Sidney Poitier was the first black man to be an Oscar nominee for Best Actor. He won the Oscar for 1963's LILIES OF THE FIELD. Two of the biggest box office hits of 1967 starred Sidney Poitier. Come the following year, GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER and IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT would be two of the five Oscar nominees for Best Picture of 1967. IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT won. Poitier was a top box office star of the 1960s. A first for a black actor. Did a major Hollywood studio snap up the big screen rights to THE MAN and adapt it into a deluxe major motion picture for Sidney Poitier? Apparently not.
THE MAN got a modest production budget and was adapted into what was basically a 90-minute made-for-TV movie that aired on ABC in 1972. Rod Serling, the TV visionary who gave us THE TWILIGHT ZONE, wrote the script. You can tell the budget was modest. The Forum in Inglewood, California passes for a building in Washington, D.C. I grew up in Los Angeles and recognized the Forum's exterior right away. James Earl Jones got the part of President Douglass Dilman. He is remarkable in the role.
Is this an excellent made-for-TV movie? No. But it's rich with excellent performances. A memorable moment, one that highlights the brilliance of actor James Earl Jones, is the moment he realizes he is now President of the United States. It's a small, truthful reaction from such a man. Keep your eye on the glass in his hand.
Hollywood should've had more lead role opportunities for James Earl Jones so he could gotten a second Oscar nomination. And more.
James Earl Jones won his second Best Actor Tony Award for the original 1987 production of August Wilson's FENCES.
THE MAN is worth seeing now as we look at what America accomplished electing Barack Obama to the White House, it's worth seeing for where we are now and it's worth seeing for the extraordinary James Earl Jones. God bless America, land that I love. Enjoy THE MAN while he's here.