This is one of my favourite lines from
the classic movie "A Face in the Crowd", which I watched for the
first time this weekend, and which I hugely recommend. Directed in
1957 by Elia Kazan it tells the story of a drifter who finds fame
and fortune when randomly picked out from a crowd by a radio
Bizarrely it was Bob Dylan's
recommendation that first drew me to the film. Interviewed
about what celebrity does to a person (and after all he should
know), he referenced a couple of great films, including this
Bear with me…I am getting to the
The film is notable for its relevance
still today. In fact it seems more relevant to today's swift rise
and fall of minor celebrities than it could possibly have been at
the time of its release. It is also worth watching for its
contemporary depiction of Madison Avenue. This is fascinating set
against the series Mad Men (set in the 1960s) which so many of us
are glued to but which paints a far more glamorous image than the
one depicted here.
The protagonist of "A Face in the
Crowd" is Larry Rhodes, a drunken drifter who rises to become the
star of national TV. He's facilitated in his rise by a Madison
Avenue ad agency. His early dealings with the suits from the agency
don't go well. He dismisses them as men who "say gesundheit before
you even sneeze".
But surely this is the very definition
of great client service. To pre-empt problems before they arise. To
anticipate what will go wrong (and provide a tissue).
Meanwhile (spoiler alert), Rhodes is
doomed to fall as he increasingly begins to have contempt for his
fans, the very people that have made his fortune. He fails to be
true to his roots and to himself. His downfall - a microphone
that's on when it should have been turned off and reveals what he
really thinks. How modern is that? (Gordon Brown, Nicholas Sarkozy
etc.) and see my new book Tell the Truth (available here).
First published here on Sue Unerman's blog.