Special "A Face in the Crowd" Observance Planned

Monday, March 7, 2016
Andy Griffith, as Lonesome Rhodes, entertains the crowd during a break in the filming of the football field scenes in A Face in the Crowd. The scenes were filmed at the former PHS football field in August of 1956.(file photo)

A special 60th anniversary celebration of the filming of A Face in the Crowd is currently being planned for Sept. 9 and 10, hosted by the city of Piggott. The event will mark the anniversary of the production of the film, the first and arguably most famous movie filmed in the state of Arkansas.

Local attorney, and historian, Joe Cole is helping coordinate the celebration, which will include a variety of observances.

"In April of 1956, Piggott received official word from Academy Award winning director Elia Kazan that the city would be the filming location of A Face in the Crowd," Cole noted.

In a letter to local friends in Piggott, Kazan wrote, in part-"We are going ahead with the movie. Budd Schulberg has written a wonderful script and one that I think folks there will particularly like," he explained. "We should start shooting in Piggott around Aug. 1, or possibly two weeks later."

On Aug. 16, 1956, production of the movie began with a community wide celebration, where the film crew, members of the movie cast and the people of Piggott all came together to celebrate the start of production.

The film introduced Andy Griffith in his first movie role as Lonesome Rhodes, "The Demagogue in Denim". Other cast members included Academy Award winning actress, Patricia Neal, Anthony Franciosa and Walter Matthau.

"Not to be overlooked in the cast were the hundreds of extras--the people of Piggott, and the town itself," Cole added. "It supplied the perfect backdrop for the development of the title character transitioning from an Arkansas vagabond to a national TV personality and media demagogue who understood the manipulative power that celebrity brings."

Among the activities on the schedule is a re-enactment of the famous football field scene.

"On Friday, Sept. 9, during halftime of the Mohawk's high school football game with the Portageville Bulldogs, the Piggott Marching Mohawk Band will re-enact one of the iconic scenes from the movie where the Piggott Band marches to the formation "WE LOVE LR" (Lonesome Rhodes)," Cole explained

Also highlighted at the game will be the baton twirling competition, which in the movie featured local and regional majorettes twirling to the Lonesome Rhodes recording of "Mama Guitar."

"Many of the majorettes that appeared in the movie will be invited to attend and recognized for their contribution to the filming," Cole added.

On Saturday, Sept. 10, the City of Piggott will host a filming location tour around the community giving visitors a chance to see where specific parts of the film were produced. The Piggott Visitor's Center, where the Piggott railroad depot and a passenger train created the movie set where the citizens of "Pickett" said farewell and 'good luck' to Lonesome Rhodes will also be featured. "And, we have planned a special dedication of photo-art which will be permanently displayed for the public," Cole offered.

The Matilda and Karl Pfeiffer Museum will also host an open house, as the location where Lonesome Rhodes gets the call to transition from radio to television. Photographs from that scene of the movie and the "swimming pool" scene will also be dedicated as a permanent display for visitors to the local museum.

Other sites will also be visited during the Saturday scene location tour in an effort to further educate visitors about the history of the filming.

The evening of Saturday, Sept. 10, the Piggott Mohawk Band will host a special event at the Piggott Community Center. "The band event will feature guests from the movie, a concert and an auction that will include memorabilia from the movie," Cole explained. "And, the evening will be highlighted by the unveiling of a permanent art display which will become a featured exhibit at the community center."

The event is still in the planning stages, and those wanting additional information, or those who are interested in sponsoring an event, may contact Cole at 901 246-7647.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: