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The Great Man
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Reviews & Ratings for
The Great Man More at IMDbPro »

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14 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

The Great Man is a thinly disguised Arthur Godfrey

Author: (stevie@optonline.net)
4 September 2001

Just as Charlie Kane was based on William Randolph Hearst, great man Herb Fuller was based on TV and radio icon Arthur Godfrey. I believe several of the story lines in Great Man paralleled events in Godfrey's life. The one that stands out involved a `boy singer' that was fired by Herb Fuller. In real life Arthur Godfrey fired `boy singer' Julius LaRosa. I have heard that Godfrey – the `old redhead' was none too pleased with Jose Ferrer's film.

There is a brilliant scene in the film where the hard-boiled, cynical reporter Joe Harris (Jose Ferrer) meets a former employer of great man Herb Fuller, the guy who gave Fuller his start in broadcasting. Harris and his secretary make fun of Paul Beaseley (veteran actor Ed Wynn, who only has this one scene), a doddering old bumpkin who owns a small radio station in New England. Beaseley tells a story that reveals the two sides of Herb Fuller – a folksy, down-to- earth radio personality that people love on the one hand and a mean-spirited, drunken rat bastard on the other. At the end of the scene Beaseley says something like, `I know that some people find me ridiculous' and Harris, no longer mocking Beaseley, replies, `Mr. Beaseley, I don't find you ridiculous at all'. This is one of my favorite movie scenes of all time.

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6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

The Dark Side of a Public Icon

10/10
Author: theowinthrop from United States
21 October 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Jose Ferrer's career has not been given the study that it deserves. In an industry that enjoys "firsts" it is rarely noted that if Emil Jannings was the first Oscar winner for Best actor, and first German to win that award, and if George Arliss was the first Englishman to win the Best Actor Oscar, and if Claudette Colbert was the first actress of French ancestry to win the Oscar, and if Hattie MacDaniell was the first African-American actress to win the Best Supporting Actress Oscar...Ferrer was the first Puerto Rican, or actor of Spanish ancestry, to win the Oscar for best actor. His bravura performance as Cyrano in the 1950 movie (based on his stage production) is still worthy of viewing. But it came after years of Broadway performances, at least one of which should have been filmed: his Iago opposite Paul Robeson's Othello. Actually Ferrer's Iago may have been a better acting job than Cyrano was.

Ferrer never did badly on camera - he was equally effective as the romantic, doomed Cyrano, the crippled artistic genius Toulouse Lautrec, the Jewish American naval officer who saves the defendants in THE CAINE MUTINY, the anti-Semitic German salesman in SHIP OF FOOLS, and the alcoholic ham actor training the hero in ENTER LAUGHING. It was rare for him to be in a role he could not control. And he was still doing Broadway productions into the 1980s, and doing television shows (like a recurring comic turn as an eccentric billionaire in NEWHART) into the 1990s.

In the 1950s he directed several films - not sufficiently enough to merit discussion by film societies or film critics. Of these, THE GREAT MAN appears to be the best one. It has been compared on this thread several times to CITIZEN KANE for two reasons. First it is based on a real life model in public communications. Secondly it's structure resembles KANE.

Ferrer plays Joe Harris, who works for a network headed by Philip Carleton (Dean Jagger). Harris comes to work one day, and learns that a leading network icon, Herb Fuller, has been killed in a car wreck. Carleton assigns Harris (who works in the news division) to do a television special honoring "the great man". He is put underneath Fuller's producer, Sid Moore (Keenan Wynn). Harris is told that if he does a really good, memorable job on this assignment...well his own career will take off.

Now on the surface this is like Jerry Thompson's assignment by Rawlston to investigate Charles Foster Kane's life, and figure out what "Rosebud" means. But Rawlston is never shown telling Thompson that if he does a good job he will get bigger and better assignments in the future. Welles was taking a look at the character of Kane (whom we see in that film - Welles plays him! - from young man to middle aged man - to elderly man - to corpse). We never see Fuller (though we hear him once on an old radio broadcast). Kane is a sympathetic figure ruined by having too much (i.e., a fortune) and not having the strength of a good home life as a kid. We really never know much about Fuller's youth. Presumably he grew up in a middle class environment, but was always a louse.

No, THE GREAT MAN, is a KANE-like film, in the central figure is obviously supposed to be someone well known (like Hearst), but it is more. For as the facts reveal how lousy and selfish and cruel Fuller was to everyone who was around him, Harris discovers traces of the same cynicism and misuse of power in everyone above him. Moore is not mournful at the loss of Fuller - he felt Fuller was a trial to work with, and he feels it is typical of Fuller's selfishness that he died while driving drunk (of course, Moore refuses to notice his own defects of character, such as basically ordering Harris not to do any negative show on Fuller...if he knows what is good for him). Carleton is more distant and smoother, but it is soon apparent to Harris that he is enjoying playing one underling (Moore) against another (Harris) to see who will do the station better service.

Fuller is based on Arthur Godfrey, the popular radio and television personality first on the news (he broadcast-ed the coverage of FDR's funeral in 1945) and then on morning and afternoon television shows. Actually this is not the only assault on Godfrey, who was an egomaniac, and noted for petty vicious acts (the firing of Julius La Rosa on the air is the most notable one). Godfrey was a southerner, and the character of "Lonesome Roads" in A FACE IN THE CROWD is based on him (especially as Godfrey played a mean ukulele, like Andy Griffith's mean guitar as Roads). A hint of Godfrey may have been in "Wee Geordie MacGregor" (Peter Sellers), the nasty television host in the comedy THE NAKED TRUTH, who is liked by elderly viewers mainly (as was Godfrey).

Harris slowly discovers nothing in the record that is used (except for the love his fans felt for Fuller). He used and discarded people left and right. His most moving service (in a blood plasma drive) was really faked. And the last straw is hearing the story of how he physically wrecked a small radio station he worked at that belonged to Ed Wynn (a very moving performance by the comedian turned actor). But he still is being countered by Moore's moves, including using a hack to do a pro-Fuller show to be put on at the first sign that Harris may "tell the truth". It becomes a battle to the last moment whose version of the story of Fuller is going to be told. And Carleton is watching with avid interest.

Definitely different in approach to CITIZEN KANE. Definitely worth watching.

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6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

an excellent sleeper--and a film that deserves more attention

9/10
Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida
11 June 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Jose Ferrer does a terrific job as the reporter asked to create an hour-long program to eulogize a famous radio star who is beloved by the nation. To get material, he tracks down the man's co-workers, friends and family. However, in a series of vignettes, we find that NO ONE is willing to saying anything good about the man. It seems that beneath that wonderful persona he created for his listeners, he is a total jerk. The general consensus is "good riddance" when they discuss his death. So what is Ferrer to do? His bosses are expecting a glowing tribute. Should he just white-wash the man, tell the truth or just cancel the tribute program altogether? Watch the movie to find out yourself--you won't be disappointed.

By the way, this film came out a year before the much more famous "A Face in the Crowd" (with Andy Griffith). While "A Face" is considered a classic, I actually preferred "The Great Man". It was more subtle and realistic--and I am shocked it's not the more famous of the two--especially since it came out first and both essentially are retelling the story (with names changed) of Arthur Godfrey's fall from grace on national television.

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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Jose Ferrer Director

Author: zontar from Boston Earth
6 August 2002

Jose Ferrer should be better known as a director. Yes, it has some of the plot of Well's Kane, but it has more of the feel of a Jack Webb flick, he himself a greatly under rated director. Even Julie London, Webb's wife is in it.. Hard boiled hero, quirky supporting characters that are given a rounded humanity, and a great cast. See this film when it plays on Turner. And check out Webb's non Dragnet films; 30, the DI, Pete Kelly's Blues and The last time I saw Archie.

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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

A Welles Copy?

Author: danldhatu from the Pacific Northwest
26 May 2001

This is a very interesting film for a variety of reasons. In many ways, it's a CITIZEN KANE knock-off, but sometimes in reverse. We see the reporter who is putting together the story of the great man, but we never see the great man himself. As in "Kane," the ex-wife is an alcoholic singer. There is also a "Rosebud" of sorts-a deathbed obscenity. Well worth watching!

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

It started on a Tuesday. It was a Tuesday like any other Tuesday of the week

7/10
Author: sol from Brooklyn NY USA
5 August 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

***SPOILERS***At his office at the giant Amalgamated Broadcast System, ABS, TV and radio network gossip broadcaster Joe Harris, Jose Ferrer,is contacted by his friend and manager Sid Moore,Keenan Wynn, with shocking and earth shaking news. Joe is told that his friend and mentor in the broadcast business Herb Fuller was smashed up a a car accident and may not survive. Rushing to the hospital were Fuller is being cared for Joe and Sid are told by his attending physician Dr. O'Connor, Edward Platt, that Fuller had passed away within the hour.

The world of broadcasting had lost one of it's greatest personalities as well as the champion of the Amrerican working man and women and besides giving Herb Fuller the send-off that he so rightfully deserves Joe is told that he's to give an hour long coast to coast broadcast on Fullers life that Friday. Joe goes about his business in finding out about the great Herb Fullers life and finds out a lot more then he expected. Fuller wasn't exactly the man of the people that he was made out to be over the last 23 years. In fact Fuller was a cheat liar drunk and wife beater; and those are just some of his good qualities.

Joe as hard as he tries can't find a good thing to say about Fuller from the many people that he interviews who knew the "Great Man". Fullers fellow broadcasters as well as his estranged wife singer Carol Larson, Julie London, paint a picture of him as a nasty and vindictive person who was only interested in himself and nobody else. It's even hinted in the movie that Fuller's accident wasn't exactly accidental; his car brakes were criminally tampered with to make sure that he slid off the road and killed himself.

The one thing in Fuller's favor was his timely broadcasts from the front lines in WWII pleading to the American people to give blood for the boys fighting the Nazis who were being ground down by them on the bloody Weatern Front in Europe. It turns out that even that was a fraud on Fullers part with him actually being in a Paris cat-house getting drunk and partying with the hookers instead of risking his life with the GI's on the front lines where he supposedly made his famous broadcasts.

Joe risking his job but not his integrity goes on the air to tell the American people the truth about their idol and champion Herb Fuller as the movie "The Great Man" ends. Joe himself was being manipulated by both Sid and the president of ABS Philip Carleton, Dean Jagger,to take Fuller's spot on the network broadcast as his both heir apparent and replacement. Joe coming clean on Fuller on the memorial broadcast that he was supposed to give destroyed Fullers legacy as the great man that he was supposed to be. It also destroyed Herb Fuller from being used to further the careers of those unscrupulous individuals, like Sid & Philp Carleton, who latched on to him and kept the secret of his sordid life and actions from the public who both loved and adored him.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

The radio personality

7/10
Author: jotix100 from New York
11 August 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Usually after the death of a big celebrity, his fan base, as well as the audiences that followed him, cannot cope with the loss and the vacuum left behind. Such is the case when Herb Fuller, a radio personality dies in car accident. Amalgamated, the broadcasting network where Fuller was one of the star commentators, dispatch Sid Moore to the site of the crash. He takes along Joe Harris, another newsman who is tapped to cover the passing of the beloved Herb Fuller.

As Joe Harris begins digging into the life of the late Herb Fuller, a new picture emerges. While some people loved the radio man, his detractors are not exactly crying. After the network orchestrate a dignified send off for Fuller where the public is invited to pay a visit to the makeshift chapel, Joe Harris is told to come with a tribute. Harris' own ambitions come into play. Joe Harris might be the substitute for the dead man if things go the way the big wheels of Amalgameted expect it to be.

What comes out as Harris starts digging into Fuller's past, is a contradiction. Joe Harris gets an unexpected visit from the man who gave Fuller his break into radio. Sid Moore is a pivotal witness to the whole research project as he offers Harris some WWII tapes, long forgotten, but clearly a product of Sid' own imagination, as the facts in the recordings were false.

An interesting production of Al Morgan's novel in collaboration with its director and star, Jose Ferrer. The film shows a slight resemblance to real life radio celebrity Arthur Godfrey, who ruled the airwaves for years. Whether it was Mr. Godfrey, or not, was the subject of debate when the film opened. Mr. Ferrer, one of the most talented actors of his generation, makes the film in a sort of documentary style, as Joe Harris must contact and interview the different people in the life of the late Herb Fuller.

What Mr. Ferrer achieved was good ensemble performances from his excellent cast. Keenan Wynn made an impression as the shallow Sid Moore. Dean Jagger, one of the best character actors of that era puts in an appearance as the network CEO. Julie London is seen in one sequence as one of the dead man's female interests. Keenan Wynn makes a good contribution with his Paul Beasely. Joanne Gilbert plays Harris' secretary. Jose Ferrer, a generous director gives his actors most of the opportunities to shine.

Seen recently on a cable channel, this not often seen film deals with celebrity and what really goes on behind the public figures lives.

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THE GREAT MAN (Jose' Ferrer, 1956) ***1/2

8/10
Author: MARIO GAUCI (marrod@melita.com) from Naxxar, Malta
10 January 2014

The immense influence Orson Welles' CITIZEN KANE (1941) has had on the language of cinema is well documented. So, to a lesser degree, is the freedom it gave film-makers – not always of comparable talent – towards (vaguely autobiographical) self-indulgence in their work. Yet another ripple it undeniably created (actually borrowed from THE POWER AND THE GLORY {1933}, which I own but have yet to watch!) led to a whole series of films taking a sour look at the American dream, depicting – via their flashback structure – the rise and fall of a successful but, at heart, unscrupulous public figure. Among these are RUTHLESS (1948), ALL ABOUT EVE (1950), THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL (1952), Welles' own MR. ARKADIN aka CONFIDENTIAL REPORT (1955), THE Oscar (1966), etc.

THE GREAT MAN, then, is one such effort – and an unfairly neglected example into the bargain (even if both the Leslie Halliwell and Leonard Maltin movie guides are duly complimentary in their assessment)…which rather suggests that it stands up better than other, more renowned titles in this vein! It also emerges as the most significant directorial venture by star/co-writer Ferrer. For the record, I own all 7 of the pictures he helmed – but, perhaps tellingly, this was only the second I have checked out (and which I opted to watch on the occasion of his birthday). Given the Oscar winner's reputation as a thespian, his choice of 'personal' projects was – for the most part – curiously bland and commercial in nature!

Setting this apart from the established formula is the fact that the subject of the expose' is never shown; we only learn about him – and, consequently, formulate our own opinion – from the way others (who knew him intimately, professionally or just vicariously through his popular radio show) react to news of his passing in a traffic accident. Besides, running concurrently with the main plot (the compiling of information by a small-time radio personality – played by Ferrer himself – for a "heart-rending" eulogy, to be delivered in a live broadcast by the network to commemorate "the great man") are the hero's conflicting emotions about his increasingly unpleasant and "phoney" task…especially since he was being all but promoted as the deceased's successor on the airwaves!

Ultimately, the trump-cards here – which make all the difference – are the smartly cynical script (co-adapted by novel author Al Morgan) and a first-rate cast that, apart from Ferrer (in fine form), includes: real-life father and son Ed and Keenan Wynn (credited with, respectively, discovering and nurturing the ungrateful and opportunistic titular character); Julie London (as a chanteuse and his alcoholic mistress); and Dean Jagger (as the Machiavellian network head). Incidentally, the copy I viewed of this one was pretty substandard for the digital era (which has well and truly spoiled us movie-buffs, it must be said!) and, while a somewhat better-quality version does exist online, I had difficulty acquiring it...

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