Although I have never seen Citizen Kane (on my watchlist) and All the King’s Men, I have come to understand that these two are considered some of the best political movies of all-time.
All the King’s Men was the 1949 Best Picture and was based on a book. The story follows William Stark (Broderick Crawford), a man with a great heart and the best intentions to do the right thing. After running for a local government position, he loses and then is convinced to run for governor to ensure the incumbent remains in power. After these gut-wrenching losses, Stark learns to play politics and takes the state by storm, eventually becoming governor thanks to a thousand and one favours.
Along the way, Stark develops a friendship with news reporter Jack Burden, played back John Ireland. Jack is in every meeting and gets to see how things work behind closed doors. Eventually, he becomes the bookie for Stark, keeping track of all the deals and favours owed to the man in power.
The overall story arc witnesses Stark rise to power and get so greedy and cutthroat that he slowly watches his empire implode, leaving him with nothing at the end. In the beginning, I was very supportive of Stark on the campaign trail. He wore his heart on his sleeve and refused to back down to any and all pressures. It was an intriguing story up until he becomes governor.
Then like most people, power and greed get the best of him, and he can’t even get out of his own way. He turns into this disrespectful politician who has affairs all over the state. He also mistreats his friends and workers, which only leads to more trouble within his camp.
Many people stand by him, but I was disinterested in the film throughout the entire second act. I could see that he was going to achieve his goals and then lose everything in the end. He was a fool for the majority of his dealings, and he got what he deserved.
I should have rated this movie a lot lower, yet I was impressed with his campaign and his desire to prove them all wrong. It was only the second half of the film that I didn’t like and took away a lot of enjoyment I felt initially. 5/10