Tucker: The Man and His Dream

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Detroit engineer Preston Tucker (Jeff Bridges) has been interested in building cars since childhood. During World War II he designed an armored car for the military and made money building gun turrets for airplanes in a small shop next to his home in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Tucker is supported by his large, extended family, including wife Vera (Joan Allen) and eldest son Preston Jr (Christian Slater).

As the war winds down, Tucker has a dream of finally building the “car of the future.” The “Tucker Torpedo” will feature revolutionary safety designs including disc brakes, seat belts, a pop out windshield, and head lights which swivel when you turn. Tucker hires young designer Alex Tremulis (Elias Koteas) to help with the design and enlists New York financier Abe Karatz (Martin Landau), to arrange financial support. Raising the money through a stock issue, Tucker and Karatz acquire the enormous Dodge Chicago Plant to begin manufacturing.

Launching “the car of tomorrow” in a spectacular way, the Tucker Corporation is met with enthusiasm from shareholders and the general public. However, the Tucker company board of directors, unsure of his ability to overcome the technical and financial obstacles ahead, send Tucker off on a publicity campaign, and attempt to take complete control of the company. At the same time, Tucker faces animosity from the Big Three and the authorities led by Michigan Senator Homer S. Ferguson (Lloyd Bridges).

While the manufacturing of the Tucker Torpedo continues, Tucker is confronted with allegations of stock fraud. Ferguson’s investigation with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), causes Karatz, once convicted of bank fraud, to resign, fearful that his criminal record will prejudice the hearings. Yellow journalism starts ruining Tucker’s public image even though the ultimate courtroom battle is resolved when he parades his entire production run of 51 Tucker Torpedoes, proving that he has reached production status.

After giving a speech to the jurors on how capitalism in the United States is harmed by efforts of large corporations against small entrepreneurs like himself, Tucker is acquitted on all charges. Nevertheless, his company falls into bankruptcy and Preston Tucker succumbs to a heart attack seven years later, never able to realize his dream of producing a state-of-the-art automobile.


I think I’m one of a handful of people who actually remember Tucker: The Man and His Dream. When this film was released it did ok business, but was still considered a flop. As such, it never had the chance to gain a cult audience, so now it just exists without any real rabid fanbases supporting it.

What is this about?

Unimpressed with the cars being built following World War II, Preston Tucker dreams of building a more stylish car. But even with the help of his business-savvy wife and mechanic son, Tucker faces roadblocks — mainly from the auto industry itself.

What did I like?

Faithful. With biopics, it is very hard to stick with the original story, because you want to change bits and pieces in a way to make it more interesting for audiences. The director made a valiant effort to not change anything with picture and the few changes that were made were minor, the biggest being that instead of 4 yrs, it takes place over the course of 1 year. There are other small changes made, but none that made a big difference, as far as I’m concerned.

Cast. Very rarely does one come across a film that has such a perfect cast. Highlighted by the star Jeff Bridges, who manages to capture the 40s essence needs to pull this off. In certain scenes, it almost seems as if he’s trying to imitate Kevin Costner’s mannerisms and such from The Untouchables.

There was a time. Anyone that follows this blog or knows me in person will attest that I’m huge fan of this era. There is just something about the way things were done back then. Couple that with some great jazz playing on the radio, and a look at a couple of full service gas stations. Really makes one nostalgic, even I was taken aback by it all.

What didn’t I like?

Price isn’t right. Martin Landau gives a nice performance as financier Abe Kravitz, but his look threw me off. With the moustache they put on him. he resembled Vincent Price. It is possible, yet unlikely, that they wanted Price for this role. Perhaps the real Kravitz resembles Price is the reasoning for that. I really can’t tell you, but I kept expecting him to go to some kind of lab and create monsters and give and evil laugh.

Hughes. Now, fans of Quantum Leap will recognize Dean Stockwell, who plays Howard Hughes. The way that sequence played out was quite odd. Hughes was a bit of an enigmatic figure, to be sure, but they ratchet the mysterious part of his persona to 10. I can live with that, but the creepy music they play behind him almost make the audience think something bad is about to happen.

Politics. Some things never change. Politicians stick their grubby little hands in and basically put Tucker out of business. That is a damn shame! When did politicians go from serving the people to serving the dollar? These days you can throw in throwing a tantrum when they don’t get their way, but I won’t go into all that. The powers that be see Tucker as a threat because his ideas actually work and will make things better (and cheaper). One must wonder how many others have suffered the same fate, if not worse.

Tucker: The Man and His Dream is one of those films that not many people know about. Truthfully, the same can be said about the man, Preston Tucker, but it is a great thing that someone wet through the trouble to inform the public about someone who was so influential to the automobile industry. Here’s something else, the Tucker Tornado still has a futuristic look some 70 yrs later. There was an article on Yahoo.com a week or so ago about a real life version of the car Homer designed in an early episode of The Simpsons. I just realized that the debut scenes are very similar. At any rate, I highly recommend this film. It is a very entertaining biopic about a figure that many of us don’t know about. Check it out!

4 out of 5 stars


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