The Great Man (1957)

92 mins | Drama | February 1957

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HISTORY

According to a 24 Oct 1955 DV item, when Universal bought the rights to Al Morgan's novel The Great Man , the agreement included hiring Morgan as the film's screenwriter. Contemporary reviews also noted that Morgan supplied the voice of Fuller, heard during the scene in which "Joe Harris" listens to Fuller's audiotapes. On 26 Oct 1955, a "Rambling Reporter" item in HR announced that either José Ferrer or Steve Allen would play the lead role. The item also suggested that the character of "Herb Fuller" was based on popular radio personality Arthur Godfrey (1903--1983), a rumor repeated by other contemporary sources. Studio press materials noted that although the film followed the novel closely, it eliminated a few characters and condensed the time span of the story slightly. In Feb 1956, "Rambling Reporter" noted that Curd Jurgens was being considered for a role in the film, and HR reported in Apr 1956 that Mona Freeman had been signed to a starring role. Neither appears in the final film.
       The Great Man marked the first film in which father and son actors Ed and Keenan Wynn appeared, although they do not share any scenes. Studio press materials pointed out that "Paul Beaseley" was the first dramatic character ever played by Ed Wynn. Tony Curtis' brother, actor Robert Schwartz, made his feature film debut in the The Great Man , as did Vikki Dougan. According to press materials, the filmmakers used the exterior of Universal-International's New York office as the facade of the "Almagamated Broadcasting ... More Less

According to a 24 Oct 1955 DV item, when Universal bought the rights to Al Morgan's novel The Great Man , the agreement included hiring Morgan as the film's screenwriter. Contemporary reviews also noted that Morgan supplied the voice of Fuller, heard during the scene in which "Joe Harris" listens to Fuller's audiotapes. On 26 Oct 1955, a "Rambling Reporter" item in HR announced that either José Ferrer or Steve Allen would play the lead role. The item also suggested that the character of "Herb Fuller" was based on popular radio personality Arthur Godfrey (1903--1983), a rumor repeated by other contemporary sources. Studio press materials noted that although the film followed the novel closely, it eliminated a few characters and condensed the time span of the story slightly. In Feb 1956, "Rambling Reporter" noted that Curd Jurgens was being considered for a role in the film, and HR reported in Apr 1956 that Mona Freeman had been signed to a starring role. Neither appears in the final film.
       The Great Man marked the first film in which father and son actors Ed and Keenan Wynn appeared, although they do not share any scenes. Studio press materials pointed out that "Paul Beaseley" was the first dramatic character ever played by Ed Wynn. Tony Curtis' brother, actor Robert Schwartz, made his feature film debut in the The Great Man , as did Vikki Dougan. According to press materials, the filmmakers used the exterior of Universal-International's New York office as the facade of the "Almagamated Broadcasting Studios.” More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
1 Dec 1956.
---
Daily Variety
24 Oct 1955.
---
Daily Variety
23 Nov 56
p. 3.
Film Daily
23 Nov 56
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Oct 1955
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Feb 1956
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Mar 1956
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Mar 1956
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Mar 1956
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Mar 1956
p. 17.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Apr 1956
p. 18.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Apr 1956
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
4 May 1956
p. 19.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Aug 1956
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Nov 56
p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
24 Nov 56
p. 161.
New York Times
2 Jan 57
p. 28.
New Yorker
12 Jan 1957.
---
Saturday Review
19 Jan 1957.
---
Time
21 Jan 1957.
---
Variety
28 Nov 56
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
Scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
COSTUMES
Gowns
MUSIC
MAKEUP
Hairstylist
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Dial supv
STAND INS
Stand-in for José Ferrer
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Great Man by Al Morgan (New York, 1955).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"The Meaning of the Blues," words and music by Bobby Troup and Leah Worth, sung by Julie London.
DETAILS
Release Date:
February 1957
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 1 January 1957
Production Date:
2 April--early May 1956
Copyright Claimant:
Universal Pictures Co., inc.
Copyright Date:
28 November 1956
Copyright Number:
LP7375
Physical Properties:
Sound
Westrex Recording System
Black and White
Widescreen/ratio
1.85:1
Duration(in mins):
92
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
18108
SYNOPSIS

After the star of Amalgamated Broadcasting Studios, radio and television humorist Herb Fuller, dies, Fuller’s former manager, Sid Moore, immediately plans a lavish memorial. Moore announces to Amalgamated reporter and radio personality Joe Harris that he wants Joe to research and narrate the memorial, in order to position Joe to take over Fuller’s empire. Moore convinces Joe to accompany him to the Connecticut hospital in which Fuller died, but there they learn only that Fuller’s last words were unprintable. On the plane home, Moore, who feels that he “created” Fuller only to be cut out of the star’s later career, begins his plan to launch Joe into stardom by pretending that Joe was a close friend of Fuller, who in reality was a stranger to him. As Moore has planned, Joe is soon invited to a meeting in Amalgamated president Philip Carleton’s office, during which Moore outlines his elaborate plans for the viewing of Fuller’s casket, in a chapel with rotating choirs and all-day eulogies. Carleton makes it clear that although he approves of the exploitation, he dislikes Moore and will not yet allow Joe to take over Fuller’s shows. Instead, he gives Joe four days in which to “investigate” Fuller’s past and, with the resulting information, create the radio homage. After the meeting, Moore coerces Joe into signing a contract guaranteeing their partnership. To begin his investigation, Joe questions Fuller’s press agent, Nick Cellantano, who reveals what Joe has already begun to discern: Fuller was a callous, shallow womanizer, loved only by the audience members who considered him a kindly, humorous everyman. Cellantano counsels Joe to use prepared press clips in the memorial, rather than obtaining unusable ... +


After the star of Amalgamated Broadcasting Studios, radio and television humorist Herb Fuller, dies, Fuller’s former manager, Sid Moore, immediately plans a lavish memorial. Moore announces to Amalgamated reporter and radio personality Joe Harris that he wants Joe to research and narrate the memorial, in order to position Joe to take over Fuller’s empire. Moore convinces Joe to accompany him to the Connecticut hospital in which Fuller died, but there they learn only that Fuller’s last words were unprintable. On the plane home, Moore, who feels that he “created” Fuller only to be cut out of the star’s later career, begins his plan to launch Joe into stardom by pretending that Joe was a close friend of Fuller, who in reality was a stranger to him. As Moore has planned, Joe is soon invited to a meeting in Amalgamated president Philip Carleton’s office, during which Moore outlines his elaborate plans for the viewing of Fuller’s casket, in a chapel with rotating choirs and all-day eulogies. Carleton makes it clear that although he approves of the exploitation, he dislikes Moore and will not yet allow Joe to take over Fuller’s shows. Instead, he gives Joe four days in which to “investigate” Fuller’s past and, with the resulting information, create the radio homage. After the meeting, Moore coerces Joe into signing a contract guaranteeing their partnership. To begin his investigation, Joe questions Fuller’s press agent, Nick Cellantano, who reveals what Joe has already begun to discern: Fuller was a callous, shallow womanizer, loved only by the audience members who considered him a kindly, humorous everyman. Cellantano counsels Joe to use prepared press clips in the memorial, rather than obtaining unusable quotes about the real man. Back at his office, after Joe’s beloved secretary Ginny discloses that Fuller once propositioned her, Moore calls and commands Joe to extract glowing quotes from “the great unwashed” who are thronging to see Fuller’s casket in the chapel. Some of the people there whom Joe interviews genuinely adored Fuller, while others are merely enjoying the spectacle of his death. Later, Carol Larson, the singer on Fuller’s television program, invites Joe to her apartment. There, the lovely young woman drunkenly declares that she “belonged to” Fuller, who seduced her, made her a star and then sadistically kept her at his beck and call. After kissing Carol, Joe leaves, with hours of unusable tape. The next morning, Fuller’s band leader, Eddie Brand, storms into Joe’s office with a prepared speech about Fuller’s magnanimity. In confidence, he advises Joe just to tell the people what they want to hear about Fuller, “the great man.” Engineer Mike Jackson then demonstrates the edited and manipulated chapel tapes, which now sound universally positive about Fuller. Joe, who is disturbed by what he has learned about Fuller but is unwilling to ruin the opportunity to advance his career, returns to his office, where he finds the owner of a Christian radio station, Paul Beaseley. Although Joe initially considers the mild-mannered man ridiculous, he gains respect for Paul as the radio owner reveals his past relationship with Fuller: Paul gives the young Fuller his first program after he wins a sermon-writing contest. Fuller moves in with the Beaseleys, who treat him like a son, taking advantage of their kindness by drinking too much and writing increasingly smutty programs. Finally, Moore hires Fuller away, after which Fuller never again spoke to the Beaseleys. In the present, Paul wonders why he and Joe help maintain the image of Fuller as a saint, and when Joe answers that this job is his most important ever, Paul chastises him gently for his shallowness. The next day, Joe listens to Fuller’s most famous broadcast, in which he brought donated blood to the German front during World War II, thus inspiring millions of Americans to give blood. Joe is moved by the show, and considers it the first example of authentic integrity he has discovered about Fuller. The night before the show, Joe is invited to Moore’s house, where the manager is romancing a beautiful young Amalgamated receptionist. In response to Moore’s boasts that he knew the real, vulgar Fuller, Joe threatens to back out of the program, but Moore announces that he and Mike have already created a backup show and can replace Joe instantly. Moore then reveals that he falsified the “blood tapes” after Fuller refused to leave Paris for the front, taping Fuller’s voice over phony background noises. Raving that although he kept Fuller’s secret, Carleton refused to pay him off, Moore announces that he now plans to control Fuller’s empire. Disgusted, Joe returns to his office, where he stays all night. In the morning, Carleton reveals to Joe that he is launching a campaign to discredit him, knowing that when Joe is no longer a viable property, Moore will no longer fight for control over him. He gives Joe $500 to buy out the contract, promising that once Moore is no longer attached, they will back Joe as Fuller’s replacement. Although this jeopardizes his career, Joe has no choice but to accept. When the broadcast begins that evening, Carleton and Moore listen from the president’s office. Joe begins with his scripted memorial but soon is unable to continue the charade. Placing aside his manuscript, Joe unleashes an honest expose of Fuller, shocking the nationwide audience. When Moore tries to pull the show off the air, however, Carleton stops him, explaining that now Joe’s name will stand for integrity and grit. Joe's new commercial appeal, Carleton declares, will not only render Moore powerless, but will be the perfect platform from which to sell more products. Not knowing that the men upstairs are planning his future as the next “great man,” Joe continues his program. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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