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The opening credits read: "James Earl Jones in Irving Wallace's The Man." Edit International, Ltd.'s onscreen credit reads: "Sound effects and music editing." The closing cast credits end with the phrase: "Our special thanks to Howard K. Smith, Bill Lawrence and Jack Benny." The final scenes include newsreel footage of the 1968 Democratic National Convention.
Wallace's novel The Man was published in 1964. A bestseller, it won Paperback of the Year and sold over 5 million copies upon its release. According to the film's press materials, Wallace was allowed unprecedented access to President John F. Kennedy's White House to research his book. After Wallace wrote about 100 pages of the novel, Kennedy was assassinated, prompting the author to rewrite several passages to bring the death into perspective. Much of the long novel was edited out of the screen version, including story lines about "Douglass Dillman's" attempted impeachment, an assassination attempt on his life and a child of his "passing" as white.
The novel underwent a complicated transition from page to screen. As early as December 1963, Variety reported that reprint rights had already been purchased at a record price and "major film companies" were considering buying the film rights. At that time, the news item noted that filmmakers were concerned about the future picture's reception in Southern states. In March 1965, Daily Variety stated that Joint Venture Co., headed by Sammy Davis, Jr., Milton Greene and Irving Stein, had purchased the film rights to the novel and planned to shoot in early 1966 with Sidney Poitier as the star. A Hollywood Reporter news item in March 1965 noted that Davis would finance and executive-produce the film, while Greene would serve as the producer. Between 1966 and 1969, as noted in various trade publication news items, the novel's film rights changed hands several times. After NBC-TV considered adapting the book into a television special with Poitier as a star, as reported in Hollywood Reporter in September 1966, Promel Productions, Inc. bought the rights, followed by actor Eddie Fisher.
Argo International purchased the book rights in May 1968 and hired William Attaway to write the script. Jayjen Productions announced in an June 11, 1969 Daily Variety news item that it planned to produce a film version, to star Brock Peters and be written by Reginald Rose. However, Argo president Jack Lamont challenged Jayjen's statement in a 27 June Daily Variety article and stated that Arthur Hiller was set to direct Argo's version. Hollywood Reporter's "Rambling Reporter" then noted in July 1969 that Jayjen's president, Monroe Sachson, had optioned the property but Argo had a priority right to the screenplay written while they owned the rights. In July 1969, however, Daily Variety reported that Wallace denied ever having had any dealings with Sachson. That article named Joy Garrison as co-writer of Argo's screenplay, along with Attaway.
Lorimar Productions produced The Man for ABC-TV in late 1971, intending it to be broadcast on television as a planned two-part Movie of the Week. However, n March 1972, as noted in Daily Variety, Paramount decided to release the film theatrically. Although a May 1972 Publishers Weekly article stated that the film was being moved from television to movie theaters because of the excellence of the adaptation, a modern source related that many television sponsors had shied away from the film's controversial content.
As noted in Filmfacts, some scenes were shot on location in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles. A modern source adds Curt Conway to the cast. In November 1972, as noted in Daily Variety, Mrs. Alex Presta sued Paramount Pictures for $65,000 for invasion of privacy because scenes of her at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, included in the film without her permission, May have made her appear "antiblack." The disposition of the suit has not been determined.