81 Days With Oscar And Me

Every Academy Award-Winning Movie, Back to Back, Starting With the First

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All The King’s Men

September 10th, 2009 · No Comments · 1949, Adaptation, All The King's Men, Black and White, Columbia Pictures, Composer: George Duning, Drama

All The King's MenHollywood adaptation frenzy continues with this film, All The King’s Men starring Broderick Crawford. This movie marks the fourth adaptation in a row to be named Best Picture, and increases the total number of adaptations to 15 out of 22 films.

That’s an astounding number of adaptations, well over half of the movies named Best Picture are based on books, plays, short stories, or characters in one of the three.

All the King’s Men hooked me from the start. I’m not sure why. Maybe it was because of Broderick Crawford (1911-1986), an actor I remember (and liked) from his role in the 1950s TV series Highway Patrol. Broderick won the Best Actor award for his role in this movie. The movie is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name by Robert Penn Warren (1905-1989). It was directed by Robert Rossen (1908-1966), who also wrote the screenplay.

Maybe I was hooked because the story is compelling: Willie Stark (Crawford), an honest small-town hick wants to clean up the corruption in politics. He works hard, gets a law degree, and slogs his way through the mud and Broderick Crawfordthe slime that is politics in his state. Jack Burden (John Ireland, 1914-1992), a big-city reporter, takes Willie under his wing and tries to help him beat the machine. Willie runs for governor, loses the first time, wins the second. Along the way, he learns to play the very machine he campaigned against.

Will power corrupt the self-described country hick?

My money says Yes.

“Jack, there’s something on everybody. Man is conceived in sin and born in corruption,” Willie tells his friend Jack Burden, the former reporter who’s now a member of Willie’s hit squad. Willie wants Jack to dig up dirt on the judge who resigned as attorney general.

Looks like my money knows the score. Willie is corrupt.

Okay, so this isn’t the most original movie Hollywood ever produced. It’s your typical rags-to-riches story. And make those clean rags to dirty ones. With the riches thrown in just to make things interesting. But it’s a compelling film. Broderick Crawford had a presence. When he’s on screen, my eyes are right there with him. I’ve enjoyed watching All the King’s Men even though I can just about predict where it’s going.

Willie gains it all, then loses everything – his wife, his son Tony (Derek Derek, 1926-1998), his best friends, even his position as governor.

All the King’s Men is a movie about the kind of thug politics not seen in America since the present administration. So watching it isn’t always easy. But it’s an entertaining movie with memorable characters.

“You know, judge, dirt’s a funny thing. Some of it rubs off on everybody,” Willie tells Judge Monte Stanton (Raymond Greenleaf, 1892-1963), the man behind the impeachment proceedings against Willie. Minutes later, the judge puts a gun to his head.

A few more minutes after that, Willie meets his own end.

Power corrupts, Willie. Didn’t you know that?

You big hick, you.


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