"Jack, there's something on everybody. Man is conceived in sin and born in corruption. He passes from the stink of the dydie to the stench of the shroud. There's ALWAYS something." --Willie Stark to Jack Burden (All The King's Men, 1949)
I dragged my feet to watch this one, but unlike Hamlet, I was pleasantly surprised. It wasn't my favorite film, but it was fast-paced, entertaining, and interesting to watch. There weren't always easy explanations for some of the character developments, and I found Willie Stark much more compelling than our hero, Jack Burden. But still a worthwhile watch, though I doubt I'll ever see it again.
Minor reporter Jack Burden, played by John Ireland, is sent to cover the campaign of Willie Stark, a self-taught man from a small town in the south who is running for town treasurer. Stark, played by Broderick Crawford, is convinced that he can fight the corruption running rampant in the city council. Jack watches him get arrested for holding an illegal political rally, but after he is released, Stark takes Jack home to his family. Jack meets Stark's elderly father, adopted teenage son Tom, and wife Lucy who is a former schoolteacher and Stark's inspiration. Jack is impressed with Stark's honesty and integrity and after he leaves writes several favorable articles about him. Stark later loses the race.
|Burden's article about Willie Stark|
|Jack and Anne|
|Sadie talks it over with Willie.|
|Willie's run for governor.|
|Jack, Willie, and Judge Stanton|
|Anne has an affair with Willie.|
|Willie Stark and Jack Burden|
When Stark is not impeached, Adam shoots Stark and then is killed himself by the police. Jack tries to get Anne to reveal what she knows about Stark to the crowd, but she refuses. Stark dies in Jack's arms, still not knowing why he was shot.
In 1947, Robert Penn Warren won the Pulizter Prize for his novel about political corruption, based loosely on the life of Huey P. Long, former governor of Louisiana and that state's U.S. senator in the mid-1930s. All the King's Men was soon picked up by writer-director Robert Rossen, who purchased the film rights himself. He wrote the screenplay and shifted the focus of the novel from the Jack Burden character (played by John Ireland) to Willie Stark. The film was produced by Rossen's own production company but distributed by Columbia Pictures.
|Merecedes McCambridge and John Ireland|
|Pantages Theatre during the 1949 Oscars|
|Broderick Crawford and Mercedes McCambridge get their Oscars.|
|Sean Penn in All the King's Men|
All the King's Men was remade in 2006 with Sean Penn. In 2001 the United States Library of Congress deemed the film "culturally significant" and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry. To date, it is the last Best Picture winner to be based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. While the re-make was mildly successful, the film has never achieved great popularity in modern times.