|The Great Man|
Julie London and Jos√© Ferrer in Al Morgan's The Great Man (1956)
|Directed by||Jos√© Ferrer|
|Produced by||Aaron Rosenberg|
|Music by||Herman Stein|
|Editing by||Albrecht Joseph
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Release date(s)||December 1956|
|Running time||98 mins|
The Great Man is a 1956 drama film directed by Jos√© Ferrer and based on a novel by Al Morgan. It was loosely based on the controversial career of Arthur Godfrey, the beloved TV and radio host whose image had been tarnished by a number of cast firings and Godfrey's contentious battles with the press.
Joe Harris (Jos√© Ferrer) is a popular, established network radio news reporter covering Broadway entertainment with a wise-guy attitude. The Godfrey-like Herb Fuller is the network's undisputed star. When Fuller dies in an auto accident, Philip Carleton (Dean Jagger), president of the Amalgamated Broadcasting Network, assigns Harris to prepare a memorial extravaganza, including an elaborate public viewing and a special memorial show featuring interviews with Fuller's radio cast, the "Fuller Family," and others who knew him. Carleton dangles a chance at Harris becoming Fuller's replacement if he succeeds.
Assisted by network PR man Nick Cellentano (Jim Backus), Harris is intrigued by odd comments at the public viewing, including some from various individuals who attend strictly out of boredom and are indifferent to Fuller.
Harris meets Sid Moore (Keenan Wynn), Fuller's longtime producer, who offers his assistance but realizes Harris is in line to become Fuller's successor. As he begins his research, aided by his secretary Ginny (Joanne Gilbert), Harris discovers Fuller was an alcoholic and an unethical womanizing egomaniac who became a star in spite of it. He is visited by Paul Beaseley ( Ed Wynn), owner of a tiny Christian radio station in New England, who first hired Fuller, impressed by his inspirational poetry and treated him as a son only to discover his dark side. While Harris is initially condescending to the relatively innocent Beaseley, by the time he explains his relationship with Fuller, Harris is apologetic for his attitude.
Harris's investigations reveal Fuller's relationship with Carol Larson (Julie London), the alcoholic vocalist on his show, and various conflicts of interest involving his relationship with various song publishers whose songs were performed on Fuller's program. Fuller bandleader Eddie Brand, hoping to remain on what he, too suspects will be Harris' show, dutifully records an artificially sincere sound bite regarding Fuller. Brand was played by real-life bandleader Russ Morgan. Finally, Moore signs Harris to a contract, then tells him of more Fuller escapades.
Carleton privately warns Harris of Moore's duplicitous nature, telling the newsman that the network will spin his chances of becoming Fuller's successor negatively so Moore agrees to release him from the contract, adding if Harris cannot secure a release, the network will turn elsewhere. Amassing the research into a script with sound bites, Harris has to choose between reporting the beloved, amusing and warm-hearted Fuller the public saw and the phony beneath the image.
Harris makes up his mind as the broadcast starts, throwing away his prepared script to tell the truth about Herb Fuller. As Carleton and Moore listen in Carleton's office, Moore realizes what Harris is about to do, rips up Harris' contract and demands Carleton stop the broadcast. Seeing that Moore has done precisely what he had hoped for, Carleton refuses to stop the broadcast, explaining that he can market Harris as a man of principle and honesty to the public just as easily as his network marketed Fuller's phony image.
While the movie was based on the controversy surrounding Arthur Godfrey, whose controversial real-life persona contrasted with his warm-hearted public demeanor, the fictional Fuller's failings differed greatly. Godfrey's controversies were mostly public, not private. Godfrey's womanizing was long-rumored but never confirmed, but he was not a heavy drinker like Fuller.