The Great Impostor (1960)

Approved   |    |  Comedy, Drama

The Great Impostor (1960) Poster

Ferdinand Waldo Demara Jr. is a versatile man who gets his kicks out of impersonating a marine, a monk, a navy surgeon and a prison warden, eventually getting in trouble with the law for it.


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31 January 2018 | dpbradshaw
For every masquerade there comes a midnight hour
After a detailed reading R. Crichton's, " The Great Imposter," and viewing the movie, it becomes quite obvious that the movie only loosely follows Demara's actual charades and exploits. As a matter of fact, several of scenes in the movie: 1) The manure farmer- police car chase was fictitious, 2) Demara also impersonated Dr. Robert Litton French, as a Professor of Philosophy at Gannon University, 3) As Dr. Cecil Boyce Haman, a candidate for first year law courses at Northwestern University Law School, 4) Demara also enrolled in 10 Catholic monasteries across the county, under assumed identities, using forged documents. He either quit because they were catching on, or he could not endure the physical and spiritual demands of that order, 5) His impersonation in the Royal Canadian Navy was that of Canadian, Harvard-educated Dr. Joseph Cyr, whose complete academic records and personal history he acquired when they were fellow brothers at the "Brothers of Christian Instruction" in Maine. Demara was known then as "Brother John."

The sad irony of Demara's life was that he had the intellect to adapt, learn, survive and prosper in the systems and roles he assumed. He actually did the jobs perhaps equally to, or better than the individuals he impersonated, because he actually believed he had more to prove, to substantiate his value and authenticity. He actually gave more in dedication, effort and work to improve the jobs and positions he impersonated, than he took.

Demara believed he was fighting against an unfair, unjust and discriminatory system, which "starting point" judged a person not by their intellect, personal motivation, character, or ability to do the job,... but solely upon their academic credentials. Demara believed that, if you played by the rules, you either died as a hero, or lived long enough to see yourself become a villain. That the only sensible way to live in this world is without rules. Demara's impersonation of Surgeon Lt. Joe Cyr of the Royal Canadian Navy was the high point, and greatest challenge of his persona. He learned in 4 months reading medical books the equivalent of 5 years of medical school. He could read surgical procedures, memorize, and repeat them to perfection on the operating table.

His greatest disgrace was being uncovered after he completed 19 consecutive life saving surgeries on severely injured Korean War commando team members, when his meritorious actions were broadcast across the entire Canadian and American news media spectrum. Equally devastating was his loss of Lt. Nursing Sister Catherine Lacey, whom he deeply loved and intended to marry after resigning his commission from the RCN, upon his return from Korea.

Demara died at the age of 60, a miserable, lonely and broken man, who never got over loosing Catherine...who had only himself to blame.

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