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.