Movie Mirrors Index

The Great Man

(1956 b 92')

En: 6 Ed: 6

Al Morgan adapted his novel about a radio reporter who must present a memorial program about a star personality whose private life was much worse than his public image.

         Reporter Joe Harris (Jose Ferrer) goes to his office, and his secretary Ginny (Joanne Gilbert) tells him of comments on his review of a play. Joe is frustrated because he cannot write anything controversial in an election year. Sid Moore (Keenan Wynn) comes in and tells Joe to go to Hartford right away. He says Herb Fuller was in an auto accident.

         Joe and Sid arrive in the office of Dr. O’Connor (Edward Platt), who tells them that Fuller died an hour ago. Sid Moore was a friend of his, and he says his broadcasting network wants to do a memorial show about Fuller narrated by Joe Harris. Sid asks Dr. O’Connor what Fuller said before he died, and they learn his last word is too offensive for the radio.

         On the plane Sid tells Joe that Fuller’s show will be up for grabs, and this is his opportunity. Sid advises Joe to be the chief mourner for his “intimate friend.” Joe says he only delivered his mail.

         In the studio Joe announces the death of Herb Fuller, the saddest story he ever reported. Joe goes to a meeting with Sid, Harry Connors (Lyle Talbot) in charge of public relations, the program director Charley Caruthers (Vinton Hayworth), Nick Cellantano (Jim Backus) of a public relations firm, and network president Phil Carleton (Dean Jagger). Jim tells Joe they thought of using St. Patrick’s cathedral, but they would not do it as Herb was not a Catholic. Sid says they thought of Yankee Stadium, but they rejected it. Harry suggests a movie theater, and Charley says there will be various religious groups and several speakers for the eulogy. Phil says Joe does not have the stature for this job, and so they have to prepare him for this. Joe says he would like to do something simple because Herb was an exemplar of the common man. Joe says he is a reporter, and he would like to dig into the story to present a portrait in film of a great man. They all agree on that.

         Sid takes Joe out and has him sign the contract. Nick gives Joe the file on Herb, and he tells him about Herb’s wife who would not give him a divorce. Joe asks about Carol, and Nick advises him to leave her alone. Nick says many people liked Herb because he could help them. Nick says Joe won’t learn anything he could use on the air.

         Joe tells Ginny to contact the radio engineer Mike Jackson. Joe dictates to her about the Fuller family that includes the singer Carol Larson. Joe is looking for impact. He asks Vinny if she met Fuller, and she says he made a pass at her. Sid calls and says Fran Fuller is not coming to New York. Sid takes control and tells Joe that he calls the shots. Sid tells him to get some interviews with the “unwashed” public.

         In a traffic jam Joe walks through a crowd of people and past the line of mourners who file past flowers to the coffin. Nick offers Joe a drink and suggests he wear a black tie. Joe interviews a woman in the line with a microphone, asking her why she came. She says it is the place to go. She says a group used to go to his shows together, but she never met him. Joe asks an older woman, who says she was a fan. She says he was a member of her family because he would say cheery things to make them forget their troubles. A girl and her sister agree to go on the broadcast. Mary Browne (Janie Alexander) says they were not really fans because he was middle-aged.

         Joe is typing and gets a call from Carol Larson, and he makes an appointment. Carol Larson (Julie London) welcomes Joe into her apartment and gives him a drink. She asks Joe if he is going to inherit his show that is worth a million dollars. He says it is possible. She says Herb came up there one night because she was the closest to where he was. She says she is good but not great. She asks Joe to make her another drink. She says he can kiss her, and he does. She says she has good looks, and he admits it would not be a chore to make love to her. She says Joe did not really know him. She says she made a record with Herb in an arcade. He took her to dinner and then to his place. She says he helped her for a couple weeks. He said she belonged to him, and he expected her to be waiting for him. On the radio one of her songs is introduced, and she turns up the volume. She asks Joe if he finds her attractive, and he says he does. Carol sings along with “The Meaning of the Blues.” She says Fuller wanted women who were unspoiled, but he made them different and then did not want them anymore. Joe asks her about Harry Connors, and she says the “great man happened.” Joe says he is sorry.

         In Joe’s office Eddie Brand (Russ Morgan) says Herb Fuller was the greatest guy who ever lived. Mike asks what Joe has dug up. Eddie asks who Joe has talked to, and he comments on them. Eddie says he put Carol on the show, but she started drinking and then knocking around. Joe asks why she hated him, but Eddie says she was crazy about him. Joe asks how much he makes. Eddie says Herb added to his salary, and he was a great guy. Joe turns on the recorder, and Eddie says that Herb was like a father and a brother to him. Joe thanks Eddie, who leaves.

         Joe goes to see Mike Jackson, who plays a tape for him. Mike suggests what they should use. He plays the older lady talking and Mary talking about the flowers. Mike plays Herb’s wife, who says people will remember him. Mike says Herb made money plugging songs. Fuller also mentioned product names for money. Ginny brings in some tapes. Joe takes a call from Paul Beaseley, but Ginny does not recognize the name. Joe hangs up on him.

         Joe tells Ginny he is tired of trying to glorify a heel. Paul Beaseley (Ed Wynn) comes in and meets Ginny, who leaves the room. Paul says he gave Herb his first job in radio. Paul says he is a businessman. He says their call letters WGHP stand for “With God’s Help Peace,” and he asks Joe to get those in his broadcast. Paul says he met Fuller in 1933. Paul put him in an amateur contest. He says Fuller sang and won. Paul gives Joe a sermon that Fuller wrote about how everything is God. Joe asks if he has a recording of that show, and Paul says he probably does. Paul says he was a bad man in many ways. Paul says that Herbert took advantage of him. Paul gave him a program after he got out of the Navy. Paul says that Herb lived with his family, but after a year he began to change. He says he bought new clothes and a car and began to hang around shady people. Paul says he never got it out of his system. Paul describes a room that was a shambles, and he found Herb drunk in his office. Paul says he could not fire him without telling Mrs. Beaseley. Paul asks Joe why they are preparing to tell the world that Herb was a great man. Why don’t they tell the truth? Joe says it is the most important job he ever had. As he leaves, Paul invites Joe to visit him and meet his wife. Joe asks Ginny to save the tape.

         Mike plays a tape for Joe and Ginny. During fighting the war is described. A reporter tells how he brought a bottle of blood plasma to that aid station that will save a life. Then Herb comments on the scene and makes an appeal for blood. Joe is impressed, but Mike is cynical. Joe says he finally found something good. Ginny asks Joe what is eating him, and he says Herb Fuller. Mike and Joe say they are almost done with the show.

         Sid welcomes Joe into his fancy apartment. Joe hands him the script. Joe sees Marcia (Vikki Dougan) laying on a couch, and Sid brings her a drink. Sid has her leave so they can work on the script. Sid likes it and says they got them this time. Sid asks Joe to bring him another drink, and he suggests that Joe get loaded too. Sid tells Joe that he went to the front with Fuller. Then they went to Paris. Sid says Joe has to dump Carol. Sid says the network does not depend on Joe. He has another script made by Mike Jackson as a standby. Sid suggests that Joe and he go to Paris. Sid says the tapes from the front were phony because Fuller never left Paris. Sid tells how he made the tape at the front. Sid found Fuller in jail and paid to get him out. Sid says Carleton paid for his expenses. Sid did not expose Fuller, but now he would like to do that. Joe says that tape meant a lot to him, and he thanks him for an instructive evening.

         Ginny comes in with the newspaper with news that no decision has been made about Fuller’s replacement. Joe meets with Phil Carleton, who says Joe may still replace Fuller. Phil says there is a campaign to show that Joe is on the way out. Phil says only he and Joe will know that those rumors are not true. Joe admits he signed a contract with Sid Moore. Phil explains that he wants Joe to demand his contract back from Sid. Phil offers him $5,000 to buy his contract back. Then Phil will give Joe a contract to take over the Fuller show. Joe asks what happens if he cannot buy the contract back. Phil says then Joe may not get it. Phil says this is not an art form but a business. Phil asks to see the script, and Joe says he will send it over. They shake hands, and Joe leaves.

         Joe presents the program on the radio about a great man. People are listening for an hour. Joe is presenting a portrait. Joe interrupts himself and departs from what he prepared to say. He says he is a reporter, and he will bring them the true story even though it may cost him his job. Sid goes to the phone to get him off the air, but Phil tells him to put the phone down. Phil says Joe Harris will be on the front page. Phil tells Sid they could dump him. Phil says Joe’s integrity will help their business. They sit and listen to Joe tell the complex truth.

         This drama shows how the public may have a different impression of a public figure who has a tawdry private life. Some say that this drama reflects the life of Arthur Godfrey. A reporter finds that by finding the truth he may serve the public and perhaps even better his own career too.

Copyright © 2010 by Sanderson Beck

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