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Written by Timothy Sexton
Francis Ford Coppola had planned to make a biopic of Preston Tucker as his follow-up to The Godfather, Part II, but it would not actually get made for another fourteen years. During the interim, actors as diverse as Marlon Brando and Burt Reynolds were all considered for the role as well as Jack Nicholson who was probably offered just about every leading male during that stretch. Eventually, Jeff Bridges would be cast as the flamboyant automaker and while Bridges may actually physically resemble Tucker less than any other actor considered for the part, it is difficult to imagine anyone else channeling the spirit of the man. Bridges seems to literally inhabit the soul of Preston Tucker, presenting every facet of the manic qualities of a sharp salesman and the visionary brilliance of a genius far ahead of his time as well as a rebel leading an insurrection against “the way things are done” in the world of manufacturing and business. In a very tough year, Bridges did not manage to snag an Oscar nomination, but his dazzling portrayal of Preston Tucker remains a career highlight.
Is Abe Karatz a wheeler-dealer with the financial acumen to get Tucker’s car from prototype to factory or is Abe Karatz the convicted embezzler out to soak Tucker for whatever he can. The brilliant Martin Landau subtly endows his character with the potential for either or both or maybe even none of the above. For his solidly grounded counterpart to Bridge’s manic automaker, Martin Landau took home Golden Globe and was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Supporting Actor category.
There may very well be no American actress in the history of Hollywood who is more adept at portraying tightly wound repressed emotions than Joan Allen. All her finest performances are subtle revelations of the necessary defense mechanism women must engage as a defensive action against a world controlled by men. While the wife of Preston Tucker is not repressing the intensity of emotions like those of Allen’s most memorable performances in movies like The Crucible, Pleasantville or Nixon, she still takes the opportunity to lend greater depth to her character than exists in the screenplay by carefully crafting a portrait of an archetype: what kind of woman does a genius fall in love with?
As the talented young designer charged by Preston Tucker with making the vision in his head come to life, Elias Koteas delivers a strangely disconnected aura. This feeling of Alex Tremulis being somewhat detached from those around him is quite fitting, however, as the extended Tucker family could almost certainly have been rather off-putting to some. Koteas has since gone on to a long career as character actor showing up in a variety of different parts in an array of different genres.
Preston Tucker, Jr.
Since Jack Nicholson was too old to play Preston Tucker by the time he finally got around to making the movie, he apparently decided to do the next best thing: cast the young actor who has somehow manage to carve a rather long career out of giving a serious of performances that are essentially little more than bad Jack Nicholson impersonations.
Sen. Homer Ferguson
In a bit of inspired casting, Coppola cast Jeff Bridges father Lloyd as Preston Tucker’s nemesis, Sen. Homer Ferguson. The story of Tucker: The Man and His Dream is really more accurately titled Tucker: Big Business Versus Better Business. The preferred instrument of destruction by Big Business has always been the politicians they own and politician charged with corrupting the letter of the law in order to destroy the spirit of innovation in the case of Preston Tucker is Sen. Homer Ferguson. Lloyd Bridges turns in yet another utterly complete performance in the film, proving yet again that he is destined to remain forever one of Hollywood’s most underrated talents.
Yes, that Howard Hughes. One visionary tries to help another. One would certainly hope that Tucker would not have trod the path of de-evolution from visionary to Big Business icon that Hughes himself walked, but we’ll never know for sure. Stockwell handles the prickly business of trying to capture the strange essence of mad genius that was Howard Hughes with his usual aplomb.
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Tucker: The Man and His Dream essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of the movie Tucker: The Man and His Dream directed by Francis Ford Coppola.