Sunday, April 23, 2017

TCM is Showing Jose Ferrer in The Great Man Tonight at 8, Followed by Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis Sweet Smell of Success!



By David in TN
Saturday, April 22, 2017 at 11:15:00 P.M. EDT

Speaking of movies, on Sunday night at 8 p.m. ET, TCM is showing The Great Man (1956). It's about a 50's radio personality who dies suddenly and a PR flack played by Jose Ferrer is supposed to organize an on-air tribute.

Ferrer discovers the deceased, while beloved by the public, is despised by those who really knew him.

Have you ever seen it? It's a favorite of mine, don't think TCM has shown it before.

At 10 pm, TCM runs Sweet Smell of Success. It must be 50's New York City night.

N.S.: There was a brief rash of cynical, PR man pictures between 1954 and 1957: Bogey in The Barefoot Contessa (1954); his last, The Harder They Fall (1956); The Great Man (1956); and Sweet Smell of Success (1957).

I saw Contessa over 40 years ago, on CBS’ The Late Show, but if memory serves, the titular character has just died, and Bogey the PR man, tells about her legend. It was an amazing picture, because it starred Ava Garner, but wove its story out of the parallel legends of Rita Hayworth, dancing barefoot as little Margarita Cansino, and Garner herself, both of whom were still very much alive. And screenwriter-director Joseph Mankiewicz was the supreme storyteller of show people.

The Harder They Fall has Bogey as a PR man and sometime sportswriter who’s hired to turn a big nothing from South America into a heavyweight championship contender. A bunch of ham-and-eggers are paid off to take dives early, so the nothing can become a contender. It was inspired by the career of Argentinian Luis Firpo, “The Wild Bull of the Pampas.”
It sounds like The Great Man may have been inspired by an incident, in which a wildly popular children’s show host, “Uncle Bob,” was accidentally caught on a hot mic, saying how much he hated kids.

My mom vividly recounted this story to me when I was a wee lad. However, it apparently, is a very popular urban legend (with the bad guy “Uncle Don”). However, I am convinced that that urban legend inspired at lead one classic anti-anti-Communist movie, Elia Kazan’s A Face in the Crowd (1957), starring a brilliant, young, Andy Griffith. The same legend may also have inspired The Great Man.


Sweet Smell of Success was another anti-anti-Communist picture, by Alexander Mackendrick, with Burt Lancaster as a vicious, fascist gossip columnist. It was a hit job on anti-Communist gossip columnist Walter Winchell, with Tony Curtis as the columnist's young henchman.

In Success, Lancaster gave his “fascist” performance for the first time, which he would repeat in Run Silent, Run Deep (1958) and Seven Days in May (1964).


David In TN said...

A 1956 movie audience would recognize within seconds "The Great Man" as a parody of Arthur Godfrey, who was the biggest name in radio-TV entertainment in the late 40's and early 50's.

By 1956, Godfrey's folksy public image had taken several hits.

David In TN said...

Here ( is a Weekly Standard piece of 15 years ago by your old friend John Podhoretz on a broadway play of "Sweet Smell of Success." John Podhoretz much prefers the movie.

TCM ran this ( review of "The Great Man" a few days ago.

Note the last few paragraphs. The writer observes TCM host Ben Mankiewicz called his colleague-predecessor Robert Osborne "A Great Man" upon Osborne's death a while back. Osborne, you see, really was "A Great Man."

In his afterward to Sweet Smell of Success, Mankiewicz went on the usual rant about how Walter Winchell went from "fighting the evil Klan and Adolf Hitler to backing "witch hunts of suspected communists."