Cast & Crew
One night in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, delinquent teenager Josh Quincy and his gang leave a brutally attacked young black woman on the doorstep of Dr. Sam Abelman. Sam, a physician dedicated to helping his neighbors regardless of their ability to pay, arranges for the girl to be taken to a hospital. The next day, Sam's nephew, Myron Malkin, a copyboy, convinces his editor to publish an article in which he dubs Sam a "Good Samaritan of the slum." Woodrow Wilson Thrasher, a harried producer for a national television network, reads the article over his breakfast of Dexedrine pills and conceives of a plan to feature Sam in his new series on America's "unsung heroes," and tie in the pharmaceutical company that sponsors the show. Woody goes to Brooklyn but fails to interest Sam in his proposition. While he is there, one of Sam's black neighbors, Mrs. Quincy, brings in her son Josh, who has been suffering from convulsions and is terrified of the doctor. Woody and Myron peek through a curtain and observe as Sam skillfully calms Josh, who threatens him with a knife. Woody makes his proposal to the television show's sponsor, Lyman Gattling, who approves of connecting his company with an altruistic physician. Although Myron promises to obtain Sam's consent, Sam proves intransigent. At Myron's suggestion, Woody contacts Sam's best friend, Dr. Max Vogel, a wealthy specialist, with whom Sam consults on Josh's case. Woody surreptitiously meets with Max while he is fishing, but Max, protective of his self-sacrificing friend, refuses to help him unless the network offers Sam compensation. At Max's suggestion, Woody convinces Gattling to purchase a small house for Sam in a better neighborhood, which the physician has had his eye on for some time. As Sam has already put a down payment on the house, Woody makes arrangements for the real estate agent to refund the down payment, without Sam's knowledge, and keep the network's purchase a secret. Woody plans to shoot the show at Sam's house, and brings a film crew to interview neighbors and rehearse. Sam, however, departs suddenly when he learns that Josh has had another attack. Woody accompanies him to the market where Josh lies temporarily paralyzed, but the teenager runs away after he recovers, and Sam sadly realizes that the boy has a brain tumor. When Woody asks why Sam is loyal to an "ingrate" like Josh, Sam replies "because he is my patient." Woody's wife Anne, meanwhile, becomes increasingly distraught over her husband's obsession with financial success no matter the cost. The next day, the entire neighborhood gathers at Sam's house as they shoot a rehearsal, and when the camera is turned on Sam, he gives his frank opinion about commercialism and the medical profession. Shortly after, Woody's boss insists that Woody curb Sam's opinions, and tells him that slips will be inserted into all Gattling products so that "Mr. and Mrs. America" can pay for Sam's house. Woody realizes that Sam will be publicly humiliated by the new plan, and tells Sam the truth. Sam is outraged that Woody and the studio have tried to "buy" him, as it runs counter to his high ethical standards, and cancels the show. Woody's boss immediately fires him for losing Sam, but Gattling is impressed by Sam's honesty, and insists that Woody obtain Sam's approval to do the show without compensation. Sam consents, but just before shooting begins, he is called to the police station, where Josh has been taken, having stolen and crashed a car following surgery. Sam tends to Josh and lectures him on personal responsibility, but the youth is unresponsive. Sam, disheartened, leaves, but turns back when Josh calls out an apology as he struggles out of his cell, which has been left open. Sam heads up the stairs toward Josh, but is felled by a heart attack. Woody brings Sam home and cancels the show, after which Max hooks Sam up to an electrocardiograph machine. Woody experiences a moral reawakening and finally embraces Sam's philosophy. Anne joins him in Brooklyn, and he tells her he is leaving his job to return to a less competitive environment. Sam dies, and as Max writes the cause of death as coronary occlusion, he mutters to himself that Sam really died from winning other people's battles.
Nancy R. Pollack
Billy Dee Williams
Robert F. Simon
Pat De Simone
Rev. Solomon J. Gottesman
Edna M. Holland
Ed "skipper" Mcnally
Jordan "smoki" Whitfield
James Wong Howe
Homer Van Pelt
Best Art Direction
The Last Angry Man
The project cast Muni, then 63, as Sam Abelman, an aging, infirm doctor steadfastly devoted to the populace of his Brooklyn tenement neighborhood. His years of unsung service to the community inspire his newspaper copyboy nephew Myron (Joby Baker) to inveigle the publication of a human interest article celebrating this "Schweitzer of the slums." The piece doesn't go unnoticed by Woodrow Wilson Thrasher (David Wayne), a highly ambitious network television producer, who sees Sam as ideal fodder for his projected series on real-life everyday heroes.
The individualistic Sam, however, is uninterested in Thrasher's entreaties, deeming his time better spent on the community than such glossy nonsense. The doctor is particularly concerned with the young delinquent Josh Quincy (Billy Dee Williams, in his screen debut), who has been suffering with seizures, and is afraid of seeking medical attention. Woody responds by trying to break down Sam's resistance indirectly, first by trying to make an ally of Sam's best friend, the prosperous specialist Dr. Max Vogel (Luther Adler). He then convinces Lyman Gattling (Robert F. Simon), the show's pharmaceutical magnate sponsor to foot the bill for the new house that Sam has longed for.
Woody, of course, keeps all of this from the proud physician, who has finally given his tepid cooperation to the presence of a camera crew at his practice. Thrasher's difficulties with his subject continue to mount, though, from his willingness to bolt from the "set" to try and reach Josh, to his level of on-air candor concerning the commercialism of the producer's whole enterprise. Woody's efforts to keep Sam arm's length from the truth, and the doctor's desperation to break through to the seriously ill young hood, move the narrative to its emotional conclusion.
The screenplay, so perfectly tailored to Muni's strengths, was adapted by Gerald Green from his popular 1956 novel, which drew its inspiration from the life of Green's own physician father. The actor, who was coming off an ill-fated stage musical adaptation of Grand Hotel, was impressed with the novel and screenplay proffered by director Daniel Mann, as described by Jerome Lawrence in his bio Actor: The Life and Times of Paul Muni. The performer confided to his wife Bella "Sure, I'm tired and sick...But what this film says is important--about what medicine should be and what doctors should be. To play an honest doctor would be something--particularly a Jewish doctor helping poor people."
A rancorous perfectionist when in his prime, age did absolutely nothing to mellow Muni, as the planned six-week shooting schedule for The Last Angry Man stretched into seventeen weeks. "Though he was scrupulously on time for every scene and every setup many delays were caused by a recurring cue from Muni: 'Can I say something?'" Lawrence recounted. "Everything would stop while Muni discussed a point in the script at length. But when anybody said yes, he would scream, 'Don't agree with me! I'm not a writer. I'm a poor son of a bitch of an actor who's asking a question. Don't accept my question as an answer!'"
Mann recounted for Lawrence an appreciation regarding a bit of Muni's craftwork during the film's climactic sequence, where Abelman suffers a heart attack. "He leaned over the banister; when he came up again, his face was completely sunken in. He looked like a different man. I went over and congratulated him and asked him how he achieved that remarkable transformation. I thought it was marvelous. Smiling mischievously, he opened his hand and showed me his false teeth. He had a kind of childlike glee about it."
The supporting cast of The Last Angry Man were equally impressive in their roles. In addition to the aforementioned, noteworthy work was turned in by Nancy R. Pollock as the enduringly patient doctor's wife, and Betsy Palmer as Thrasher's corporate grind-weary spouse. Claudia McNeil was effective in her screen debut as Josh's mother, and you can spy Cicely Tyson and Godfrey Cambridge in small, early roles. The art direction by Carl Anderson and William Kiernan netted The Last Angry Man its one other Oscar® nomination.
Producer: Fred Kohlmar
Director: Daniel Mann
Screenplay: Gerald Green (novel), Richard Murphy
Cinematography: James Wong Howe
Film Editing: Charles Nelson
Art Direction: Carl Anderson
Music: George Duning
Cast: Paul Muni (Dr. Sam Abelman), David Wayne (Woodrow Wilson Thrasher), Betsy Palmer (Anna Thrasher), Luther Adler (Dr. Max Vogel), Joby Baker (Myron Malkin), Joanna Cook Moore (Alice Taggart).
by Jay S. Steinberg
The Last Angry Man
Gerald Green's novel, although a work of fiction, was based on the life of his father, a Brooklyn physician. In a Los Angeles Times article, director Daniel Mann noted that while the novel covers the entire life of the fictional character "Dr. Sam Abelman," the film only focuses on his last days. Mann hoped that the film would "illuminate...the meaning of the book." A 1956 Los Angeles Examiner news item reported that Columbia studio head Harry Cohn paid $250,000 for the film rights to Green's manuscript, and that Marlon Brando was initially offered the lead role. 1957 Los Angeles Examiner news items reported that Cohn was considering producing a stage version of the novel starring Paul Muni before making the film, and that Vera Caspary had written a screenplay for Columbia based on the novel. The play was never produced, however, and Caspary's contribution to the final film has not been determined.
Hollywood Reporter news items reveal the following information about the production: Glenn Ford was initially cast as "Woodrow Wilson Thrasher" but withdrew from the project. Jack Lemmon was then assigned to the role, but walked off the project, claiming he was exhausted from a hectic schedule. A 1958 news item noted that Peter Ustinov was originally to play Dr. Sam Abelman. Other 1958 news items add that Melvyn Douglas, Sam Levene and Bob Morse were also considered for parts in the picture. Although various news items place Philip Media, Robin Starling, Tom Cleaver and Michael Day in the cast, their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed.
The film was partially shot on location in Brooklyn, NY, according to Hollywood Reporter news items. Various reviews praised the film for its ethical content and fine performances. The National Catholic Legion of Decency gave the film its highest rating, and added the following notation: "The self-sacrifice and dedication to humanity which characterized the life of the protagonist are intellectually rewarding as well as heartwarming. The film can serve as an inspiration to people of all races and creeds." The film, unlike the novel, does not overtly state that Dr. Sam Abelman and his family are Jewish; however, the characters do state that they are Russian immigrants.
The picture marked Paul Muni's first American film since 1946, and his final screen performance before his death in 1967. The Last Angry Man also marked the screen debuts of Billy Dee Williams, Godfrey Cambridge and Claudia McNeil. The film was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actor (Muni) and Best Art Direction (black & white). On April 24, 1974, the ABC network aired a television version of the novel, also titled The Last Angry Man, written by Green, and starring Pat Hingle.
Released in United States 1959
Released in United States on Video April 27, 1989
Screen debut for Billy Dee Williams.
Daniel Mann has a bit part in the film.
Paul Muni's last film performance.
Released in United States 1959
Released in United States on Video April 27, 1989