Before Andy Griffith became the lovable sheriff of Mayberry, he made his film debut as Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes, a drifter turned psychotic, powerful media demagogue.
In Elia Kazan’s dark, 1957 cautionary tale, Rhodes is a grassroots kind of guy, a man of the people who becomes drunk with power and will say anything to connect to his radio and TV audiences.
People love him and believe everything he says.
Behind the scenes, he calls them “even more stupid than I am.”
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“I’m not just an entertainer,” he exclaims. “I’m an influencer, a wielder of opinion. A force.”
EW noticed that TCM is airing the movie on Friday, just a few hours after Donald Trump becomes president.
In recent months critics and media outlets have compared Trump to Lonesome Rhodes. Last year the Washington Post’s Marc Fisher wrote that the movie foreshadowed a candidate like Trump.
But a TCM spokesman told EW it is only coincidence that the movie is airing during Trump’s shining hour. It is part of a tribute to one of the movie’s stars, Patricia Neal, whose birthday happens to fall on Inauguration Day this year, TCM said.
Scott Meslow at GQ isn’t buying that. He thinks it’s purposeful counter-programming, a “quiet, clever little protest against Trump’s coronation.”
“These gestures — futile as they may feel — do not add up to nothing,” he writes. “At a time when traditional news outlets will be covering the inauguration with varying degrees of enthusiasm, TCM is giving us the chance to tune it out by revisiting a film with a message too many Americans were willing to ignore on Election Day. I know what I’ll be watching.”
The movie airs at 4:45 p.m. CST.