All the King's Men is a 1949 political drama film based on Robert Penn Warren's Pulitzer Prize winning novel of the same name. It is directed by Robert Rossen and stars Broderick Crawford.
The story follows the rise and fall of politician Willie Stark. He rallies the people living in his rural county when he announces that he is running for governor. After suffering a narrow defeat, Stark wins on a second attempt. Stark brings about many promised changes, but in the process, he slowly becomes ruthless and corrupt, damaging his relationships with those close to him. Much of the story is narrated by journalist Jack Burden, who follows Stark and sticks with him through thick and thin.
The rise and fall of someone is a common topic in film, and especially so in several Best Picture winners. The Great Ziegfeld observes the success and eventual downfall of the womanizing theater figure, Florenz Ziegfeld. Several winners later on have a similar story, but since I haven't gotten that far yet, I will refrain from discussing them.
The political components that All the King's Men needed to get right are definitely done right. Fiery, emotional speeches generate applause from large crowds. Our central figure is a corrupt governor who we grow to despise. There are no real heroes in this film, because it's rare to see one in a political setting.
- Broderick Crawford. His performance was well-deserving of Best Actor, creating the vision of a politician that us as Americans, especially after this most current election, would hate with all our guts. The sign of a great performance is when you hate the character that you're supposed to hate and not become angry at the actor/actress. The lean muscle of All the King's Men is in Crawford's role, and it is portrayed masterfully.
- Political films are usually exciting, but All the King's Men awkwardly wavers in and out between boring and exciting. Willie Stark's intense speeches are shortly followed by dull conversations between secondary characters. The uneven tone has you hooked one second, and then half asleep the next. It's like watching Fast & Furious with clips from Cimarron spliced in after each action sequence.
Broderick Crawford's memorable performance bolsters All the King's Men into a reasonable Best Picture winner, giving a clear portrayal at the detrimental effects of power and corruption. It's worth at least one viewing, but probably not multiple.
Recommend? Yes, though you probably won't care to watch it again
Here you'll find my reviews on just about any film you may have seen. I try to avoid major spoilers as much as possible. I structure my reviews in the following way: