23 August 2016 | MOscarbradley
A lost classic
I've often been chastised for posting obits in which I have been less than flattering about the person who has passed on; not nasty by any means, merely truthful about their shortcomings. In "The Great Man" that is the dilemma facing Jose Ferrer; should he sing the praises of the 'Great Man' of the title, a recently deceased and much loved, at least by the people who only saw his public face, radio and television personality or should he tell the truth and expose him for the monster he was.
Ferrer's film came out around the same time as Elia Kazan's "A Face in the Crowd" and while Kazan's film, which plays out in much the same ballpark, has gone on to become a classic, Ferrer's remains virtually unseen; personally I think it's a great picture, a testament to Ferrer's often undervalued talent. There are no great cinematic flourishes here, as there are in "Citizen Kane", another film that Ferrer's has often been compared to. This is a simple, literary piece, almost a series of talking heads as Ferrer, who also stars, interviews those who knew 'the great man', including his mistress, an excellent Julie London, and best of all, Ed Wynn as the man who first discovered him. Wynn's magnificent here, (he was nominated for both the Golden Globe and a BAFTA), and Ferrer is canny enough to give him his dues. As Wynn describes his feelings Ferrer allows his camera to slowly creep up on him. He only has this one scene but it's one of the great performances by an actor in a supporting role. His son Keenan is also superb as another executive out for what he can get. As I've said, this movie is almost impossible to see, at least here in the UK, but if you get the chance take it; it's one of the best American films of the fifties.