Select Page

Book Vs Movie: “A Face in the Crowd”

The Budd Schulberg Short Story Vs the Elia Kazan Classic Film

Every once in a while we come across a story that was created decades ago and has themes that transcend time. This is the case with 1957’s A Face in the Crowd which talks about class distinctions in America, the power of the media, what it takes to relate to the “common man” and how power corrupts. (Whoa–this one really stands the test of time!) 

The original story, Your Arkansas Traveler, was featured in a collection from Some Faces in the Crowd by Budd Schulberg and published in 1953. It tells the story of an Arkansas drifter, Lonesome Rhodes (LR,) who rises to fame on regional radio with his country, “aw shucks” style and eventually becomes an egomaniac as a national TV star. Oh, and he has political clout as well!

In the story, he is discovered by radio producer Marcia Jeffries who at first is charmed by LR and his plain-spoken ways. Eventually, she realizes he is a dangerous narcissist and works to stop him from having too much power. LR in the meantime has a wife he needs to get rid of, a teenage bride to keep him company, and a rabid audience that hangs as his every word. In the end, he dies before he can wreak too much havoc. 

Schulberg wrote the screenplay for On the Waterfront and trusted director Elia Kazan to tell his story. The 1957 film stars Andy Griffith, Patricia Neal, Lee Remick, and Walter Matthau and while the film received mixed reviews at the time (the New York Times thought Andy Griffith overshadowed everyone in the film)–it is now considered a prescient classic.

So, between the short story and the movie–which did we prefer? 

In this ep the Margos discuss:

  • The original short story by Budd Schulberg
  • Behind the scenes of the movie fleming   
  • Why it was considered controversial at the time 
  • Starring: Andy Griffith (Lonesome Rhodes,) Patricia Neal (Marcia Jeffries,) Anthony Franciosa (Joey DePalma,) Walter Matthau (Mel Miller,) Lee Remick (Betty Lou Fleckum,) and Percy Waram as General Haynesworth.)

Clips used:

  • Marcia meets LR
  • A Face in the Crowd trailer
  • LR and Marcia argue over his marriage
  • “Mama Guitar” & baton scene
  • LR breaks character on the air
  • Walter Matthau’s last scene
  • “Vitajex” commercial/music by Tom Glazer

Book Vs Movie is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. Find more podcasts you will love Frolic.Media/podcasts

Join our Patreon page to help support the show! 

Book Vs. Movie podcast

Twitter @bookversusmovie

Email us at [email protected]

Brought to you by You can sign up for a FREE 30-day trial here

Margo D. @BrooklynFitChik [email protected]

Margo P. @ShesNachoMama 

Our logo was designed by Madeleine Gainey/Studio 39 Marketing Follow on Instagram @Studio39Marketing & @musicalmadeleine 

Check out this NEW episode of Book Vs. Movie!