->''"--Marshy--lookit all them TV aerials, stickin' up like branches--a whole forest of 'em. From here to San Diego. And all of 'em waitin' t' hear what I got to say."''
-->-- '''Lonesome Rhodes'''

A roving young reporter (Patricia Neal) brings her radio equipment into a podunk Arkansas jail and falls into an interview with one of the inmates (Creator/AndyGriffith), who proves, probably to his own surprise, to be a naturally charming and charismatic man. Christened "Lonesome" Rhodes, he begins a rocket-fueled ascent from drunken drifter to national media and political powerhouse, changing both of them forever.

Written by Budd Schulberg (based on his short story "Your Arkansas Traveler") and directed by Creator/EliaKazan, this 1957 film's message about the power and danger of media demagoguery is still frighteningly relevant, while Griffith's memorable acting helped him get his start in Hollywood, and is usually considered the finest performance of his career.

In 2008 the film was added to the UsefulNotes/NationalFilmRegistry.

!! The film provides examples of:
* TheCameo: Numerous real-life media personalities of the era appear as themselves, including Burl Ives and Mike Wallace.
* DeadpanSnarker: Mel Miller (Walter Matthau), the world-weary head writer for Rhodes' ''Cracker Barrel'' show.
* DeliberateValuesDissonance: Slipped in here and there by Kazan and Schulberg, just to give a somewhat less romanticized portrait of the South than most works at the time; for example, when we first meet "Uncle" J.B., the station manager of KGRK, he's getting his shoes shined by a black attendant that he jovially pats on the head like a dog.
* DrunkWithPower: The more attention Lonesome gets, the more arrogant he becomes, culminating in his EngineeredPublicConfession.
-->'''''Cracker Barrel'' Cast Member:''' You really sell that stiff as a man among men?
-->'''Rhodes:''' Those morons out there? Shucks, I could take chicken fertilizer and sell it to them as caviar. I could make them eat dog food and think it was steak. Sure, I got 'em like this... You know what the public's like? A cage of guinea pigs. ''(grins and waves to camera, sarcastically)'' Good night, you stupid idiots. Good night, you miserable slobs. They're a lot of trained seals. I toss them a dead fish and they'll flap their flippers.
* EngineeredPublicConfession / IsThisThingStillOn: Unbeknownst to Lonesome, Marcia takes control of the production booth to broadcast his speech in DrunkWithPower live over the airwaves. Upon seeing that he is a NiceCharacterMeanActor, his audience and sponsors promptly desert him ''en masse''.
* FromBadToWorse: Rhodes, before and especially after his downfall.
* FromNobodyToNightmare: Lonesome Rhodes is very much an example of this.
* MaleGaze: The drum majorette scene features numerous shots from what is clearly Lonesome's perspective. Lampshaded when J.B. catches him with a lingering smile at one of the girls.
-->'''J.B.:''' She's only seventeen...
-->'''Lonesome:''' ''(Composes himself; solemnly)'' She looks like a very sweet child.
** Griffith said years later that the direction that Kazan gave him for that scene was to mentally "fuck her" and his lecherous, leering smile was the result.
* NiceCharacterMeanActor: Lonesome again. Inversely, Griffith in real life was so disturbed by the effects that playing Rhodes had on him, that it was decades before he agreed to play another villain.
* NoCelebritiesWereHarmed: Lonesome Rhodes, at least in his public persona, appears to be something of an amalgam of Will Rogers and Arthur Godfrey. Godfrey had already inspired the similar 1956 film ''The Great Man'', directed by and starring Jose Ferrer.
* PetTheDog: The first thing Lonesome does with his Memphis TV show is hold a fundraiser for a homeless black woman. Pretty daring for the DeepSouth during TheFifties! When he hits the big time, his charity fundraisers become more cynical.
* PleaseDontLeaveMe: Said by Rhodes to Marcia several times when she gets sick of his hubris and threatens to walk out of his life; it is not until after engineering his downfall that she has the courage to refuse his pleas.
* PrecisionFStrike: During the climax, after Lonesome has inadvertently told his audience what he really thinks of them on the air, we see the reactions of different viewers, including a group of hard-hatted workmen in a bar. One of whom offers this comment (with the offending word dubbed out, but clearly visible on his lips):
-->'''Workman:''' We'll f______ fix you, Jack.
* RagsToRiches: Rhodes goes from a drifter with one spare shirt and a guitar to his name to having the top two floors of a New York Hotel.
* TheReasonYouSuckSpeech: Delivered by Mel Miller to Lonesome following his downfall.
-->'''Rhodes:''' Listen, I'm not through yet. You know what's gonna to happen to me?
-->'''Mel:''' Suppose I tell you exactly what's gonna happen to you. You're gonna be back in television. Only it won't be quite the same as it was before. There'll be a reasonable cooling-off period and then somebody will say: "Why don't we try him again in a inexpensive format. People's memories aren't too long." And you know, in a way, he'll be right. Some of the people will forget, and some of them won't. Oh, you'll have a show. Maybe not the best hour or, you know, top 10. Maybe not even in the top 35. But you'll have a show. It just won't be quite the same as it was before. Then a couple of new fellas will come along. And pretty soon, a lot of your fans will be flocking around them. And then one day, somebody'll ask: "Whatever happened to, ah, whatshisname? You know, the one who was so big. The number-one fella a couple of years ago. He was famous. How can we forget a name like that? Oh by the way, have you seen, ah, Barry Mills? I think he's the greatest thing since Will Rogers."
* SlasherSmile: Ever expect to [[http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_YoY6DEkZ6-w/TUO5W55dKNI/AAAAAAAABMI/_TcbMS2JA0g/s1600/lonesomerhodes.jpg see one]] from Andy Griffith? Holy ''shit.''
* StrawmanNewsMedia
* {{Telethon}}: Goes at least seventeen hours, but a sign held by one of the crippled children shows that it's also a commercial for Lonesome's sponsor.
* VillainousBreakdown: As a result of Rhodes' downfall.