Thursday, January 23, 2020

a fan's notes

A trio of observations, pronouncements, insights or whatever...
First up... "A Face in the Crowd," the compulsively biting character study from 1957 by scenarist Budd Schulberg and director Elia Kazan, was impressively prescient in its improbable, hugely disturbing national prognosis. In retrospect, it remains exactly the same. Except in one area.

Ostensibly, the film's chief (and only real) focus had always been its lead character, Lonesome Rhodes, given a lustful reading here by a riveting Andy Griffith, a performance driven by Lonesome's  narcissistic, power-driven appropriation of the country. But, arguably, more unsettling is the "journey" of Patricia Neal's Marcia Jeffries, created by the collaborating auteurs.

Initially a small-town journalist who works for her uncle's modest media outlet in Pickett, Arkansas, she produces a popular, raggy radio show titled "A Face in the Crowd" that exploits Lonesome's conservative radicalism and, by extension, celebrates Marcia as his most enthusiastic benefactor/enabler. 

At the outset, oblivious to his danger, Marcia wears a little straw hat (photo above) and brandishes a tiny, hand-held tape recorder. She's rather quaint. Towards the end of the film, her transformation/makeover into a Martini-sipping sophisticate who hangs out in dark bars is complete (photo below).

And the process doesn't take very long.

Punctuation Police...  For close to 30 years, I've engaged in a running battle with copy editors about the absence of an apostrophe in the title of D. A. Pennebaker's 1965-67 Bob Dylan documentary. It's "Dont Look Back," not "Don't Look Back." Editors have invariably added the apostrophe.
As explined on Wikipedia, "The original title of this film is Dont Look Back, without an apostrophe in the first word. D. A. Pennebaker, the film's writer director, decided to punctuate the title this way because 'It was my attempt to simplify the language.'"

Despite the DVD's title, Dylan never never recorded a song titled "Dont Look Back," per reader Bill Wolf in his response below.

In the commentary track to the DVD release, Pennebaker said that the title came from the Satchel Paige quote, "Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you," and that Dylan shared this view.

That voice!: And it's rarely noted, but director Morton Da Costa provided the voice of Edwin Dennis reading his last Will and Testament during the opening moments of Da Costa's film of "Auntie Mame."

 Regarding Comments: All comments are enthusiastically appreciated but are moderated before publication. Replies signed "unknown" or "anonymous" are not encouraged. Please sign any response with a name (real or fabricated) or initials.  Be advised that a "name" will be assigned to any accepted post signed "unknown" or "anonymous." Thank you. -J

* * * * *  
 (from top)

 ~Still shots of Patricia Neal in "A Face in the Crowd"
~photography: Warner Bros. 1957©

 ~D. A. Pennebaker
 ~photography: Leacock-Pennebaker, Inc. 1965-67©

 ~Morton DaCosta 
~photography: Warner Bros. 1962©


F. Procov said...

I always learn something from your posts. Thank you

Bill Wolfe said...

There've been a remarkable number of good records with this title (albeit with the apostrophe), including:

Don't Look Back/The Remains
Don't Look Back/Them w/Van Morrison
Don't Look Back/The Temptations
Don't Look Back/Boston
Don't Look Back/Fine Young Cannibals
Don't Look Back/She & Him ("She" being Zooey Deschanel)

Curiously, Bob Dylan never recorded a song with that title, as far as I know.

joe baltake said...

It's true. Despite the DVD's title, Dylan never never recorded a song titled "Dont Look Back," per reader Bill Wolf in his response here. Curious. -J

Bunuel said...

Great trivia bites, Joe! The Pat Neal observation in particular blew me away.

Billy from Philly said...

It is a minor point, but I just watched FACE IN THE CROWD and Neal does not "brandish a tiny, hand-held tape recorder". She has a large reel to reel recorder which is cumbersome. I doubt that there were any tiny hand held tape recordings in the 1950's.

joe baltake said...

Billy! Thanks for the heads-up. You are absolutely correct. Still, it was a cheapo item that underlined her status as a small-time journalist. -J