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GIVE ‘EM HELL, HARRY! (director: Steve Binder; screenwriter: from the play by Samuel Gallu/Samuel Gallu; cinematographer: Ken Palius; cast: James Whitmore (Harry S. Truman); Runtime: 99; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Samuel Gallu/Thomas J. McErlane; Good Times; 1975)
James Whitmore in a virtuoso performance as the plainspokenPresidentHarry S. Truman.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Samuel Gallu’sbrilliant one-man play is directed by Steve Binder (“Melissa“) and stars James Whitmore in a virtuoso performance as the plainspokenPresidentHarry S. Truman, the only president in modern times that had the guts to speak directly to the public exactly what was on his mind. It’s based for the most part on the public records (Truman’s speeches and memoirs), though there’s some parts that take a poetic license with events (like reconstructing Truman’s meeting with a rebellious General MacArthur and taking potshots at the young California Congressman Nixon for being so disingenuous). The play was recorded before a live Seattle audience, and it used nine cameras. It was edited during the performance using a special videotape process called Theatrovision.

It tells of certain events in Truman’s life that stand out: his likable tough guy attitude as a National Guard army captain on the WW I battlefields, challenging the KKK during a political campaign, facing the ghost of FDR on his presidency, calling out as a concerned father the Washington Post music critic for dissing his daughter Margaret’s concert performance, his meeting with ex-President Hoover and respecting him for his concern with helping the poor, his reasons for dropping the A-bomb to end the war, telling about his honest ex- business partner Eddie Jacobson in the haberdashery business and how he influenced him to support recognizing Israel as an independent country, railing against the diabolical phony patriotic commie witch-hunter Senator Joe McCarthy,and firing the insubordinate high-handed popular war hero General MacArthur.

Watching Harry in action made me wish we had a president today who was not made out of mush and could tell it like it is. This film captures Truman’s feisty personality, his humor, his connection with the man on the street, his sincerity, his intelligence and his faults. Worth seeing for either entertainment or educational purposes. It’s simply great stuff.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”