The Crowd (1928)

King Vidor’s 1928 feature about a man stuck in the rut of (then) modern society is an interesting and prescient work.

The striking visual compositions (John ascending the stairs, “The Crowd” montage, the final scene) are brilliant, technically as well as aesthetically.

Although the struggle of the proletariat was covered better in De Sica’s Ladri di Biciclette, that is an “everyman” tale, whereas The Crowd focuses intensely on this one man’s life and family.

An interesting view of the development of the sense of irony at the time is offered. The titles offer some fairly cruel and ironic observations on the goings on, but the visual irony (the clown suited man and John’s “president” remark) seem a bit obvious to us, jaded with a more modern ironic sense.

A worthwhile picture, certainly. It places well on my top fifty, though not my top ten. I am interested to hear lissener’s analysis.

What am I, chopped liver?

Great acting, too, one of James Murray’s first roles (and his only real showcase). Eleanor Boardman (a dead ringer for Helen Hunt, by the way) was great, too—though in interviews in later years she kept complaining that “I wanted to have pretty makeup and hair and costumes—I hated looking so drab!”

Mmm: chopped liver.

The Crowd fits easily into my top THREE of all time. It’s the rarest of things: a silent movie with zero melodrama. A silent picture in which the “villain” is the simple, everyday pressures of expectations and realizations. It’s a simple, yet heartbreaking, story about real people living a real life. And as Eve pointed out, James Murray does a really superb job in the lead, as does Eleanor Boardman as his onscreen wife. She was, in real life, married to the director, King Vidor, who is one my favorite directors. He was one of the greats of the early days of movies. His artistic vision, his respect for film as an artistic, even a literary, medium, had on influence on later filmmakers that I doubt can be overstated. With films like The Crowd, The Big Parade, The Champ–a cliched, weepy storyline that Vidor managed to keep solidly outside of melodrama–and Street Scene, Vidor helped to establish film as a viable, “respectable” art form.

His, um, oeuvre is somewhat variable–Duel in the Sun, while compelling and eminently watchable again and again, IMHO)–is WAAAY over the top, and is nearly operatic in its melodramatic intensity. Rumor has it, though, that the producer, David O. Selznick, saw the film as a “Western Gone with the Wind,” and wouldn’t allow Vidor’s vision to stand. Selznick, who was known to re-cut even John Ford’s films to his own liking, is said to have stepped in and re-shot some of the scenes under his own direction, and IMDB lists six additional names as uncredited directors on the film. So it’s not that surprising that Duel in the Sun stands kind of alone among Vidor’s work: it nearly out-JohnnyGuitars Johnny Guitar. Still, it’s a camp favorite: Jennifer Jones’s outrageous performance, slathered as she is with very non-PC brown makeup (she’s a “halfbreed Mexican”), is among the most hilariously over-the-top performances this side of Dorothy Malone’s in Written on the Wind.

Anyway, by contrast, The Crowd is a sublime exercise in realism and human truth, and when I’m president everyone will have to watch it at least twice.

No, no, you’re my hero(ine) too, but lissener placed it in his top three in the “Top Ten” thread, so I was interested to hear what he had to say.

You don’t have to vie for my attention, there’s plenty to go around. :smiley:
Anyway, I am tempted to place The Crowd slightly below Sunrise. Not due to the cinematography, which IMO is better in The Crowd (Expressionism works better in surrealism than melodrama, IMO) as Vidor was light years ahead of anyone else. It’s the reliance on title cards which distracts me. Murnau was able to tell stories with a minimal reliance on dialogue (see The Last Laugh), and the excess dialogue in The Crowd breaks up the visual narrative. Other than that, the performances and what not are equivalent. The “villain” is the same, too.

When your ship comes in, you mean?

Does anyone know how the building shot in “The Crowd” montage was accomplished? Miniatures?

A miniature built horizontally, on the floor, with the camera tracking above it then down into the window.

'Kay…I’m not the biggest old movie fan, but I do enjoy them. You can’t get much at Blockbuster, but I catch what I can on TCM. Is there any place you can rent these flicks?

Every big city has a hoitytoity rental store. Chicago’s best one is (or was as of about 5 years ago when I was last there) Facets on–Fullerton? Diversey? I think Fullerton. Seattle has the best one I’ve ever seen, Scarecrow Video in the University District.

Facets rents by mail, if you’re in the boonies. So does the Video Library, which is in Philadelphia. Or is it in Pittsburgh? I think it’s Philly.

Also, TCM has "Silent Sunday Night"s, on–get this–Sundays. MOst of these films cycle through that series: that’s where I taped the Crowd, Greed, Broken Blossoms, and many more silent titles.

Almost all of my silent collection (~45 titles) were taped for me from “Silent Sunday Nights.” Unfortunately, the guy taping them got a tape mold and lost some of the best like Orphans Of The Storm and Broken Blossoms.

Oh, yes…Silent Sundays. That’s one of the things I really miss here. I taped all the Chaney films they had on in October…but they’re 3,000 miles away, I haven’t got a telly and they’re all in VHS.

Never really got into Gish…oh, but give me Lon Chaney…(shivers)…I always gave my actors THE lecture when they complained their costumes weren’t comfortable. Silly little props that eat.

Also, check any libraries near you. My old Uni’s library had stacks and stacks. DVD, VHS and Laserdisc, that you could sit in the library and watch if you didn’t have the equipment to play them.


No one has mentioned the on-line DVD rental service Netflix? All the DVDs you can watch (up to three at a time) for one flat monthly fee, and no return deadlines. The Crowd isn’t out on DVD yet, but when it comes out, Netflix will very likely have it.