What makes a person successful: money, fame, family, happiness, glory, etc.? One person’s definition of success will undoubtedly differ from the next. Still, in an ideal world, shouldn’t happiness be the base stabilizing ones success? The Oxford English Dictionary defines “good” success as, “The prosperous achievement of something attempted; the attainment of an object according to one’s desire: now often with particular reference to the attainment of wealth or position” (OED). In this context happiness is not part of the equation. So, by this reasoning an extremely wealthy, business savvy mogul, with an office on the highest floor, but recently divorced by his one true love, is successful. We’ve established that success is not always coupled with happiness. Therefore, the real question comes to light; can true happiness be defined as success? I think so, and through this particular reasoning I would argue that John Sims, in King Vidor’s The Crowd, while floundering considerably throughout the film, by the end is successful in his own right. As The Crowd kicks off I feel for Johnny boy immediately; he’s born on the 4th of July, at the turn of the century, and the narrator is comparing him to Washington and Lincoln. If that is not pressure, I do not know what is. Johnny does not know what he wants to be when he grows up, all he knows is he is going to be someone big, because that is what his father has told him. Then his father, who has inspired this vague sense future accomplishment in Johnny, dies abruptly when the boy is only twelve. Johnny is abandoned with a notion that success will find him, and only through a series of ups and downs later in life will John finally realize life is not that easy. John Sims arrives in New York City at the gentle age of 21, surprisingly humble. As he looks upon the approaching city a gentleman proclaims, “You gotta be good in that town if you want to beat the crowd.” John replies simply, “Maybe…..but all I want is an opportunity.” And an opportunity is what John gets; he receives a modest position in an advertisement agency, and quickly finds a good woman named Mary, who he wastes no time in asking to marry him. She accepts his proposal because she sees something in John others do not. Not a bad start for Johnny boy.
From here the sky is the limit with a little hard work, and perseverance. However, John still holds on to a subconscious concept that achievement will come knocking at his door. In addition to John’s general apathy toward gumption, married life turns out to be a bit more difficult than either Mary or John bargained for. Mary’s family immediately sees John for the stagnant man he is becoming, and that fact leads to tension and quarrels between the newlyweds. A quick divorce seems to be inevitable for the couple, until Mary announces she is pregnant. This appears to give John a boost, his attitude appears to change for the better, and with the birth of his son he tells to Mary, “[He’ll] be somebody now….[he] promise[s].”
Over the next five years John manages to acquire an $8 raise and he and Mary have a second child, a girl. John seems to be quite happy, singing and smiling at the beach. However content John appears though, Mary is visibly unsatisfied with some aspect of their life. She believes John is still not living up to his potential and encourages John to mail one of his advertising slogans in, rather than sitting on it and letting someone else take the credit. With Mary’s urging John sends in a slogan, which is accepted graciously, and John receives a $500 bonus for his contribution to the advertisement agency. This is John’s first big financial success and he rushes home to tell the family the big news, presents in tow. He exclaims to Mary that he “finally brought home the bacon.” They call to the children playing outside to come in for presents. The two kids run into the street and a truck mows down