All the King’s Men

Screening on Film
Directed by Robert Rossen.
With Broderick Crawford, Joanne Dru, John Ireland.
US, 1949, 35mm, black & white, 109 min.
Print source: Sony Pictures

Fittingly, Rossen secured full reign of writer, director and producer for his translation of Robert Penn Warren’s novel about the rise of a populist despot. Created at the time when Communist blacklisting had just begun, All the King’s Men seems a pure, authentic eruption from the director’s conflicted, assaulted soul. Fueled in part by these very forces, Rossen worked more spontaneously and directly using actual locations, natural light and many non-actors. He boldly gazes into the socially stratified mirror of America, Hollywood, the press and his own demons in this potent, meticulous dissection of the deadly entanglement of personal and public politics. Doing good “at any price,” Willie Stark – played with manic fervor by Broderick Crawford – begins as a passionate, poignant Everyman exposing and dismantling a corrupt system. Amassing colorful legions of anguished characters on both sides of his homespun fence, Stark gradually stirs up dirt, disillusion and destruction on an unpredictable, persuasive campaign of deep betrayal.

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The Bodies and Souls of Robert Rossen

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