Essential Movies For Musicians: A Face In The Crowd (1957)

Movies about music and musicians are a tricky thing. Not many get it right.

This is understandable. The act of making music is such a mysterious and widely misunderstood discipline in popular culture. When you add in the addictive power of a mass audience and the egoist human foibles that both draw and repel us, it is understandable that we are often misrepresented in film.

A Face In The Crowd (1957) is the story of a singer who goes through a rags-to-riches story straight out of hell. Starting out in a jail cell that dredges up haunting memories of the dreadful Leadbelly newsreel, Andy Griffith plays a drunken lout who just happens to play the guitar, bray like a donkey, sing like a bird, and can weave just enough truth into his lies to become a populist worldwide sensation.

Seeing Griffith play one of the worst human beings to ever grace the screen is a shock. He chews scenery like a lawn mower, over-performs condescendingly to his audience, and transforms from kindly good ‘ole boy to a hateful monster as soon as he thinks the camera is off.

When people ask me why I don’t perform or get more into show-biz, I tell them to watch this movie. While some themes in the film have played out in recent news, almost all the backstage and marketing antics are things Dear Old Dad and I have seen played out, firsthand, in real life.