Movie Review: “Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988)

Ken Painter By Ken Painter, 10th Oct 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Reviews>Film & TV>Biography

If you're looking for a biographical dramady were the little guy really gets shafted by the BIG guys (in real life), the may I recommend to you Francis Ford Coppola's "Tucker: The Man and His Dream" starring Jeff Bridges in the title role. If you've never heard of Preston Tucker, you should!

Movie Review: “Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988)

I’m a native of Michigan, and I grew up in the automobile manufacturing part of the state and in a era when families were generally described by their car ownership. They were often referred to as being Ford families, or GM families, etc. This predated my entry into to the world I’m sure, and it still it exists there probably, but to a much, much more limited degree due to the inclusion of foreign made vehicles and the major cutbacks in the auto industry there in general. But those of us who grew up in the southern Michigan area in the 50’s and 60’s ate, drank, and slept pretty much with the Big Three Automakers in our blood.

In my own neighborhood of the late 50’s I can still recall one of my neighbors tooling up Browning Street in a sleek freshly washed black Tucker, one-of-its-kind in our town, and my dad told me what little he knew about it. It looked like nothing else in the world, and I was fascinated by it, so you can imagine my absolute delight when Francis Ford Coppola’s biographical film Tucker: The Man and His Dream appeared in the late 80’s to fill in all the missing pieces for me.

Starring Jeff Bridges in the title role as Preston Tucker we see a man who designed an armored car for the military during the 2nd World War, and decided after it that the time was ripe for the car of the future. He decides to assemble a team to design and build a prototype at his home in Ypsilanti, Michigan and is supported in his efforts by his wife Vera played by Joan Allen and his son Preston Jr. played by Christian Slater.

In an effort to help with the design he enlists the aid of a New York financier, Abe Karatz played by Martin Landau (who receives an Academy Award nomination in the Best Supporting Actor category). The pair decide to sell stock in the Tucker Automobile Company, and after raising enough capital they acquire the lease to the Chicago Dodge Plant in which to begin manufacturing their first autos. Then Tucker goes off on a national publicity campaign.. As he does so though, he begins to find opposition from the Big Three Automakers led by Michigan’s U.S. Senator Homer Ferguson played by Jeff Bridges’ dad Lloyd Bridges. From here the dream begins to come unrealized.

Of course, it all culminates in the courtroom, and we become witnesses ourselves to some of the 51 beautiful Tuckers preserved for posterity. Eventually, the safety innovations which Preston Tucker included in his 1948 automobile found their way into cars of the Big Three Automakers though it would take decades for them to do so. Preston Tucker himself would die seven years later of a heart attack. However, his automobile is still a work of art in my estimation. Tucker: a man ahead of his time as all geniuses are.


Automobile, Automobiles, Biography, Biography Review, Film, Film Review, Film Reviews, Films, Movie, Movie Review, Movie Reviews, Movies

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author avatar Ken Painter
Retired Chicago public school teacher. Singer, songwriter, musician, author, & opinionated old curmudgeon. Married to my husband & living in Colorado, USA. Also a father & grandfather.

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
10th Oct 2013 (#)

Good Afternoon, Ken. I would imagine that Tucker represents only a portion of individuals who could have made a difference, or at least an income in many of our larger industries. It is sad how many people do have good and innovative ideas that cannot get funding, and even if they do, they are often times put out of business by "court hearings" and the associated costs. Nice read, and the car looks amazing. Reminds me of a Studebaker that my aunt let me drive at 12 - that was a treat. ~Marilyn

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author avatar Ken Painter
10th Oct 2013 (#)

I've often wondered what a better world we would live in today if people like Preston Tucker weren't driven out of business by their competitors (though I've never driven myself crazy obsessing about it, LOL). It's the nature of the business world from time immemorial. For me, Tucker just happened to be one of my heroes due to time, place, and circumstance, due to the geography of my birth and the happy accident of one of my neighbors a block and a half away owning one of those 51 precious few Tuckers. Thanks as always for reading, and by the way, I've started reading a couple of your articles. Very interesting stuff!!! Ken

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