The Last Angry Man (1959)

100 mins | Drama | November 1959

Director:

Daniel Mann

Writer:

Gerald Green

Producer:

Fred Kohlmar

Cinematographer:

James Wong Howe

Editor:

Charles Nelson

Production Designer:

Carl Anderson

Production Company:

Fred Kohlmar Productions, Inc.
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HISTORY

Gerald Green's novel, although a work of fiction, was based on the life of his father, a Brooklyn physician. In a LAT article, director Daniel Mann noted that while the novel covers the entire life of the fictional character "Dr. Sam Abelman," the film only focuses on his last days. Mann hoped that the film would "illuminate...the meaning of the book." A 1956 LAEx news item reported that Columbia studio head Harry Cohn paid $250,000 for the film rights to Green's manuscript, and that Marlon Brando was initially offered the lead role. 1957 LAEx news items reported that Cohn was considering producing a stage version of the novel starring Paul Muni before making the film, and that Vera Caspary had written a screenplay for Columbia based on the novel. The play was never produced, however, and Caspary's contribution to the final film has not been determined.
       HR news items reveal the following information about the production: Glenn Ford was initially cast as "Woodrow Wilson Thrasher" but withdrew from the project. Jack Lemmon was then assigned to the role, but walked off the project, claiming he was exhausted from a hectic schedule. A 1958 news item noted that Peter Ustinov was originally to play Dr. Sam Abelman. Other 1958 news items add that Melvyn Douglas, Sam Levene and Bob Morse were also considered for parts in the picture. Although various news items place Philip Media, Robin Starling, Tom Cleaver and Michael Day in the cast, their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed.
       The film was partially shot on location in Brooklyn, ... More Less

Gerald Green's novel, although a work of fiction, was based on the life of his father, a Brooklyn physician. In a LAT article, director Daniel Mann noted that while the novel covers the entire life of the fictional character "Dr. Sam Abelman," the film only focuses on his last days. Mann hoped that the film would "illuminate...the meaning of the book." A 1956 LAEx news item reported that Columbia studio head Harry Cohn paid $250,000 for the film rights to Green's manuscript, and that Marlon Brando was initially offered the lead role. 1957 LAEx news items reported that Cohn was considering producing a stage version of the novel starring Paul Muni before making the film, and that Vera Caspary had written a screenplay for Columbia based on the novel. The play was never produced, however, and Caspary's contribution to the final film has not been determined.
       HR news items reveal the following information about the production: Glenn Ford was initially cast as "Woodrow Wilson Thrasher" but withdrew from the project. Jack Lemmon was then assigned to the role, but walked off the project, claiming he was exhausted from a hectic schedule. A 1958 news item noted that Peter Ustinov was originally to play Dr. Sam Abelman. Other 1958 news items add that Melvyn Douglas, Sam Levene and Bob Morse were also considered for parts in the picture. Although various news items place Philip Media, Robin Starling, Tom Cleaver and Michael Day in the cast, their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed.
       The film was partially shot on location in Brooklyn, NY, according to HR news items. Various reviews praised the film for its ethical content and fine performances. The National Catholic Legion of Decency gave the film its highest rating, and added the following notation: "The self-sacrifice and dedication to humanity which characterized the life of the protagonist are intellectually rewarding as well as heartwarming. The film can serve as an inspiration to people of all races and creeds." The film, unlike the novel, does not overtly state that Dr. Sam Abelman and his family are Jewish; however, the characters do state that they are Russian immigrants.
       The picture marked Paul Muni's first American film since 1946, and his final screen performance before his death in 1967. The Last Angry Man also marked the screen debuts of Billy Dee Williams, Godfrey Cambridge and Claudia McNeil. The film was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actor (Muni) and Best Art Direction (black & white). On 24 Apr 1974, the ABC network aired a television version of the novel, also titled The Last Angry Man , written by Green, and starring Pat Hingle. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
12 Oct 1959.
---
Daily Variety
30 Sep 1959.
---
Daily Variety
9 Oct 59
p. 3.
Film Daily
9 Oct 59
p. 6.
Harrison's Reports
10 Oct 59
p. 161, 164.
Hollywood Reporter
31 Jan 1958
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Apr 1958
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Sep 1958
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Oct 1958
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Oct 1958
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Nov 1958
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Dec 1958
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Dec 1958
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Dec 1958
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Jan 1959
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Jan 1959
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Feb 1959.
---
Hollywood Reporter
5 Aug 1959
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Oct 59
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Oct 1959
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Nov 1959
p. 3.
Los Angeles Examiner
20 Oct 1956.
---
Los Angeles Examiner
20 Feb 1957.
---
Los Angeles Examiner
11 May 1957.
---
Los Angeles Times
14 Jan 1959.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
10 Oct 59
p. 444.
New York Times
23 Nov 1958.
---
New York Times
23 Oct 59
p. 24.
The Exhibitor
21 Oct 59
p. 4645.
Variety
9 Nov 1958.
---
Variety
14 Oct 59
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Asst cam
Still photog
Gaffer
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Lead man
COSTUMES
Gowns
Ward
SOUND
Rec supv
Rec
Cable
Sd ed
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
Hair styles
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Scr supv
Dial coach
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Last Angry Man by Gerald Green (New York, 1956).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
November 1959
Premiere Information:
New York premiere: 22 October 1959
Los Angeles opening: 10 November 1959
Production Date:
10 November 1958--19 February 1959
addl scenes 4 May--14 May 1959
Copyright Claimant:
Fred Kohlmar Productions, Inc.
Copyright Date:
1 October 1959
Copyright Number:
LP14704
Physical Properties:
Sound
Westrex Recording System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
100
Length(in feet):
8,978
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
19274
SYNOPSIS

One night in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, delinquent teenager Josh Quincy and his gang leave a brutally attacked young black woman on the doorstep of Dr. Sam Abelman. Sam, a physician dedicated to helping his neighbors regardless of their ability to pay, arranges for the girl to be taken to a hospital. The next day, Sam's nephew, Myron Malkin, a copyboy, convinces his editor to publish an article in which he dubs Sam a "Good Samaritan of the slum." Woodrow Wilson Thrasher, a harried producer for a national television network, reads the article over his breakfast of Dexedrine pills and conceives of a plan to feature Sam in his new series on America's "unsung heroes," and tie in the pharmaceutical company that sponsors the show. Woody goes to Brooklyn but fails to interest Sam in his proposition. While he is there, one of Sam's black neighbors, Mrs. Quincy, brings in her son Josh, who has been suffering from convulsions and is terrified of the doctor. Woody and Myron peek through a curtain and observe as Sam skillfully calms Josh, who threatens him with a knife. Woody makes his proposal to the television show's sponsor, Lyman Gattling, who approves of connecting his company with an altruistic physician. Although Myron promises to obtain Sam's consent, Sam proves intransigent. At Myron's suggestion, Woody contacts Sam's best friend, Dr. Max Vogel, a wealthy specialist, with whom Sam consults on Josh's case. Woody surreptitiously meets with Max while he is fishing, but Max, protective of his self-sacrificing friend, refuses to help him unless the network offers Sam compensation. At Max's suggestion, Woody convinces Gattling to purchase a small ... +


One night in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, delinquent teenager Josh Quincy and his gang leave a brutally attacked young black woman on the doorstep of Dr. Sam Abelman. Sam, a physician dedicated to helping his neighbors regardless of their ability to pay, arranges for the girl to be taken to a hospital. The next day, Sam's nephew, Myron Malkin, a copyboy, convinces his editor to publish an article in which he dubs Sam a "Good Samaritan of the slum." Woodrow Wilson Thrasher, a harried producer for a national television network, reads the article over his breakfast of Dexedrine pills and conceives of a plan to feature Sam in his new series on America's "unsung heroes," and tie in the pharmaceutical company that sponsors the show. Woody goes to Brooklyn but fails to interest Sam in his proposition. While he is there, one of Sam's black neighbors, Mrs. Quincy, brings in her son Josh, who has been suffering from convulsions and is terrified of the doctor. Woody and Myron peek through a curtain and observe as Sam skillfully calms Josh, who threatens him with a knife. Woody makes his proposal to the television show's sponsor, Lyman Gattling, who approves of connecting his company with an altruistic physician. Although Myron promises to obtain Sam's consent, Sam proves intransigent. At Myron's suggestion, Woody contacts Sam's best friend, Dr. Max Vogel, a wealthy specialist, with whom Sam consults on Josh's case. Woody surreptitiously meets with Max while he is fishing, but Max, protective of his self-sacrificing friend, refuses to help him unless the network offers Sam compensation. At Max's suggestion, Woody convinces Gattling to purchase a small house for Sam in a better neighborhood, which the physician has had his eye on for some time. As Sam has already put a down payment on the house, Woody makes arrangements for the real estate agent to refund the down payment, without Sam's knowledge, and keep the network's purchase a secret. Woody plans to shoot the show at Sam's house, and brings a film crew to interview neighbors and rehearse. Sam, however, departs suddenly when he learns that Josh has had another attack. Woody accompanies him to the market where Josh lies temporarily paralyzed, but the teenager runs away after he recovers, and Sam sadly realizes that the boy has a brain tumor. When Woody asks why Sam is loyal to an "ingrate" like Josh, Sam replies "because he is my patient." Woody's wife Anne, meanwhile, becomes increasingly distraught over her husband's obsession with financial success no matter the cost. The next day, the entire neighborhood gathers at Sam's house as they shoot a rehearsal, and when the camera is turned on Sam, he gives his frank opinion about commercialism and the medical profession. Shortly after, Woody's boss insists that Woody curb Sam's opinions, and tells him that slips will be inserted into all Gattling products so that "Mr. and Mrs. America" can pay for Sam's house. Woody realizes that Sam will be publicly humiliated by the new plan, and tells Sam the truth. Sam is outraged that Woody and the studio have tried to "buy" him, as it runs counter to his high ethical standards, and cancels the show. Woody's boss immediately fires him for losing Sam, but Gattling is impressed by Sam's honesty, and insists that Woody obtain Sam's approval to do the show without compensation. Sam consents, but just before shooting begins, he is called to the police station, where Josh has been taken, having stolen and crashed a car following surgery. Sam tends to Josh and lectures him on personal responsibility, but the youth is unresponsive. Sam, disheartened, leaves, but turns back when Josh calls out an apology as he struggles out of his cell, which has been left open. Sam heads up the stairs toward Josh, but is felled by a heart attack. Woody brings Sam home and cancels the show, after which Max hooks Sam up to an electrocardiograph machine. Woody experiences a moral reawakening and finally embraces Sam's philosophy. Anne joins him in Brooklyn, and he tells her he is leaving his job to return to a less competitive environment. Sam dies, and as Max writes the cause of death as coronary occlusion, he mutters to himself that Sam really died from winning other people's battles. +

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

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