Old State House To Screen "A Face in the Crowd" - 1957 Movie Shot in Piggott, Ark.

Mar 6, 2014

KUAR is partnering with the Old State House Museum to screen a series of Arkansas-related movies each month on Second Friday Art Night. KUAR General Manager Ben Fry, who also teaches courses in film history and criticism at UALR, will introduce each movie and lead a discussion after the screening. "Second Friday Cinema" is presented in cooperation with the Old State House's exhibit "Lights! Camera! Arkansas!" The screenings will take place the second Friday of each month at the Old State House Museum.

Second Friday Cinema presents a screening of A Face in the Crowd (1957) on Friday, Mar. 14, from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at the Old State House Museum, 300 W. Markham. Reception starts at 5 p.m. Free and open to the public. For more information, contact the Old State House Museum at (501) 324-9685 or info@oldstatehouse.org.

Movie poster for "A Face in the Crowd"

A Face in the Crowd is the story of Lonesome Rhodes, a guitar-playing bum who gets plucked out of obscurity and turned into a national media sensation. Several scenes of the film were shot in Piggott, Ark., which stood in for the fictional Pickett. Many local residents appeared as extras in the film, including local marching bands from Piggott and Paragould. Scenes were shot at the high school football stadium, the old jailhouse and the Clay County Courthouse.

The screenplay was written by Budd Schulberg, based on his own short story titled "Your Arkansas Traveler." Schulberg and director Elia Kazan had collaborated once before, on the Academy Award winning On the Waterfront in 1954.

Both men had also received some unwanted attention earlier in the decade when they testified at the House Committee on Un-American Activities as former Communist Party members and “named names” of other Hollywood writers and directors that were members.

The film stars Andy Griffith in his first feature film role. People who know Griffith only from his television days as Sheriff Andy Taylor or defense attorney Ben Matlock will be surprised by the deeply devious character he creates for this movie. Critic Richard Schickel described his performance as “hypnotic.” The film also stars Patricia Neal, Walter Matthau, Tony Franciosa and Lee Remick, also making her big screen debut.

The film had only moderate success at the box office, and mainstream movie reviewers of the time were not particularly impressed. However, its prescient view of how the media, specifically television, could be used to manipulate its audience and the political process has made it a classic in contemporary times.