27 June 2015 | bkoganbing
Do we broadcast the legend?
A radio broadcaster and news commentator named Herb Fuller is injured and later dies in the hospital with word according to his doctor Edward Platt that aren't fit for broadcast. The radio network that he worked for has a vested interest in the personality of Fuller and what do they do. In The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance editor Carleton Young had the ready answer about when the legend becomes fact, print the legend.
Entertainment journalist Jose Ferrer is chosen to host a special radio tribute broadcast and it's put out through the grapevine that Ferrer could be the replacement for The Great Man. All Ferrer has to do is put together a show that fosters the legend of the late Mr. Fuller.
Easier said than done because all Ferrer comes up with in talking to those around him is what a no good rat this guy was. The man had not a sincere bone in his body, a two perfect two faced Janus with one face for the public and a completely different one for those who knew him.
Ferrer who directed this film as well as starred in it made sure that the supporting cast was a good one with some unforgettable roles. Ferrer the director was not interested in this being simply a star vehicle for the actor. He got some great performances out of people like Dean Jagger as the network president, Keenan Wynn as the manager of the late Mr. Fuller and Ferrer's manager, Julie London as Fuller's ex-wife, a drunken washed up nightclub singer and Ed Wynn as the eccentric radio station owner where Fuller got his start.
Keenan Wynn is especially interested. He's working on one grand agenda of his own. He's as cynical a human being as has ever been portrayed on the big screen, but in a really key scene with Ferrer he puts the final kibosh to the legend of Herb Fuller and shows he's got a really good reason for his cynicism. It's one of Keenan Wynn's best moments on the big screen.
The Great Man has been compared to Citizen Kane and rightly so. Unlike Kane where those who are digging for the facts are bland and faceless with the accent on the recollections by the survivors of Charles Foster Kane and the portrait they create of Kane in their flashbacks. Here we have no flashbacks, the accent is on how Ferrer deals with them giving them the real story on the legend and what he will do with it. The following year Elia Kazan in A Face In The Crowd took a different approach. We see the legend of Lonesome Rhodes built up by Andy Griffith and how it destructs in the end with Patricia Neal seeing it as a public duty.
Citizen Kane, A Face In The Crowd, and The Great Man and for that matter The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance are all really about the same topic, the difference between public personalities and the private lives behind them. The Great Man for some reason has been sadly neglected unlike the other three films. That is a pity because it is a film with great performances and some interesting things to say.