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Andy Griffith Recalls Controversial 'Face'

17 May, 2005 By: Jessica Wolf

Griffith in A Face in the Crowd

There are few Hollywood directors as controversial as Elia Kazan, who named names to the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in the 1950s. On the flipside, there are few Hollywood stars as beloved and trusted as Andy Griffith.

Still, the two are part of this week's launch of Warner Home Video's Controversial Classics (Kazan in memory only, of course), a seven-disc set of DVDs, including Griffith's film debut A Face in the Crowd, a story of a hobo turned drunken megalomaniac, country-music singing TV star.

The film depicts depravity and the frightening grip of influence television can hold on its viewers.

The story was a bit ahead of its time, Griffith said during a round of interviews to support the DVD release.

Budd Schulberg, writer of the book and screenplay, and also a McCarthy-era informant, originally didn't think the young, green Griffith was up to the part at the time, the actor recalled.

But an impromptu impression of Oral Roberts and a “healing” of Kazan at a bar one night changed Schulberg's mind, Griffith said.

Griffith said he's pleased that the DVD is coming out and that it's fitting Warner has placed it in the “Controversial Classics” collection.

“Budd and [Kazan] were making a social statement,” Griffith said.Griffith and fellow actor from the 1957 film, Anthony Franciosa, reunited for the first time since filming A Face in the Crowd and reminisced about co-stars Walter Matthau, Patricia Neal and Lee Remick, and about working with Kazan.

Both are involved in the DVD release: Griffith in a new interview and Franciosa in previously recorded interview footage.

“I always thought of movies as being a going-to-the-theater experience,” Franciosa said. “It's an amazing thing that's happened [with DVD]. It's a part of libraries now.

“It's amazing after so many years to go back,” he added.

Griffith, in his stories recorded for the DVD release, recounts several instances of intimate interactions with Kazan for his first movie role.

A Face in the Crowd was filmed after Kazan had made his controversial testimony to the HUAC, but it was never addressed on set, Griffith and Franciosa said.

Both remember Kazan as an intense actor-centric director. Franciosa had known him from previous work at New York's famous Actors Studio co-founded by Kazan and Lee Strasberg.

“If you ever watch a Kazan picture, it grabs you and never lets you up, never lets you go,” Franciosa said.

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