Wednesday Night at the Movies: All the King's Men (1949)

It's a classic in corrupt politics, the story of Willie Stark, an unknown who seemingly comes out of nowhere to ascend to the governorship of some unnamed southern state.

Broderick Crawford, who portrays Stark, won an Academy award for his performance, as did Mercedes McCambridge. Interestingly, I had never seen a movie with McCambridge in it on screen, but I knew her voice well. (She was the voice of the Devil in The Exorcist).

The character of Stark is described as a populist. He is at the outset an idealist attempting to run for a role an treasurer in a backwoods county of the state, but is hampered by the powers in control, and loses. Later he is approached to run for governor, but it turns out that he was just being used as a tool to draw votes away from one opponent to allow another opponent an easy victory. It is at this point that the previously tea-totaler Stark is introduced to alcohol, and this appears to be the driving influence turning him into a fiery speaker, and eventually winning him the office in the next election.

However, in doing so, Stark eventually succumbs to the corruption that his campaign was about trying to drive out. The author denied it, but it is a popular belief that the book on which this movie was based was a parralel to louisiana governor Huey Long. There are some interesting parralels here to modern politicians, too, if you are watching carefully.

A bravura performance all around. 5 stars.

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