Jump to content
 
Search In
  • More options...
Find results that contain...
Find results in...

Megalomaniacs ..... in film, that is


Bogie56
 Share

Recommended Posts

Films are a great medium to explore megalomaniacs.  Those parts certainly let actors go for it.  The recently broadcast Dr. Strangelove offers several in one film!

 

But I wanted to kick this topic off with what may be the grandaddy, Downfall.  Oliver Hirschbiegel's realistic 2004 German film (that means subtitles) about Hitler's last days in the bunker.  Ordering non-existent troops to attack this army and that.  It offered a showcase barn burning performance by Bruno Ganz that was deserving of an Oscar.

 

And it has inspired numerous youtube parodies as Hitler rants at his own generals.

 
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Lots of examples in horror films -- West of Zanzibar/Kongo, to name two based on the same story. And all those mad doctor films -- they were mostly megalomaniacal. Dr. Moreau certainly was, in all the versions of the H.G. Wells story based on that character.

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Don't forget The Great Dictator (1940)

 

Going to the merely power crazed; Broderick Crawfords character in All The Kings' Men (1949)

 

Lonesome Rhodes (Andy Griffith) in A Face in the Crowd (1957)

 

Juarez--Bette Davis' Empress Carlotta  (TCM should add a cuckoo clock emoticon)

 

George Macready as Ballin Mundson (Munson?) in Gilda (1946)

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A Face in the Crowd, one of my favorite films, explores Andy Griffith's ascent to megalomania.  He starts out as just a drunk bum with a guitar, who Patricia Neal discovers in an Arkansas jail.  She hears him singing in his jail cell and decides to take him to the local radio station to perform a couple songs.  He ends up becoming a sensation on local radio and from this, he gets his own television show in Memphis.  He's a huge sensation in that market and from there ends up getting an even bigger television show in New York City.  Throughout his rise in popularity and fame, his ego starts getting bigger and bigger until it all unravels for him in New York City when Neal, the very person who discovered him and helped him, and the one who has been the most hurt by Griffith's megalomania, purposely sabotages him by turning his microphone back on.  While the show's credits roll, he's heard badmouthing his audience-- the very people who made him a star.  While it seems that Griffith will still have his show, he will never again be as popular.  The film ends with him screaming out his penthouse window for Neal to return-- a very pitiful ending for someone whose fame and talent could have given them everything they wanted, but instead, their ego took over and they end up alienating everyone who ever cared about them.

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

Going to the merely power crazed; Broderick Crawfords character in All The Kings' Men (1949)

 

 

Crawford's character, Willie Stark, was based on Gov./Sen. Huey Long of Louisiana.  The movie was based on Robert Penn Warren's book by the same title.  Incidentally, Crawford got his only Oscar, for Best Actor, in All the King's Men.

All the King's Men is considered a classic of American literature.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A Face in the Crowd, one of my favorite films explores Andy Griffith's ascent to megalomania.  He starts out as just a drunk bum with a guitar, who Patricia Neal discovers in an Arkansas jail.  She hears him singing in his jail cell and decides to take him to the local radio station to perform a couple songs.  He ends up becoming a sensation on local radio and from this, he gets his own television show in Memphis.  He's a huge sensation in that market and from there ends up getting an even bigger television show in New York City.  Throughout his rise in popularity and fame, his ego starts getting bigger and bigger until it all unravels for him in New York City when Neal, the very person who discovered him and helped him, and the one who has been the most hurt by Griffith's megalomania, purposely sabotages him by turning his microphone back on.  While the show's credits roll, he's heard badmouthing his audience-- the very people who made him a star.  While it seems that Griffith will still have his show, he will never again be as popular.  The film ends with him screaming out his penthouse window for Neal to return-- a very pitiful ending for someone whose fame and talent could have given them everything they wanted, but instead, their ego took over and they end up alienating everyone who ever cared about them.

I think he always had the megalomania, but had not had the opportunity to fully display it.  His actions from his first scene in the jail and later on the road out of town show definite inclinations of this.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Films are a great medium to explore megalomaniacs.  Those parts certainly let actors go for it.  The recently broadcast Dr. Strangelove offers several in one film!

 

But I wanted to kick this topic off with what may be the grandaddy, Downfall.  Oliver Hirschbiegel's realistic 2004 German film (that means subtitles) about Hitler's last days in the bunker.  Ordering non-existent troops to attack this army and that.  It offered a showcase barn burning performance by Bruno Ganz that was deserving of an Oscar.

 

And it has inspired numerous youtube parodies as Hitler rants at his own generals.

 

Hitler ranted at his own genitals??

 

Oh, wait. Gotta stop using that small print, Dude.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity (1944)

 

Kathleen Turner in Body Heat (1982)

 

Jean Simmons in Angel Face (1953)

These women control their men like puppets.

 

Fredric March in Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde (1932)

 

Spencer Tracy in MGM remake of DJ&MH (1941)--Tracy in particular makes himself seem a real psycho, even before he drinks the potion.

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

John Huston's Noah Cross in CHINATOWN would probably qualify onto this list here.

 

(...and perhaps a character who as Huston portrays him in this film always seems under full control of his emotions, and to me at least makes him seem even more the ominous sort)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity (1944)

 

Kathleen Turner in Body Heat (1982)

 

Jean Simmons in Angel Face (1953)

These women control their men like puppets.

 

 

I would view these three as manipulative and evil rather than megalomanical.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Citizen Kane is probably one of the most classic examples of megalomania in film.  Kane's life follows a similar trajectory to that of Andy Griffith's Lonesome Rhodes in A Face in the Crowd, except Kane acquired his fame in a different way.  While Rhodes was discovered and made popular by an audience; Kane's fame was his own doing.  When Kane takes control of his large trust fund at age 25, he enters the newspaper business, specifically yellow journalism.  Kane found that printing sensational stories with little or no legitimate information got more readers and attention than the legitimate news.  He then uses the wealth acquired from his first newspaper venture, to purchase a larger newspaper.  Under this name, he starts publishing tabloid articles attacking his former guardian--the very man whose wealth allowed Kane to enter the newspaper business in the first place.  Kane used his money to hire the best journalists to help raise the circulation of the newspaper.  He eventually became the biggest man in America as a result of his newspaper as he was able to marry the niece of the President and successfully sway public opinion about the Spanish American War.  He ends up entering a career of politics, which comes to an abrupt end when he begins an affair with an amateur singer.  Wanting to be seen with a more esteemed and respectable type singer, he forces his girlfriend into a humiliating opera career which she has neither the talent nor the ambition to pursue. 

 

Kane's world of wealth and power eventually comes crashing down around him when he slowly alienates each and every person who helped him along the way.  He ends up dying broken and alone with all his worldly possessions packed in boxes or being destroyed, ready to be cleared out to make room for the next rich person who'll make their home in Xanadu.  Another sad ending for such a powerful man.

 

Although unlike Lonesome Rhodes, who it could be argued was ignorant and naive when handed all this fame.  He had never experienced anything like this before and was unsure of how to handle it.  He didn't fake anything or resort to nefarious tactics to gain his popularity, he was just himself.  Whereas, Kane, knew exactly what he was doing when he was publishing scandalous newspaper articles.  He knew that these were the types of articles that would sell newspapers.

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

 

 

Just to help, here is a definition of megalomania ...

 

an unnaturally strong wish for power and control, or the belief that you are very much more important and powerful than you really are

If we're talking in the Freudian sense (as that definition sort of does), then a lot of the despots are not delusional and not strictly speaking megalomaniacs -- they really were powerful!

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

If we're talking in the Freudian sense (as that definition sort of does), then a lot of the despots are not delusional and not strictly speaking megalomaniacs -- they really were powerful!

Colonel Kurtz as db pointed out was both powerful and delusional.  A great example of megalomania created by Conrad.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

LOL -- I mention those people when it's relevant, because people here care about them and because most of them are lovely people, and I think it's nice to report first hand evidence of that. If people find that tedious or showing off (it's just a job), I hope they will let me know, publicly or via PM, whichever suits them. 

I'd like to thank you, Swithin, for the references that you have made to the stars or family of stars that you have known. To hear confirmation from you, for example,  that Douglas Fairbanks Jr. was a true class act and a great gentleman in real life is something that I think all film buffs would appreciate hearing.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

© 2022 Turner Classic Movies Inc. All Rights Reserved Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Cookie Settings
×
×
  • Create New...