Armchair Theatre (1956–1974)
6.7/10
10
2 user

The Greatest Man in the World 

Just after a young unknown American becomes the first on the Moon returns, he dies in an accident. He's laid to rest with full honours, but only the president and a few high officials know just what sort of a man their hero was.

Director:

(as William Kotcheff)

Writers:

, (short story)
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Cast

Episode cast overview, first billed only:
...
Jack 'Pal' Smurch
...
President of the USA
Wensley Pithey ...
Frank Evans
Jon Sullivan ...
Peter Hunter
William Hutt ...
General Galway
Gerry Wilmot ...
Robert P. Darrow
MacDonald Parke ...
Kolbmeyer
Ludovic Kennedy ...
Himself / Newscaster
Alec Ross
Janet Brandes
Peter Madden
Mark Baker
Cal McCord
Michael Balfour
Elaine Dundy
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Storyline

Just after a young unknown American becomes the first on the Moon returns, he dies in an accident. He's laid to rest with full honours, but only the president and a few high officials know just what sort of a man their hero was.

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Genres:

Drama

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Details

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Release Date:

9 November 1958 (UK)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

James Thurber's original short story had been published many years before this TV adaptation, long before the days of US space exploration. In the story, Jack Smurch has become famous as the first man ever to fly solo right around the world. This suggests very strongly that Thurber intended the story as a sharp satirical comment on the hero-worship extended to legendary aviator Charles Lindbergh, who, in the years following his famous solo flight from New York to Paris in 1927, was revealed as an extreme right-winger politically and even (before the Second World War) an admirer of Hitler's. See more »

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User Reviews

 
Black Humour from Thurber
2 April 2013 | by See all my reviews

This is an unusual story for Armchair Theatre, in that it could be described as a rare Science Fiction offering. It's set three years hence, on 9 November 1961, to be exact. Then, the American government's space programme might not have developed much at all, but an unknown backwoods genius has built and sent his own rocket that has gone to the Moon and back with a passenger aboard. Being the first man to visit the Moon, it's reasoned, will make him the greatest hero of all time. The problem is, Jack Smurch is not an all-American clean-cut fellow like Charles Lindbergh, he's a vile criminal, who's bullied and cheated and stolen his way through life, even his mother wishes he were dead. McGoohan broadly plays him as a Marlon Brando-style slob. The president and his men try everything to make him more palatable when he's to be introduced to the hero-worshiping public, even making him a general, but he won't play along, and shouts outrageous things nonstop. The secretary of state pushes him out a window to his death, and the press corps, who are present, all conspire to hush it up, and go with an "accidental" narrative, (This really is a fantasy) to protect America's image in the world. It's pretty much played tongue in cheek, but still is commentary on perceived U.S. arrogance and the unsophistication of those gullible American citizens.


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