procedures of the 1930s, as well as the kind of presentations Alfred Ames would give to his constituents. Thanks to this 30-minute documentation, I feel wholly qualified to be a 1930s logger; and for that I support this film’s NFR designation.

Everybody Gets One: In addition to owning the Machias Lumber Company, Albert K. Ames was a noted Maine politician, serving three terms in the Maine Senate. While not a professional or amateur filmmaker, Ames was interested in filming the logging process for his future campaign for governor as a way to show people how successful his business was. Fun Fact: the K stands for Kellar.

Wow, That’s Dated: Besides the obvious evolutions in logging technology, Ames mentions one of his employees, “Al Smith, not of New York”, a reference to the former New York Governor of the same name.


Other notes

  • While Ames was the main force behind the film, Washington D.C. physician Howard Kane was recruited to film footage from inside the sawmill. I’m still not sure how or why Kane got involved. While Ames makes several Hitchcock cameos throughout, Howard had to be coerced into his brief on-camera appearances. 
  • What I most appreciate about this narration is that Alfred Ames credits everyone. As each of the loggers makes an appearance, Ames mentions them by name, making sure that these long-gone men get a reprieve from anonymity.
  • The version I watched was the 1985 reconstruction with the original narration intact. This of course reignited my fascination with the Maine accent: Not quite posh New Englander, not quite slurred Bostontian. It always ends up sounding like Jimmy Stewart, or someone warning the teens about the haunted house down the road yonder.
  • I want to know who looked at all these logs travelling down a river and thought, “This would make a great amusement park ride, but it should be themed around the most problematic IP possible.”
  • I have a new goal in life, and it’s to confidently cross a river by walking on moving logs. Your move, Bakhtiari.
  • Did you know that the phrases “high and dry” and “come hell or high water” both come from log driving terms? The things I learn while researching this blog…
  • In the end, while the logging depicted in this film is an impressive undertaking of manpower, you can’t help but be saddened by the massive destruction of our forests. This may be the Lorax’s least favorite movie (besides “The Lorax“).

Legacy

  • A few months after this footage was filmed, Alfred Ames sold 115,000 acres of wood to a paper mill company. While Ames never made another film, William Kane continued his hobby of amateur filmmaking for the rest of his life.
  • Alfred Ames ran for Governor of Maine in 1932, using “From Stump to Ship” on his campaign tour. Ames lost this bid, as well as his subsequent campaign in 1934.
  • Logging is still around, though river log driving was phased out in the ’70s due to environmental/safety hazards. That being said, logging is still one of the most dangerous industries in the U.S., with a fatality rate far higher than the national average.
  • “From Stump to Ship” languished in obscurity until the early ’80s, when the Maine Humanities Council funded a reconstruction of the film, now called “From Stump to Ship: A 1930 Logging Film”. Ames’ original script was found, and actor Tim Sample was brought in to record the narration. More recent screenings have opted to use the original silent film with live narration.

#512) All the King’s Men (1949)

#512) All the King’s Men (1949)

OR “Stark Complexion”

Directed & Written by Robert Rossen. Based on the novel by Robert Penn Warren.

Class of 2001

The Plot: Newspaper reporter Jack Burden (John Ireland) is assigned to write about Willie Stark (Broderick Crawford), a small town political hopeful with an anti-corruption platform. Jack sees Willie as a man who speaks the truth on behalf of the people, and joins his campaign. Aided by his ruthless campaign manager Sadie Burke (Mercedes McCambridge), Stark rallies the citizens of his state behind him and gets elected governor. As Stark gains power, he becomes just as corrupt as his predecessors, and everyone around him becomes equally amoral. It’s a tale of power and money, and may or may not be based on Louisiana political powerhouse Huey Long

Why It Matters: The NFR gives a rundown of plot and Oscar wins, with the only commentary being that director Robert Rossen “injects a note of ambiguity” into the characterization of Willie Stark.

But Does It Really?: As happens from time to time on this blog, my viewing of “All the King’s Men” set off my sixth sense that something was amiss. Typically this is either the film’s production woes or some meddling with the source material. Turns out that for “All the King’s Men”, it’s both. While not a bad movie by any stretch, “King’s” suffers from its deletions, be they elements from the original novel or scenes from the final film. The result is a bit muddled and confusing, but you see the remnants of good work throughout, especially by Crawford and McCambridge. I’m still on the fence regarding this film’s NFR standing, but “All the King’s Men” has enough political bite to warrant a viewing 70 years later.

Wow, That’s Dated: Mostly the more dated aspects of politics, such as whistle stop train tours, and corruption being viewed as an anomaly rather than the status quo.

Title Track: The title, of course, is derived from “Humpty Dumpty” (who, like Willie Stark, had a great fall). The title is also likely a reference to Huey Long’s “Every Man a King” slogan, as well as his nickname “The Kingfisher”.

Seriously, Oscars?: “All the King’s Men” entered the Oscar race with seven nominations, one behind that year’s leader, “The Heiress”. While the awards were pretty evenly handed out amongst “The Heiress”, “Twelve O’Clock High” and “A Letter to Three Wives”, “King’s” managed three big wins: Actor for Crawford, Supporting Actress for McCambridge, and Best Picture. “King’s” is one of the rare Best Picture recipients to not win for its director or screenplay.

Other notes 

  • “All the King’s Men” novelist Robert Penn Warren was open about Willie Stark being largely based on Louisiana Governor (later Senator) Huey Long. Both Long and Stark began as small town lawyers, lost their first major political race, won a later race by highlighting class divisions, and were assassinated on the steps of their State Capitol. Warren did, however, refuse to declare his book either a praise or condemnation of Long, stating, “For better or worse, Willie Stark was not Huey Long. Willie was only himself.”
  • This movie was filmed partially in my hometown of Stockton, California. Willie’s victory speech is given at the landmark Hotel Stockton, and the Stockton Courthouse was used for the final scene. It’s always nice to be able to mention one of Stockton’s more positive claims to fame rather than, ya know, all the other stuff.
  • Because of political neutrality in films during the Production Code era, there is no specific mention of Stark’s political party, nor the state he becomes governor of. I’ll go ahead and say he’s from West Dakota, running as part of the Donner Party. Every Man an Entrée!
  • There are a lot of political moments in this film that ring true in a modern viewing (Check the publication date on this post: you’ll see where I’m coming from). “King’s” is further proof that the problems regarding American politics are eternal, and that one candidate can go a long way based on how loudly they speak and how much they can whip their followers into a frenzy. Side note: no matter how enthusiastic you are for your candidate, torches are never a good look for a crowd.
  • I liked Mercedes McCambridge a lot in this film. Primarily a radio actor, McCambridge is making her film debut here, playing a rarity in 1949: a woman driven more by her career than any man in her life. Although Sadie doesn’t have a lot of screentime, McCambridge is always compelling to watch whenever she pops up.
  • As with any film adaptation of a novel, “King’s” has its share of alterations. The main one is the focus away from Jack Burke and more towards Willie Stark (Jack himself even states “I’m not the hero of this piece”). Also missing is most of the seedier aspects of the novel, either deleted outright or alluded to with characters talking in half sentences. “Are you saying he was a…”
  • My suspicion that these montages are comprised of deleted scenes was correct. Robert Rossen’s original cut was over four hours long! Rossen instructed editors Al Clark and Robert Parrish to find the pivotal moment of each scene, and cut 100 feet from either side (roughly 2 minutes of film). This brought the final cut down to 110 minutes, and explains why there are so many quick, jarring cuts throughout the movie. If this film was made today I’m sure there’d be petitions to release the Extended Director’s Cut.
  • Willie Stark puts his name on all of his buildings, and is eventually acquitted from an impeachment. He’s not entirely a Trump metaphor, but damn if he’s not close.
  • Clearly I am not a student of history, as the assassination ending took me by surprise. We get a bit of chaos in the immediate aftermath, followed by Stark’s dying words and a quick fade to black. This ending combines my two frequent notes “What is happening?” and “Wait, that’s it?”

Legacy 

  • “All the King’s Men” has received a few remakes over the years, most notably a 2006 film version with Sean Penn that, despite an A-list roster of talent, failed to make an impact with critics and audiences. As Rotten Tomatoes put it “these Men give Oscar bait a bad name.”  
  • Director Robert Rossen continued to make movies, except when he was briefly blacklisted by HUAC after pleading the fifth, though he did eventually name names. Rossen would go on to make fellow NFR entry “The Hustler“, but retired from filmmaking shortly before his death in 1966.
  • Broderick Crawford became a Columbia contract player following his success in “King’s Men”, and the next year played a similar heavy role in “Born Yesterday“. Crawford spent the next 30 years playing various tough guys on film and TV, most notably on “Highway Patrol”.
  • And of course, Bob Woodward & Carl Bernstein would evoke this film’s title with their book (and future NFR movie) “All the President’s Men“.

Listen to This: Huey Long’s 1935 “Every Man a King” speech was added to the National Recording Registry in 2003. There’s also an essay by special guest writer Christopher H. Sterling.