The Crowd is a 1928 American silent film directed by King Vidor and starring Eleanor Boardman and James Murray.
The picture is an influential and acclaimed feature and was nominated for the Academy Award for Unique and Artistic Production. In 1989, this film was one of the first 25 films to be selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
Born on the Fourth of July, 1900, John Sims (James Murray) loses his father when he is twelve. At 21, he sets out for New York City, where he is sure he will become somebody important, just as his father had always believed. Another boat passenger warns him that he will have to be good to stand out in the crowd.
He gets a job as one of many office workers in the Atlas Insurance Company. Fellow employee Bert (Bert Roach) talks him into a double date to Coney Island. John is so smitten with Mary (Eleanor Boardman), he proposes to her at the end of the date; she accepts. They honeymoon in Niagara Falls. (Bert predicts the marriage will last a year or two.)
A Christmas Eve dinner with Mary's mother (Lucy Beaumont) and two brothers (Daniel G. Tomlinson and Dell Henderson), with whom John is not on friendly relations, ends badly. John goes to Bert's to get some liquor and does not return until it is very late and he is very drunk.
In April, they quarrel and Mary threatens to leave. She is shocked and hurt when he does not try to stop her, but the couple reconcile when she reveals she is pregnant. She gives birth to a son. The next five years produces a daughter and an $8 raise, but Mary is dissatisfied with John's lack of advancement, especially compared to Bert, and John's big talk about his prospects.
Finally, John wins $500 for an advertising slogan; he buys presents for his family. However, when he and Mary urge their children to rush home to see their gifts, their daughter is run over by a truck. John is so deeply affected, he cannot concentrate at work. When reprimanded, he quits.
He gets other jobs, but cannot hold onto them. Finally, Mary's brothers reluctantly offer him a position. When John is too proud to accept a "charity job", Mary can take no more; she slaps him. John goes for a walk, contemplating suicide, but his son goes with him. The child's unconditional love for him makes him change his mind. He gets work as a sandwich board carrier and returns home, his optimism renewed, only to find Mary about to leave with her brothers. She gets out of the house, but no further. She loves him too much to abandon him.
- Eleanor Boardman as Mary
- James Murray as John 'Johnny' Sims
- Bert Roach as Bert
- Estelle Clark as Jane
- Daniel G. Tomlinson as Jim
- Dell Henderson as Dick
- Lucy Beaumont as Mary's Mother
- Freddie Burke Frederick as 'Junior'
- Alice Mildred Puter as Daughter
The Crowd was conceived and filmed under the artistic vision of director King Vidor, who sought the film to be innovative in its story, acting, and cinematography. The film mixes striking visual styles and moving camera cinematography, influenced by 1920s German cinema and F.W. Murnau in particular, with intense, intimate scenes of the family's poignant struggle. Vidor avoided casting big-name stars in the film to attain greater authenticity; Murray was a studio extra, and Boardman was an MGM contract actress and Vidor's second wife.
Vidor's great financial success at MGM in the 1920s allowed him to sell the unusual scenario to production head Irving Thalberg as an experimental film. MGM chief Louis B. Mayer reportedly disliked the film for its bleak subject matter and lack of a happy ending. In fact, several alternate upbeat endings were filmed and previewed at the studio's insistence, but Vidor persevered and the film was released with the original, logical conclusion.
Critical reception and influence
The Crowd was not a great success upon its initial release, but it has been consistently hailed as one of the greatest and most enduring American silent films. The Crowd was a remarkably groundbreaking film, but it was released just as the Great Depression and the arrival of sound films combined to radically change filmmaking. Due to the limitations imposed by early sound filming techniques, the film's moving camera innovations would not be equaled for another decade. Likewise, Depression-era audiences sought escapist entertainment over the stark realism of The Crowd, which filmmakers would not embrace again until after the end of World War II. Director Jean-Luc Godard was asked in the 1960s why more films were not made about ordinary people, and his response was "Why remake The Crowd? It has already been done".
Vidor used the John and Mary Sims characters again (with different actors) in his 1934 film Our Daily Bread. He also provided an insightful interview on the making of the film in a segment of the British documentary series Hollywood (1980). Vidor wrote an unrealized screenplay based on the tragic life of The Crowd lead actor James Murray, who fell on hard times eerily similar to those of the character for which he is remembered.
The film's production hitory and influence were the subjects of a 2014 book "King Vidor's THE CROWD: The Making of a Silent Classic", by Jordan Young.
The Crowd was released on VHS as part of the MGM Silent Classics series in the 1980s. It was also released as part of a double-bill LV package with The Wind. Warner Bros. currently holds distribution rights to all of MGM's silent films, including this one.
- Academy Award for Best Director, Dramatic Picture - King Vidor
- Academy Award for Best Unique and Artistic Production - Irving Thalberg for MGM
Composer Carl Davis created an orchestral score for the film in 1981, and it was released on video in conjunction with MGM and British television Thames Silents series in the late 1980s.
- Extensive review of the film.
- Historical analysis of the film.
- Review and article on making the film.
- Contemporary review, TIME Magazine, March 5, 1928
- Contemporary review, by Mordaunt Hall, NY Times, February 20, 1928
- The Crowd at the Internet Movie Database
- The Crowd at the TCM Movie Database
- The Crowd at AllMovie
- color lobby poster