Happy trails, Lonesome Rhodes

Andy Samuel Griffith (June 1, 1926 – July 3, 2012)

Before Andy Griffith became the famously easy-going Sheriff Andy on TV, he shocked movie critics with his amusingly brutal portrayal of Lonesome Rhodes, the hick troubadour who ended up aspiring to be a right-wing power broker in Elia Kazan’s classic A Face In the Crowd (1957). This was a long time before Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and other right-wing media con men became real-life power brokers.

Griffith’s over-the-top antics were neatly counterbalanced by the understated performance of Patricia Neal, as a radio talent scout bowled over (for a while) by the sexy beast she helped create.

Footnote: In Sept. 2010, the Odd Man argued that Keith Olbermann — the former MSNBC host and the only prime-timer on that network with an independent streak — was overestimating Beck’s significance by comparing him to the force of nature played by Griffith. At this point, it seems a safe bet that A Face In the Crowd will be analyzed and enjoyed long after the noxious but wimpy Beck has been forgotten.

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