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Motion pictures come in cycles, and one of the more prominent cycles at the moment is dedicated to dissecting the workings of Big Business. The Great Man fits into the pattern since it takes a sharp look at the radio-television industry, but it is much better than most of its rivals. It lacks completely the usual coating of sentimental slush.
Like most movie exposes, The Great Man makes a point which is not particularly surprising: in the radio-tv business anything, even honesty, goes--as long as it sells the sponsor's product. But it tells its small story with economy and skill. When Herb Fuller, who dispenses sermons, homey philosophy, and slightly off-color stories on a daily program, kills himself in an auto wreck, a young radio reporter is tabbed as his replacement. The reporter's first assignment, on which the future of his career depends, is to prepare a memorial show about the deceased great man. In interviewing the people who worked with Fuller he discovers, however, that the idol of millions of fans was a phoney, detested by everybody who knew him. Not even his mistress could stand the man. The simple device which keeps up a creditable amount of suspense throughout the series of interviews which make up the body of the film is the question of whether the reporter will make the memorial show into a fake eulogy or tell the truth. The solution to his problem is as neat as everything else about the picture.
The technical aspects of the film reveal the great resources on which Hollywood can draw if it will only use them with a minimum of pretentiousness and a maximum of intelligence. Jose Ferrer's direction points the camera at its subjects in a series of biting close-ups, and his performance as the reporter clearly underlines the newsman's disgust at the facts he uncovers. The supporting cast is also excellent, without any exception. Keenan Wynn gives a particularly fine performance as a sardonic and unprincipled executive, and former television comedian Ed Wynn presents something of a small acting gem as the faintly comic radio station owner who gave Fuller his start in the business. But everybody who worked on The Great Man deserves some compliments for their taste and restraint. They have put together a very good little picture. --THOMAS K. SCHWABACHER
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