The Crowd is that rarest of all Hollywood productions – a studio-made film that was never intended to make money. Released by MGM in 1928, this magnificent cinematic treatise on the pitfalls of American Dreaming is perhaps even more timely today than it was 85 years ago, and has lost none of its capacity to dazzle and unsettle viewers, in equal measure.

King Vidor’s film derives much of its power from its focus upon the fundamental contradiction at the heart of American culture – America’s business always has been the assembly-line manufacture of consenting consumers, each one of whom believes that he or she is a one-of-a-kind work of art. The story of John Sims (James Murray) and his wife Mary (Eleanor Boardman) dramatizes that fundamental insight with pitiless (but
poignant) precision.

The secret of the film’s enduring power is its unconditional acceptance of its characters as human beings worth caring about. The little triumphs and tragedies of their lives, as maudlin or mundane as they might seem on paper, become so much more in the hands of Vidor and his actors.

David Fiore
Sound on Sight

With accompaniment from pianist Stephen Horne