Last Angry Man, The (1959)

“I want to dramatize your own views, your own beliefs — for 30 million people!”

Synopsis:
A television producer (David Wayne) tries to convince an unorthodox doctor (Paul Muni) in Brooklyn to star in a reality T.V. show.

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Review:
In his final film, 63-year-old Paul Muni once again proved his mettle as one of Hollywood’s finest chameleon-like actors; indeed, it’s remarkably easy to forget that there’s an actor behind this bespectacled doctor’s visage. Muni plays Dr. Abelman as a nonconformist extraordinaire, a stubborn idealist who refuses to deviate from his values even an inch. When he finds out he’s being offered a house in exchange for appearing on T.V., for instance, Abelman is offended rather than grateful; and nothing — not even a house full of crew members ready to film — will stop him from visiting a patient in need. Unfortunately, while Muni’s performance makes us believe in and care about this iconoclastic doctor, the film itself is undone by its simplistic morality. In addition, the final sequences — while heartfelt — are interminable, and insult our intelligence by relying on cliched deathbed pathos rather than the intrinsic power of Abelman’s story. Ultimately, then, The Last Angry Man only remains must-see viewing because of Muni.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Paul Muni’s powerhouse performance as Dr. Abelman; as noted by the New York Times, Muni “knows all the bold and subtle ways of bringing an interesting, robust character to glowing theatrical life”
  • David Wayne as the television producer who experiences a change of heart
  • Luther Adler as Dr. Abelman’s prosperous best friend (and symbolic counterpart)

Must See?
Yes, simply to see Muni in his final, Oscar-nominated performance.

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One Response to “Last Angry Man, The (1959)”

  1. Not a must – and in particular agreement with the second part of the assessment. I’ve now seen it twice, and I find just about the whole thing interminable. 100 very long minutes.

    It feels over-written, often over-indulged by director Mann, and particularly over-acted (sorry) by Muni.

    The premise isn’t bad but the execution of it results in a rather maudlin (and stagy) film.

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