In the 1960s, Jean-Luc Godard was asked by no one was making films about ordinary people. His response? “Why remake The Crowd? It has already been done.”
King Vidor’s 1928 silent film “The Crowd” is a masterful portrayal of the difficulties of life in the 1920s. Despite the fact that the decade is known to many as the “Roaring Twenties,” there were still many difficulties for the average citizen in the United States. The film follows John from a boy to an adult as he struggles to find his individuality.
Most of the story highlights the struggles of marriage during this time period. John meets a girl, falls in love with her, and asks her to marry him all on the same day. They did hit off very well, but at the same time, the speed with which he moved through life prevented him from seeing potential problems on the horizon. Mary comes from a very well off family and she has high expectations for John. John, not wanting to disappoint, always attempts to please her. However, this often means that he exaggerates, simply getting her and her family’s hopes up, only to disappoint them.
In this period of relative prosperity, everyone had the expectation of a better life. Mary especially did; her brothers were both prosperous as was Bert and others around her. Yet after several years, John had only achieved a 5 dollar raise and they were still stuck in the same apartment as they had been. This is not to say that Mary was the only one disappointed. The Crowd brings out many of the struggles of the individual within society, especially that of an individual trying to stand out.
When John first traveled to New York, he was told by a man on the boat that he would have to be good to stand out in the crowd. But what John finds out, what many people of that decade found out, is that being good sometimes isn’t enough to help you stand out in a crowd. The world was a tough, painful place. John lost his youngest daughter on the day he got a huge bonus. He repeatedly failed to advance as quickly through life as he would hope to. His marriage was a struggle to span two social classes with completely different backgrounds. He was an ordinary man with ordinary problems, but it was still a difficult life to lead.
The film does tell us how we are to move past the difficulties of everyday life: family. Despite the struggles of his life, even when John was on the brink of suicide, he always found someone to turn to. Ultimately it was his son where he found the greatest strength. His son, the future, was why he could continue to work and struggle for a better tomorrow.