Parents' Guide to

All the King's Men (1949)

By Nell Minow, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 12+

Details the rise and fall of a Southern politician.

Movie NR 2006 110 minutes
All the King's Men (1949) Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 9+

Based on 3 parent reviews

age 14+

All The Kings Men – All Class

When the name Robert Rossen appears associated with a film you can rest assured it will have more than a decent level of professional interest and integrity. This is no exception; winner of Three Academy Awards of its year, this unusual movie follows the career of a man from the sticks, a hick, destined to make his mark on the world of power politics. Crawford is a powerhouse as Willie Stark, backwoods lawyer on a steamroller trail to the front line – a man you stand in the way of at your peril. Willie has honourable intentions of correcting wrongs but can he hold fast to the challenge? A strong cast under the guidance of Rossen turn in bravura performances, with Mercedes McCambridge bringing remarkable touches to this work – and, it’s all captured on film by master cinematographer Burnett Guffey (The Harder They Fall ’56) from Robert Penn Warrens Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. This is about as good as this genre of film-making gets as we follow the vast assortment of fascinating characters through twisted trials and tribulations – on the way to absolute power (and we know what they say about ‘absolute’ power!) Expect one hard-hitting situation following another as the road to the top casts aside both good and bad as they struggle to survive in Willies inside-out world. Not to be missed by all lovers of fine Noir dramas. The Columbia DVD release is from a clear negative transfer.
age 2+

Gross out film-OK for toddlers

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (3 ):
Kids say (3 ):

It's a classic for a reason, but it's only likely to appeal to older kids who are intrigued by politics. Assigned to cover Stark's campaign, journalist Jack Burden asks his editor, "What's so special about him?" "They say he's an honest man," is the reply, and this puts him in the "man bites dog" category of newsworthiness. And he is an honest man, at first, motivated to study law and to run for office out of a genuine desire to fight corruption and abuse of power. But, as Lord Acton famously said, "power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." In allowing himself to exploit the same mechanisms that he once protested, in a vain effort to use the ends to justify the means, Willie makes himself politically and spiritually vulnerable, and he does not have a trusted advisor or a moral foundation to keep him from spinning out of control.

It is interesting to watch the other characters decide how much corruption they are prepared to accept or participate in. Jack switches from being a journalist to what would now be called a specialist in "oppo" research (finding dirt on the opposing). A judge agrees to support Stark, swayed in part by the "good comes out of bad" argument, but probably swayed more by the chance to be Attorney General. Still, there is a limit, when he is forbidden to prosecute a crony of Stark's, when he must publicly oppose Stark. Even the prospect of blackmail will not force him to back down, only to kill himself.

Movie Details

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