This is yet another Big Important Social Drama from the 50's. It was Andy Griffith's first movie; it was Lee Remick's first movie; it was Walter Matthau's fourth movie. Big surprise: Andy Griffith was a pretty good actor, at least when Elia Kazan was directing him.
Andy plays Lonesome Rhodes, who goes from being a feral jailed hobo to the pinnacle of TV-superstar popularity, due to his just-folks humor and raw animal magnetism, or something like that. He is shepherded along the way by Patricia Neal, who goes from a fresh-faced happy innocent helping to run her daddy's Arkansas radio station to a bitter chain-smoking drunk. Walter Matthau watches all this happen as a writer who's only briefly fooled by Lonesome's act. Anthony Franciosa plays a sleazeball agent. Everyone's impossibly younger than you remember them.
What happens to the people is interesting enough, but it's paired with a Tedious Cautionary Tale against the power of TV-based demagogues, who might use their hypnotic power over the populace to elect a Republican to the Presidency. The nefarious scheme is only foiled when Patricia deftly manages to dink controls in the network control room, and Lonesome's true contempt for his mass audience is transmitted to the nation. Oops, I guess that's a spoiler. Sorry.
Anyway, the primary message is: don't listen to those phony TV folks; you should instead trust us movie folks to give you the real scoop.
The big extra on the DVD is an interview segment with Budd Schulberg (writer), Andy Griffith, Patricia Neal, and Anthony Franciosa. Andy Griffith says a very bad word; I'm still recovering from my swoon.