The Crowd is an American silent film released in 1928 and directed by King Vidor.
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".
The film centers on ambitious but undisciplined New York City office worker John Sims (played by James Murray) who meets and marries Mary (Eleanor Boardman).
They start a family, struggle to cope with marital stress, financial setbacks, and tragedy, all while lost amid the anonymous, pitiless throngs of the big city.
was conceived and filmed under the artistic vision of famed 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
(heavily influenced by German films) 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 a minor 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
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 1980 documentary Hollywood by Kevin Brownlow and David Gill. 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 also draws from the mise-en-scene elements of German Expressionist films such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.
The film also inspired some of the story and scenes from acclaimed Japanese director Yasujirō Ozu in his film, Tokyo Chorus.
The shot in Billy Wilder's The Apartment, when the camera swoops in to show Jack Lemmon trapped in a horde of desk jockeys, is taken from a similar shot in The Crowd.
-Best Director, Dramatic Picture, (King Vidor)
-Best Picture, Unique and Artistic Production
Composer Carl Davis
created an orchestral score for the film in the early 1980s, and it was released on video in conjunction with MGM and British television Thames Silents series in the late 1980s.