05 August 2008

The Crowd (1928)

d. King Vidor / USA / 104 mins.

Produced shortly after the innovation of sound, King Vidor's The Crowd is one of the last flourishes of outstanding silent cinematography before the camera became far too bulky and sensitive to extraneous noises. The wonderfully fluid camera, helmed by cinematographer Henry Sharp who was no doubt under the influence of German expressionism, works successfully in a space as small as an elevator and as large as a wide-angle shot of New York City; it careens downward and backward and watches the characters slide down an amusement park attraction; it swoops in from a crane and captures the neatly spaced office desks at a conglomerate. The film is a sight to behold.

Vidor aimed for true realism with The Crowd, giving his life-on-the-American-dream-plan protagonist a boring job and a marriage that was not immune from tragedy (the film even showed a toilet on screen for the first time – gasp!). He cast mostly unknown actors and was not afraid to have the story turn sophisticatedly maudlin. But the story of an ordinary man's rise through life might sound plain and simple, the film itself – despite its ordinary and ill-fated characters – is anything but boring, thanks to the strength of its mesmerizing look and steady emotional compass.

Irving Thalberg, the head honcho at MGM (which produced The Crowd), is reported to have said movie studios should invest in films every now and then that they expect will lose money; if that's too idealistic for you, know that Thalberg's prescience was not unfounded (nor unreturned; the film's box office gross doubled the cost of production). Movies entertain, but they are also intrinsic works of art. Many years later The Crowd was among the first selections inducted into the National Film Registry, and today, thanks to Thalberg's investment, it continues to be one of the great silent dramas to come out of Hollywood.


  © 2008-2010 Screen Savour. Licensed under Creative Commons.

  Template © ourblogtemplates.com

Back to TOP