Today marks a momentous milestone in American history–and I don’t mean Tom Cruise’s 50th birthday that’s been overshadowed by Katie Holmes’ on point divorce action which raised other not-so-happy-issues related to matters concerning a certain sci-fi belief system. Andy Griffith died at age 86.
While Griffith will probably be best remembered as Sheriff Andy Taylor on the Andy Griffith Show, and later on Mayberry, R.F.D., where he presided over a rural fiefdom of idealized Americana, using homespun wisdom mightier than his badge and gun (the show launched Ron Howard’s megacareer as first and actor and then a director); or perhaps for Matlock, which I always got confused with the show where Dick Van Dyke played a coroner or something another–but it really is Griffinth’s 1957 role as Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes in Elia Kazan’s A Face in the Crowd that defines America more than Sheriff Andy ever did.
A Face in the Crowd is one of my favorite movies of all time, exploring issues of celebrity, media, ego, crowd psychology, and control and dependency as substitutes for love, all drenched in post-noir, post-war America cynicism. It’s based on a short story by Budd Shulberg, who wrote the ultimate Hollywood novel What Makes Sammy Run.
Larry Rhodes (Griffith) is a jailed drifter, Marcia Jeffries (Patricia Neal) the producer who lifts him from the hoosegow and obscurity to sing jingles on the radio. Rhodes’ folksy humor and ability to poke fun at his sponsors win him the hearts of local and then national audiences as he stars on his own programs on radio and television. He and Jeffries, who gave him the stage name “Lonesome” begin an affair, but Rhodes jilts her for a perky blond cheerleader who he emotionally abuses (she returns the favor). At his core, Rhodes is a narcissistic megalomaniac whose ego destroys everything he touches, and in the end he is left in a nightmare world of his own making.
Wikipedia has the whole plot (spoilers and all), but suffice to say, Rhodes campaigning for Senator Worthington Fuller’s Presidential run resonates well this election season. God help us if Kid Rock is appointed to the cabinet as “Secretary For National Morale.”
And just to keep things lively, here’s a recipe for Aunt Bea’s pickles, via New Times Miami:
1 bunch dill
6 hot peppers
6 cloves garlic
6 slices onion
6 tsp. whole spices
6 lumps alum
1 qt. cider vinegar
2 qts. water
1 c. salt
6 one-quart pickling jars
- Wash and dry enough cucumbers for 6 sterilized 1 quart jars.
- In bottom of each jar place: some dill, 1 hot pepper, 1 clove of garlic, 1 slice of onion, 1 teaspoon whole spices, small lump of alum and cucumbers.
- Combine vinegar, water and salt in saucepan.
- Let mixture come to a rolling boil, then pour into the jars.
- Seal immediately.
- Makes 6 quarts.