Elia Kazan and Budd Schulberg, who teamed to bring forth On the Waterfront, have another provocative and hardhitting entry, based on Schulberg’s short story The Arkansas Traveler. It’s a devastating commentary on hero-worship and success cults in America.
Its basic story is somewhat similar to that of The Great Man in that it exposes a beloved television personality as an unmitigated heel.
Story plucks an ignorant guitar-playing hillbilly from an Arkansas jail and converts him in a short space of time to America’s most popular and beloved television personality. He is in private life an unsavory character, a libertine and an opportunist with loyalty to no one but himself. He enters the political arena, becomes aligned with an ‘isolationist’ senator, and pitches an extreme reactionary philosophy.
Andy Griffith makes his film debut as Lonesome Rhodes, the power-mad hillbilly. As his vis-a-vis, Patricia Neal is the girl who guides Griffith to fame and fortune. Anthony Franciosa plays the unprincipled personal manager, Walter Matthau a cynical writer.