21. “The Crowd”, King Vidor (1928)

Part of The 100 Greatest Movies I’ve Ever Seen list

The Crowd

The Crowd

dir. King Vidor scr. King Vidor and John V.A. Weaver cin. Henry Sharp with Eleanor Boardman and James Murray

In 100 words: Arriving right at the edge of German expressionism and two decades before neorealism, Vidor’s Crowd feels out of place with contemporary films. Released at the end of the Roaring Twenties, it’s a cynical portrait of the American Dream, showing the plight of one man among the mob with ambition but somehow incapable of living up to his promise. Vidor balances every bit of hope or happiness with failure or tragedy, and also shows a realistic take on a marriage, refusing any trace of sentimentality. Heightened expressionist images and documentary-like shooting add formal rigor while performances feel modern, specific, and touching.

Other Movies for Context: Vidor’s a well-known populist director who has inspired other later generation of directors like Vittorio de Sica, who uses this movie as inspiration for the climax of his Umberto D. and to make Bicycle Thieves. Billy Wilder’s The Apartment (1960) also takes a crucial image from this, the one with the long take into the office building full of like-minded and similar looking drones. Vidor’s own film Stella Dallas (1937), starring the magnificent Barbra Stanwyck who gives such a perfect performance in there, has similar populist ideas.