Writer-director Robert Rossen and character actors Broderick Crawford and Mercedes McCambridge (in her film debut) took home Oscars (for Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Supporting Actress, respectively) for this excelle... more »nt adaptation of Robert Penn Warren's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. Crawford stars as Willie Stark, a charismatic populist Southern politician (inspired by the real Louisiana Governor Huey Long) who belies his "man of the people" roots as he ruthlessly maneuvers, lies, and deals his way into the halls of power. John Ireland is his right-hand man, Jack Burden, a newsman turned political flack who hangs on to Stark's early idealism even in the face of Stark's most reprehensible acts of corruption. McCambridge is Stark's cool mistress come calculating assistant. The immediacy of the drama is due in part to a documentary-like style, notably in the scenes on the campaign trail where Stark sways crowds with his folksy rhetoric and estimable charm. Joanne Dru and John Derek also costar. Rossen's savage screenplay and firm direction give the film a powerful punch, but it's Crawford's blustery charm and oversized performance that carry the picture. --Sean Axmaker« less
In Spite of Flaws, This Political Noir Is Still Powerful
Gary F. Taylor | Biloxi, MS USA | 06/08/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"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 govenor by a political party seeking to defeat their opponet 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."
The classic still packs a punch
magellan | Santa Clara, CA | 01/15/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I'm not much for political movies and thrillers, but I was pleasantly surprised to find this old classic still packs a considerable punch. Based on the life of Huey Long, it chronicles the rise to power of an obscure but ambitious backwoods Louisiana lawyer, Willie Stark, who initially seems to stand for honesty and reform in contrast to the entrenched and corrupt political machine he is fighting, which is determined to defeat him at all costs, rightly perceiving an honest man as a threat to everything they stand for. Stark triumphs, however, and we watch as he himself takes on the trappings of official power, which he takes to like a duck to water. Stark builds new schools and colleges, hospitals for the poor, improves the roads, and seems to be everything the common man could hope for in a champion and leader. But there is a darker side to Stark, as he himself ultimately becomes assimilated by the corrupt machine he sought to topple and reform, and evidence surfaces that he has not only tolerated and even fostered corruption himself but was possibly involved in the murder of an innocent man who dared to challenge his authority. In the end, we see Stark using the same means and ends to further his power and to hold it at all costs that his enemies used against him at the very beginning of his career.The movie raises the question as to whether Stark was really any different from the corrupt cronies he replaced, and the schools and hospitals he built just monuments to his ego and arrogance, or whether he was a good man who ultimately went bad in his quest and thirst for power. The question is left open for the viewer to decide, as Stark's career comes to a sudden and tragic end during a campaign where he's fighting for his political survival after he's finally implicated in the murder of the innocent man.Broderick Crawford, John Ireland, and Mercedes McCambridge are really superb in their roles, and the movie is shot in dark, film noir style, which helps create an appropriately dark, conspiratorial mood and ambience. Overall, still a great movie and as I said, one that still packs a considerable punch and continues to be relevant today in its message about the dangers of demogogues and the abuse of raw, unchecked, political power."
Very Well Written and Expertly Acted Film About Politics!
Bertin Ramirez | San Ysidro, California United States | 06/20/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This film is a fascinating study of the political process. It depicts the rise and fall of a Huey Long-like character, from his idealized beginning to his slow descent into corruption, alcoholism, blackmail and greed. Broderick Crawford gives the performance of a lifetime as Willie Stark, his powerful screen presence makes us at first admire his character, then we slowly start feeling bad for him, but at the same time scares and ultimately we get to pity this man that was corrupted by the system. Assured direction by Robert Rossen and a superb script keep the film moving at a steady pace. Also an amazing supporting cast of which Mercedes McCambridge stands out as Stark's tough-as-nails assistant. From a scale of 1-10 I give this film a 7!"
This Is How To Make An Unbiased Political Movie
Craig Connell | Lockport, NY USA | 04/15/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"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, especially since it's offered on DVD with a good transfer."
Never again as good. Brodrick Crawford is another of that
JOHN GODFREY | Milwaukee ,WI USA | 06/15/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"select group of actors who peak early in their career. In his case it is 1949, he won an Oscar, & never again got close. Eventually Crawford moved to the small screen where we,of a certain age, remember him on "Highway Patrol". But his best was better than most. His character, in All the King's Men, is Willie Stark, an idealistic, honest, populist politician bucking the system. He is also ambitious & seeing his opportunity, seizes it. His greed, lust for power & ego run amok & turn him into the very thing he had fought against only worse. He corrodes everything & everybody he touches & comes to a fitting end a 'la Huey Long, the man on which the film & presumably the book were loosely based. Highly recommended for all who like this style of political noir or junkies."