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All the King's Men (1949 film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

All the King's Men
All the King's Men (1949 film poster).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRobert Rossen
Screenplay byRobert Rossen
Based onAll the King's Men
1946 novel
by Robert Penn Warren
Produced byRobert Rossen
StarringBroderick Crawford
John Ireland
Mercedes McCambridge
Joanne Dru
John Derek
Shepperd Strudwick
CinematographyBurnett Guffey
Edited byAl Clark
Robert Parrish
Music byLouis Gruenberg
Color processBlack and white
Columbia Pictures
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release dates
  • November 8, 1949 (1949-11-08) (NYC)
  • January 1950 (1950-01) (US)
Running time
110 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$2 million[1]
Box office$4.2 million (rentals)[1]

All the King's Men is a 1949 American drama written, produced, and directed by Robert Rossen. It is based on the Robert Penn Warren's 1946 novel of the same name. The film stars Broderick Crawford, John Ireland, Mercedes McCambridge, and Joanne Dru. The plot focuses on the rise and fall of the ambitious and ruthless politician Willie Stark (Crawford) in the American South.[2] Though a fictional character, Stark strongly resembles Louisiana governor Huey Long.[3]

The film won three Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Crawford), and Best Supporting Actress (McCambridge). In 2001, All the King's Men was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the Library of Congress and was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.[4]

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • All the King's Men (1949) ORIGINAL TRAILER [HD 1080p]
  • Willie Stark speech - "All the Kings Men" (1949)
  • All the King's Men (1949) - Willie Stark's Speech Scene (1/10) | Movieclips
  • All the King's Men (1949) - Blackmailing a Judge Scene (9/10) | Movieclips
  • All the King's Men (1949) - Political Assassination Scene (10/10) | Movieclips



Jack Burden, a reporter, is sent on assignment to write about Willie Stark, a man running for county treasurer. Stark lives in Kanoma City in an undisclosed state in the American South. Stark's campaign is run on honesty and talking about the corruption of the local politicians. Burden meets Stark and his family and writes an inspiring story on Stark's honesty and courage. Using their power, including sway over the police, the local political machine shuts out Stark. After his loss, Stark earns a law degree. A local Kanoma school experiences a structural collapse that kills twelve students during a fire drill. Stark is encouraged to work on their legal affairs at the children's funeral, and he ultimately wins a lawsuit against the county, leading to a state-wide investigation. Willie uses this to build his political momentum, and he is eventually drafted as a candidate for Governor in a three-way race.

Stark embarks on the campaign trail with Sadie Burke, an associate of the campaign installed as a mole from a separate gubernatorial candidate, and Burden. Initially Stark has trouble on the campaign trail as he speaks obtusely and plainly about his plan for the state. However, after he learns that Burke believes he is just a spoiler candidate, Stark begins to give more impassioned speeches. During this time, Burden continues to report on Stark's campaign, but he resigns after being told to stop writing positively about Stark. Ultimately Stark loses the race, but draws large grassroots support from the rural areas of the state.

Over the next four years, Stark continues to campaign and make backroom deals to gain political influence and campaign funds. Meanwhile, Burden has had a tough time finding another job, but is hired by Stark to serve as a researcher for the campaign. Stark and Burden go back to Burden's home to convince Burden's friends and family to support the campaign. Skeptical of Stark's alleged deals and big promises, Adam, brother of Jack Burden's girlfriend, Anne Stanton, asks questions and is not fully convinced. However, Anne believes fully in Stark's message. Burden gets the group on board by promising State Attorney General to Anne's Uncle, Judge Stanton. Willie ends up winning the election in a landslide.

During his time as Governor, Stark ends up utilizing his power in aggressive and corrupt ways. He covers up a scandal by a member of his administration, and sees Judge Stanton resign as Attorney General and publicly assert Stark's corruption. Stark's loss of morals, corruption, and alienation from his small town self is exasperated as he philanders with many women, including Anne and Sadie. Feeling the pressure of his father's status, Stark's adopted college-aged son Tommy drinks to deal with his feelings about his father. Following a football practice where Stark berates Tommy for drinking, Tommy gets drunk and crashes his car off a bridge, injuring himself and killing his female passenger. To combat the bad press, Stark pressures Tommy into a game despite him not being fully recovered. During the game, Tommy gets badly tackled and is rushed to the hospital. Stark, blaming himself for Tommy's injury, begs Adam, a surgeon, to do all he can. Adam agrees after Stark agrees to build him a new hospital. Tommy ends up paralyzed from the legs down.

Following this, Burden gives Anne evidence of Judge Stanton's possible past wrongdoing that Burden has hidden. Stark begins his re-election campaign for Governor by visiting his estranged family in Takoma City. While there, Judge Stanton publicly blames Stark for the death of the girl in Tommy's car accident. An impeachment trial is brought against Stark. In retaliation, Stark visits Judge Stanton and attempts to strongarm him with the evidence that Burden found, given to him by Anne. However, Judge Stanton commits suicide, and the impeachment ends with Stark's acquittal. During his public victory celebration, Adam assassinates Stark, not forgiving him for what happened to Tommy. Having lost his respect for Stark, Jack tries to get Anne's agreement to find a way to destroy Stark's reputation following his death. As Stark dies, he speaks his final words to Burden.


Broderick Crawford as Willie Stark in All the King's Men
Broderick Crawford as Willie Stark in All the King's Men


The film was the 15th adaptation of a Pulitzer Prize winning work.[6]

Rossen originally offered the starring role to John Wayne, who found the proposed film script unpatriotic and indignantly refused the part. Crawford, who eventually took the role, won the 1949 Academy Award for Best Actor, beating out Wayne, who had been nominated for his role in Sands of Iwo Jima.

The film was shot at various locations in California using local residents, something that was fairly unknown for Hollywood at the time.[7] The old San Joaquin County courthouse in Stockton, built in 1898 and demolished about a dozen years after the film's release, was featured prominently.

Paul Tatara, writing for TCM, describes the film as "one of those pictures that was saved in the editing".[8] The original cut, done by Al Clark, had difficulty making a coherent version, because so much footage was shot.[8] Rossen and Columbia Studios head Harry Cohn hired Robert Parrish to make changes.[8] However, Parrish's efforts proved unsuccessful as Rossen stayed heavily involved and the film was still over 250 minutes long following several weeks.[8] Cohn almost released this cut before Rossen had Parrish "[s]elect what you consider to be the center of each scene... regardless of what's going on."[8] After All the King's Men won its Academy Award for Best Picture, Harry Cohn repeatedly gave Parrish credit for saving the film.[8] Although Clark is credited as the "Film Editor" (with Parrish being credited as "Editorial Advisor"), both Clark and Parrish received a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Film Editing.


Critical response

The film received wide acclaim upon its release. Film critic Bosley Crowther lauded the film and its direction in his review, writing, "Robert Rossen has written and directed, as well as personally produced, a rip-roaring film of the same title ... We have carefully used that descriptive as the tag for this new Columbia film because a quality of turbulence and vitality is the one that it most fully demonstrates ... In short, Mr. Rossen has assembled in this starkly unprettified film a piece of pictorial journalism that is remarkable for its brilliant parts."[9] Critic William Brogdon, writing for Variety magazine, was also complimentary and praised Broderick Crawford's work, "As the rural Abe Lincoln, springing up from the soil to make himself a great man by using the opinionless, follow-the-leader instinct of the more common voter, Broderick Crawford does a standout performance. Given a meaty part, his histrionic bent wraps it up for a great personal success adding much to the many worthwhile aspects of the drama."[10] It won an Associated Press poll in 1950 as the best film of 1949, and Broderick Crawford was regarded as the best actor in that same poll.[11]

On Rotten Tomatoes, All the King's Men holds a rating of 97% based on 70 reviews, with an average rating of 8.10/10. The consensus summarizes: "Broderick Crawford is spellbinding as politician Willie Stark in director Robert Rossen's adaptation of the Robert Penn Warren novel about the corrosive effects of power on the human soul."[12]

Later analysis

Film historian Spencer Selby calls the film "[A] hard-hitting noir adaptation of Warren's eloquent novel".[13] Joe Goldberg, film historian and former story editor for Paramount Pictures, wrote about the content of the plot and its noirish fatalistic conclusion, "The plot makes sense, the dialogue is memorable, the story arises from the passions and ideas of the characters. It deals with graft, corruption, love, drink and betrayal, and the subversion of idealism by power, and it might even make someone angry... The story moves toward its conclusion with the dark inevitability of film noir."[14] Author Harry Keyishian wonders if Willie Stark is "a good man corrupted by the political process, or a bad one whose inherent vice emerges when he gets a chance for power."[3]


In 2001, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".[15][4] The Academy Film Archive preserved All the King's Men in 2000.[16] As of 2022, it is the last Best Picture winner to be based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.

Academy Awards 1949

All the King's Men received seven Academy Awards nominations, winning three.[17]

Award Result Winner
Best Motion Picture Won Robert Rossen Productions Columbia (Robert Rossen, Producer)
Best Director Nominated Robert Rossen
Winner was Joseph L. MankiewiczA Letter to Three Wives
Best Actor Won Broderick Crawford
Best Supporting Actor Nominated John Ireland
Winner was Dean JaggerTwelve O'Clock High
Best Supporting Actress Won Mercedes McCambridge
Best Writing, Screenplay Nominated Robert Rossen
Winner was Joseph L. MankiewiczA Letter to Three Wives
Best Film Editing Nominated Robert Parrish and Al Clark
Winner was Harry W. GerstadChampion

See also



  1. ^ a b "Wall St. Researchers' Cheery Tone". Variety. November 7, 1962. p. 7.
  2. ^ All the King's Men at the American Film Institute Catalog.
  3. ^ a b Keyishian, Harry (2003). Screening Politics - The Politician in American Movies. Scarecrow Press. pp. 18, 20. ISBN 9780810858824.
  4. ^ a b "Complete National Film Registry Listing | Film Registry | National Film Preservation Board | Programs | Library of Congress". Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 20540 USA. Archived from the original on April 20, 2023. Retrieved 2023-04-23.
  5. ^ "All the King's Men". AFI|Catalog. American Film Institute. Retrieved July 18, 2020.
  6. ^ "Walter Winchell". Daytona Beach Morning Journal. Jun 18, 1949. p. 2. Retrieved April 23, 2023.
  7. ^ Higham, Charles; Greenberg, Joel (1968). Hollywood in the Forties. London: A. Zwemmer Limited. p. 79. ISBN 0-302-00477-7.
  8. ^ a b c d e f Tatara, Paul. "All the King's Men". Turner Classic Movies. Archived from the original on July 25, 2020. Retrieved 18 February 2014.
  9. ^ Crowther, Bosley (1949-11-09). "' All the King's Men,' Columbia Film Based on the Novel by Warren, at Victoria". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2023-04-23.
  10. ^ Brogdon, William (1949-11-09). "All the King's Men". Variety. Retrieved 2023-04-23.
  11. ^ Handsaker, Gene (Jan 30, 1950). "'All the King's Men' Voted Best 1949 Movie by Writers". Reading Eagle. p. 3. Retrieved April 23, 2023.
  12. ^ "All the King's Men". Rotten Tomatoes.
  13. ^ Selby, Spencer. Dark City: The Film Noir. All the King's Men, listed as film noir #8, pg. 127. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland Publishing, 1984. ISBN 0-89950-103-6.
  14. ^ Goldberg, Joe. "All the King's (Original) Men". WSJ. Retrieved 2023-04-23.
  15. ^ "Librarian of Congress Names 25 More Films to National Film Registry". Library of Congress. Retrieved 2020-09-14.
  16. ^ "Preserved Projects". Academy Film Archive.
  17. ^ "1950 | | Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences". Archived from the original on October 2, 2022. Retrieved 2023-04-23.


Silver, Alain and James Ursini (editors). Film Noir: Reader 2. All the King's Men film noir themes discussed in essay, "Violence and the Bitch Goddess" by Stephen Farber, pgs. 54-55 (1974). Proscenium Publishers, Inc., New York (July 2003). Second Limelight Edition. ISBN 0-87910-280-2.

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This page was last edited on 15 May 2023, at 14:40
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