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THE GREAT IMPOSTER

               

For Hicksflicks.com, Sept. 12, 2014

Tony Curtis was born to play "The Great Imposter" (1961, b/w).

In addition to shoring up his box-office popularity with such big dramatic box-office hits as "The Defiant Ones" (1958) and "Spartacus" (1960), Curtis was the go-to guy in the late 1950s and throughout the '60s for rapid-fire farce, having perfected the persona of the hot-shot con artist in such comedies as "The Perfect Furlough" (1958), "Some Like It Hot" (1959), "Operation Petticoat" (1959) and "Who Was That Lady" (1960).

So taking on the role of real-life con man Ferdinand Waldo Demara Jr. in "The Great Imposter" was like slipping on a glove. And this was 40 years before Steven Spielberg and Leonardo di Caprio told a very similar true story in "Catch Me If You Can" (2002).

This story of the ultimate impersonator was one of Curtis' most popular films at the peak of his popularity, though it's not as well remembered today as the others listed above.

 

          

              Karl Malden, Tony Curtis, 'The Great Imposter'

But fans of the film, those of us who remember how entertaining it was back in the day, have been waiting a long time to see it come to DVD. Now Universal's manufacture-on-demand lable, Universal Vault Series, has finally released "The Great Imposter," and it's still bright and enjoyable, if perhaps Hollywoodized.

In the movie, Demara quits high school at a young age and joins the Army but finds that he can't become an officer as a high school dropout. So he fakes papers to take on the role of a Marine, then later impersonates a Trappist monk, a prison warden and a doctor in the Canadian Navy — where he performs surgery!

             

How charming Demara was in real life is up for debate but Curtis is completely winning, and manages to not only take on all these lifestyles and professions but is so utterly convincing that others in the same professions have no doubt he is who he says he is.

There's even a twist ending that plays perfectly into all that has gone before.

"The Great Imposter" may not be high on very many on many Netflix subscribers' radar, but it's a most enjoyable romp, made all the more entrancing with the knowledge that it's a true story.