All the King’s Men (1949)
Reviewed on 2008 February 18
Excellent vintage film about a man who enters the political arena with the initial goal of serving his people, and going bad as fast as a piece of dropped produce.
Jack Burden (John Ireland) is a reporter sent to cover the rise of a local politician, Willie Stark (Broderick Crawford). Stark wants to be a politician to do some good in the world, especially for regular people like his family. He lives with his father, his wife, and their son Tom (John Derek) in a modest house in the country. Stark explains that Tom was orphaned very young and he and his wife just adopted him without a second thought. Burden is taken with Stark’s seeming honesty and character and becomes his go-to guy.
Stark’s grass roots campaign is enough to prompt another politician, another serpent vying for the governor’s mansion, into using Stark as a third-party spoiler against his opponent. He never dreams that this will infuriate Stark into giving the speech of his life. Stark gets his power and loves it. From that point on we see the descent into corruption and how he ruins the people around him.
The creepiest part of this was witnessing the exact moment Willie began his descent. Look at his eyes after the fire drill at the school and you can see it. Crawford was wonderful throughout the movie, but the best bit was his angry “hick” speech to the first group of adulating people. Mercedes McCambridge was exceptional as Sadie Burke, Stark’s hardcase, hard-drinking secretary. It was interesting that the movie didn’t say what state it took place in, or mention the political parties by name. It’s kind of a moot point, really.
Four chocolate morsels.