July 30, 2016

Broderick Crawford, All the King's Men

as WILLIE STARK
Won: Academy Award - Best Actor | New York Film Critics Circle - Best Actor (1949) | Golden Globe - Best Actor

I was surprised to find that All the King’s Men features two lead characters. The intertwined storylines between Jack Burden and Willie Stark make the picture a less fluid and less compelling viewing experience than it could have been had the film primarily keyed in on the Stark character, but it’s obvious how Broderick Crawford reigned in everyone’s attention here. His is a compelling albeit slightly unvaried performance.

To start, I was pretty taken by Crawford’s silken voice in this film; it's got a smooth sound to it that complements perfectly against Stark’s displays of political charisma and increasingly lecherous qualities. In the scenes where he’s at his peak levels of unscrupulousness, I was impressed by how Crawford belies internal and external displays of emotion (most notably that great showcase of emptiness within that last shot of his). In other words, I think Crawford does a solid job at electrifying an otherwise stagnant picture; the film is really at its most interesting when Crawford is around, making one wish there were more of him to be had. 

That said, some issues: while he is oft-times the most interesting aspect of the film, I never got the feeling that Crawford was going above and beyond the written material. I think Willie Stark presents an opportunity for a really larger-than-life character, and ultimately the sense I got was that there was a lack of next-level deep-diving on Crawford’s behalf — he’s interesting, he’s magnetic…but I think the extravagant extent to which Willie ultimately comes into power requires an equally extravagant performance — it feels as though Crawford found a certain groove and then kept it on auto-pilot when he could have explored some additional angles. Ultimately, I think it's a pretty good performance — good enough to keep you wanting more, but not quite outstanding.




6 comments:

  1. I think I liked him even less. I didn't buy his character developement for a second. Still better than John Ireland though.

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    1. I didn't mind John Ireland oddly. He was...around, but I didn't think he was bad per se.

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  2. I liked Crawford's brash energy at the start of the film though the sub-par writing made me realize where this was heading early on. After a while, though, I noticed there wasn't much more to the performance than that and the brashness became repetitious and began to grate. Crawford had minimal range as an actor. Just watch "Born Yesterday" .... he's doing the same damn thing. He's a lucky man because this was no Oscar-worthy performance

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    1. Looking forward to Born Yesterday!

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  3. I wasn't crazy about him in Born Yesterday, and I can sort of see him doing the same thing here. That being said, I think I should get down to watching this film. Heard a lot of positive things about Mercedes McCambridge

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    1. Mercedes McCambridge is really great :) If you're into supporting performances enough such that you'll willing to submit yourself to otherwise dull films, I say go for it!

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