The other night, I watched Elia Kazan's A Face In The Crowd. I liked it, but realized that it would probably blur in my memory very quickly with Billy Wilder's Ace In The Hole. Mostly, the two movies just share a tone.
Face In The Crowd is interesting for the way in which it depicts the idea of a down-home, folksy country musician as supporting conservative politics- made in an era in which conservative politics were unpopular. It was made in 1957, which while it might not seem like the most liberal of times now, it's still worth noting Eisenhower saying that if a president ever tried to abolish social security, every liberal in the country, including him, would rise up. The far-right politician in this film is someone who supports the abolition of social security, and is also described as "the last of the isolationists." What a weird little time capsule.
Ace In The Hole was made in 1951. It stars Kirk Douglas, as a journalist who manufactures spectacle to make a name for himself. It's simultaneously funnier and more of a tragedy than Face In The Crowd, but Face In The Crowd, being made in 1957 has a crazy little proto-film-psychedelia scene of over-editing that I find really endearing.
They are almost the same movie, some sort of flipside to each other. Both are about the way the media chews people out and spits them up, and there's some corrupting process along the way. Ace In The Hole is about a reporter manufacturing a story where there is none, with tragic results. A Face In The Crowd is about the subject being chosen and inflated in a way beyond his control. It's more sprawling- it takes place over a longer period of time, and is about a person becoming a celebrity and becoming corrupted, but there are weird brief looks into his foundational psychology.