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On the death of popular national radio commentator Herb Fuller, underling Joe Harris undertakes to prepare an hour long, eulogistic program featuring interviews with Fuller's friends. But, though Fuller was beloved by 150 million of what all the pros term the "great unwashed," all Harris can find is victims, cynical users, and outright enemies of Fuller. Is this where the magic of editing comes in? Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
Jose Ferrer stars and directs in this film that follows a Citizen Kane path in search of the man behind the famous public figure. Sans Welles' towering command of film language it is benefited by its stripped down expeditious telling as Ferrer peels back the past of the "great" man.
Popular radio reporter Herb Fuller is killed in an automobile accident sending execs at ABC (Amalgamated Broadcast Company) into a panic. Joe Harris (Ferrer) a candidate to replace Fuller is assigned to do a show on the life and career of the beloved on air personality. As he interviews fans and especially intimates, the true nature of the man is far from flattering.
The Great Man wisely keeps the subject of the film from appearing anywhere in it. He is fleshed out through people in his past and when Harris is faced with giving a puff piece or delivering the truth it drags his integrity into the fray which may threaten his rosy looking future with the company.
Banal visually the film is comprised of a series of mostly apartment interiors where Harris and his cumbersome portable tape recorder collect the ugly truth. As Harris, Ferrer remains mostly poker faced throughout fighting his own internal struggle as well as crossing the line as a reporter with his interviewees. Ed Wynn as a small station owner offers up a touching and wonderfully dignified performance while his son Keenan playing Harris' cynical agent chews some scenery in an overall strong offering. Singer Julie London surprises as a used up boozed out side piece to Fuller. Dean Jagger as ABCs cool, wheels always turning CEO turns out to be the most fascinating character of all as he calmly weighs option and wheels power over underlings from sniveling yes men to the eager Harris. It is Network 56 without the rancor and absurdist notion with Ferrer's stoic Harris replacing Peter Finch's ranting Howard Beale. It also lacks the fireworks and outstanding Chayefsky script but it does make its point about corporate power, the media and the way it manipulates the public with hardly ever raising its voice.
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