Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Robert Penn Warren, All the King's Men is a roman à clef inspired by the career of Louisiana governor Huey Long. Broderick Crawford won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Willie Stark, a… More Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Robert Penn Warren, All the King's Men is a roman à clef inspired by the career of Louisiana governor Huey Long. Broderick Crawford won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Willie Stark, a backwoods Southern lawyer who wins the hearts of his constituents by bucking the corrupt state government. Journalist Jack Burden (John Ireland) is impressed by Willie's seeming sincerity, and aids Stark on the road to political power. Once he's reached the governor's mansion, however, Willie proves himself to be as dishonest and despotic as the crooks whom he's replaced. He also cheats shamelessly on his wife with both his campaign manager (Mercedes McCambridge, another Oscar winner) and with Anne Stanton (Joanne Dru), the sister of idealistic doctor Adam Stanton (Sheppard Strudwick). Fiercely protective of his power, Willie organizes a fascistic police force and arranges for "accidents" to befall those who oppose him; even so, he retains the love of the voters by lowering the poverty level, improving the school system, and financing building projects. Even when Willie all but orchestrates the suicide of Anne's uncle, a highly respected judge (Raymond Greenleaf), those closest to him are unable to escape his power and the charismatic hold he has over people. Stockton, CA, stands in for the unnamed state capitol where most of the film's action occurs. In addition to its Oscars for Crawford and McCambridge, All the King's Men won the Best Picture prize. Warren's novel would later be adapted into a stage play, a TV special, and even an opera.
Consensus: Broderick Crawford is spellbinding as politician Willie Stark in director Robert Rossen's adaptation of the Robert Penn Warren novel about the corrosive effects of power on the human soul.