Thursday, 5 March 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1956: Ed Wynn in The Great Man

Ed Wynn did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Golden Globe and a BAFTA, for portraying Paul Beaseley in The Great Man.

The Great Man has an interesting story, although Jose Ferrer's direction is very workmanlike, about a radio reporter Joe Harris (Ferrer) forming a broadcast for the death of a very popular radio commenter named Herb Fuller who Joe has been given the chance to replace as well.

The attention Ed Wynn received for this film makes it so I can't help but feel perhaps it contributed to his later nomination for the Diary of Anne Frank where he was not recognized by the Golden Globes or BAFTA. The film is notable as an early example of Ed Wynn's departure from purely comic performances, which he was always best known for, into a more dramatic performance. Wynn's recognition is notable since he only has a single scene in the film, and it is not as though The Great Man was a huge success otherwise. Wynn's single scene though is a very important one as he plays Paul Beaseley the owner of a small time Christian radio station who gave the titular Great Man is original break into radio. Throughout the film Ferrer's character Joe basically interviews the various people who knew Fuller and one by one he hears less than flattering reports about the man starting with the doctor who attempted to treat Fuller who recounts that Fuller's last words were repeatedly using a four letter vulgarity. Each interview tarnishes the man, but the interview with Mr. Beaseley seems to be particularly important.

Due to the small size of his station Beaseley is treated with a bit of disdain by Harris when they speak over the phone, and then even more of it when he arrives possibly because of his manner as a person. Wynn, like he did later in his Oscar nominated performance, tones down his naturally funny sounding voice into something more reasonable here, and carries himself in a particularly unassuming manner. Wynn carries himself with such a genuine gentleness though that he does make Beaseley stand out as a certain kind of man, the kind of man that someone might slightly mock because he seems almost naive in just how much of a gentlemen he is. Wynn at first projects himself as one of the warmest souls you might find as he approaches Joe with his story. Wynn brings so much heart into his words as he quietly explains to Joe that all he wants from Joe, for his story about the "Great Man", is for Joe to announce what his radio station's letters stand for. Wynn continues with such a pleasantness though as he first tells with such a powerful nostalgia as he goes on about how the Great Man originally showed such promise through his inspirational sermons which caused Beaseley to give him a job.

After finishing telling the story that seems to fit the Great Man image Beaseley takes a moment as he adjusts himself. Beaseley begins by telling kinda showing the lack of naivety as he bluntly tells Joe that Herb Fuller was not a very nice man. Before he continues though Beaseley directs himself towards Joe though as he explains that many people view him as a somewhat ridiculous individual, he even goes so far as to point out that Joe clearly thought him ridiculous as well. Wynn does not exactly change his voice, he certainly does not raise his voice, yet there becomes something so piercing about his delivery as he begins to tell Joe that he's hardly the fool Joe thought him as. Wynn's verbal attack against Joe is so eloquently handled that it's strange to characterize it as such but Wynn still makes it so incisive that's one can't really characterize it as anything else but that. What Wynn does though is realize the way such a gentle man would go about proving himself to be far wiser than he is thought to be. It's marvelous that Wynn makes this turn in the character in such a subtle yet still extremely striking fashion.

Beaseley carries on with the story about Fuller as he starts to tell Joe that Fuller became progressively worse in terms of both his professional and personal life. Wynn is quite moving though as he expresses such a sadness in Beaseley as he reveals the personal betrayal he felt as Fuller seemed to reveal his vice filled nature. Wynn is excellent though as he begins to reveal more than just a sadness though but a genuine quite anger in Beaseley as he reveals every part of ugly past with the man. Wynn conveys that it almost pains Beaseley to tell the story as it forces upon him emotions such as hate that is so opposed to his personal nature. Wynn is quite poignant revealing the shame Beaseley feels in that he can't help but have bad thoughts for the man who technically just abused his kindness. Wynn beautifully never breaks basically the kind demeanor of the man yet brings such an intensity of emotion as Beaseley finishes the story. Wynn only has this single scene of Beaseley telling his story yet delivers it in such a tremendous fashion. He makes the needed impact in his one to make Joe's later change of heart quite convincing, and Wynn truly is a one scene wonder here.


GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

Always nice to have these unexpected reviews Louis :D

Deiner said...

Great review. I haven't seen the film, but I'm really interested.
Off topic Louis: can you share your thoughts and ratings of Michelle Pfeiffer and Mercedes Ruehl in Married to the Mob, Mia Farrow and Barbara Hershey in Hannah and her Sisters, Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids.

Matt Mustin said...

Louis, you may have done this before, but how would you rank Wes Anderson's movies?

Anonymous said...

Louis, I've seen that you really don't care about any of the supporting female nominees of 1956, but still, out of them, who would be your pick? Malone or Heckart?

Anonymous said...

Louis what are your ratings and thoughts on Veronica Lake in Sullivan's Travels?

RatedRStar said...

Whats my line Louis, OMG Ed was so good =D.

luke higham said...

Everyone on the blog, in your opinions, what is the worst award show on the planet. My pick is the MTV Movie Awards.

Louis Morgan said...


Pfeiffer - 3(Her role is particularly limited despite being the main character she's mostly just there to react to the insanity of other characters. I suppose a performance can be made out something like that, but the material is pretty thin for her here. I actually found her charming enough still if not particularly notable)

Ruehl - 3.5(The only person I think was aware that a comedy actually is suppose to be funny. She's way over the top but thats fine because she actually manages to be somewhat entertaining unlike most of the performers in the film who are ridiculously low key for the type of comedy the film appears to want to be)

Farrow - 3(She's just fine but her whole character is basically observering the other characters barely even reacting to them. Her only major scenes are her confrontations with her sisters, which Farrow handles well, but it's strange that film even bothers to be known as Hannah since she's such a non-entity)

Hershey - 2.5(I have to admit I'm not much of a Hershey fan as do find there can be something very self-concious about her performance. She basically kidna over accentuates what ever her character is suppose to be feeling telegraphing everything too much, and really I thought she was overshadowed by anyone she shared a scene with)

Haven't seen Bridesmaids.


1. The Life Aqautic With Steve Zissou
2. The Royal Tenenbaums
3. The Grand Budapest Hotel
4. Bottle Rocket
5. Moonrise Kindom
6. The Darjeeling Limited
7. Rushmore


Malone would be my choice I guess.

Haven't seen Sullivan's Travels