Douglass Dilman is “The Man” and the first Black President in the 1972 drama based on the novel by Irving Wallace and staring James Earl Jones. The film is back in limited distribution through independent collaborative efforts and coming to National Geographic (Grosvenor Auditorium – 1600 M Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036) Tuesday, February 7 to kick off Nat Geo’s “Tuesdays at Noon” Black History Month events.
In “The Man,” Senator Douglass Dilman (James Earl Jones) through the law of succession suddenly becomes the first black man to occupy the Oval Office. “The Man” remains unique in that the film presents the black president as the central dramatic character confronting the political and social weights of his position. Sound familiar? In addition to Jones, the film features actors from television and film’s “Golden Age”: Burgess Meredith, Jack Benny (in a cameo), Janet MacLachlan as Dilman’s activist daughter, George Stanford Brown, Martin Balsam, Barbara Rush, and William Windom. The screenplay for “The Man” was written by Rod Serling (“The Twilight Zone,” “Requiem for a Heavyweight”) and directed by Joseph Sargent (“Something the Lord Made,” “A Lesson Before Dying”).
Eclectique916 continues to campaign for “The Man,” a film that is less than 50 years old and yet practically obscure. According to the documentary film “These Amazing Shadows” about the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry, 50% of films produced are lost. This spans from the silent film era at the top of the 20th century to the present. Feature films produced in the last 50 years are also vanishing. “The Man” is considered one of them. To date, only three 16 mm copies of “The Man” have been identified/found. It is highly likely the original film is 35 mm. To date, the location of that 35 mm reel is a mystery.
The book was taken out of print then re-released in 1999, the year after President Bill Clinton’s “impeachment” by the House of Representatives prompted by the “Monica Lewinsky scandal.” The Senate acquitted President Clinton. In the book, but not so much in the film, Dilman also faces impeachment.
James Earl Jones wrote the introduction to the 1999 version of “The Man.”
His [Dilman] intention is to be president of all the people. He has no axes to grind, even racial axes. He simply cares for the national good.
James Earl Jones
The book went back out of print but recently re-emerged as a Kindle edition. The film is not available on DVD, Blueray or streamed. Thanks to the efforts of persons like Clayton LeBouef (“Something the Lord Made,” “Homicide: Life On the Street,” “The Wire”), who will talk about preservation of films like “The Man” February 7, the Rod Serling Memorial Foundation and this blog, “The Man” is back. It’s the beginning of a project to bring attention to significant films (many recent) that deserve extended distribution. If not for an informed and conscious audience, these films will be lost forever.
Douglass Dillman’s campaign begins with a vote — on Turner Classic Movies. The overview page for “The Man” includes a link to vote for the film to be released on DVD. And you don’t have to register to vote on TCM.
Vote for “The Man.” See “The Man” for yourself February 7 at National Geographic “Tuesdays at Noon.” Additional screenings (including outside DC) are TBA.