Andy Griffith did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Larry "Lonesome" Rhodes in A Face in The Crowd.
Andy Griffith is most certainly best known as Andy Taylor the kind, honest, and wise sheriff of Mayberry, and if not that the honest attorney known as Matlock. Griffith here to anyone who knows him for his most famous roles would see this performance as Lonesome Rhodes as quite against type. Although technically speaking Griffith did not yet gain his type, nevertheless this is a very different type of role for Griffith who is best known as a nice man. If there is one thing Lonesome Rhodes is not is nice.
In his first scene we open on Lonesome Rhodes in a lock up as a sweaty and reprehensible sort who is convinced to entertain in for a radio show only because he will allowed to leave the prison. Griffith is actually quite good early on at being just a brash, angry drifter. There is nothing at first that suggests that is anything but a pretty lowly type of man who just happens to be able to play a guitar more than anything. When he finally does sing though there is seems to be another side who enjoys an attention as long he is the one forcing others to pay attention to him.
After he gets out of jail Griffith portrays well two quieter scenes. First he has his first scene where has become the radio host, and Griffith has a great deal of charm in this scene showing exactly how Lonesome can so quickly gain in popularity. There is also a very important moment where he talks to the radio producer who discovered him Marsha (Patrica Neal), who he also charms but in a different fashion. In the brief scene Griffith portrays a sympathetic quiet moving portrait of a man who never really had a pleasant place in his life, and this remorseful scene really appropriately gives view to his later actions.
Once these quiet scenes are done Griffith goes full force into Rhodes driving hard to become one of the most influential and popular men. His performance becomes considerable louder here as really Rhodes becomes as amoral as possible. Griffith spends a great deal of this performance becoming bigger and bigger in his portrayal of Rhodes becoming a louder and louder presence as an entertainer, and a manipulator. In terms of the transformation in terms of going off the deep end Griffith is fine, in that he just gets louder and louder, and he quiets down less and less often.
Griffith really does efficiently portray Rhodes as the almost crazed entertainer that just will not stop no matter what he does, or who he hurts. Griffith is good in his short moments of the apologetic Rhodes, because he manages to show Rhodes as not exactly lying when he says he is sorry, but rather Rhodes does believe at the moment what he is saying even if it is not true. The apologetic moments are short though and Rhodes ego only continues to grow as Griffith's performance becomes only bigger and broader. There no longer is any hesitation in him.
Later in the film Griffith I will say is pretty strong in bringing to life the energy in the performer, but when he is not on he gives basically the same performance but only meaner. There are moments where he is suppose to be the most manipulative, and Griffith frankly would have been better off he downplayed them as he is not nearly as powerful in these scenes as he could possibly have been. He is suppose to be a cold calculated controller in these moments but frankly he stays just a bit to obtuse to be as effective as he would need to be.
I do want to say though that even if Griffith could have been even better later on this is still a very interesting performance by him particularly in his earliest scenes. To be entirely honest if he stayed as good as he is in the first third of the film he would be an easy five. The only problem as his performance becomes even more ambitious and tries to be a larger than life character he just does not quite have the punch he needs to achieve this effect. It most certainly is a good performance though, and certainly quite fascinating when compared to his performances later in his career.