Making the Grades
Preston Thomas Tucker was a man before his time, a maverick innovator who dreamed of changing the world by introducing improved safety features and aerodynamic design to the automotive industry.
In the 1988 film, Tucker The Man And His Dream, Jeff Bridges plays the dynamic inventor and charismatic salesman who pitches his idea for seatbelts, fuel injection and disc brakes to the purchasing public. With the help of Abe Karatz (Martin Landau), Tucker gathers funds to build a prototype of his futuristic car and begins pre-selling to dealerships across the country. Securing the world's largest manufacturing plant, he gears up for mass production of the auto. But while postwar Americans are flush with enthusiasm for the Tucker Torpedo, outside sources begin to put the squeeze on the little man with the big ideas. Unable to procure clay and steel for manufacturing, Tucker resorts to scrounging the city dump for needed materials while his handful of faithful designers and engineers work around the clock to bring their prototype from paper to reality in a mere 60 days.
However, bigger trouble looms ahead when the United States Securities and Exchange Commission begins an investigation of Tucker's Corporation under the implied encouragement of Detroit's Big Three auto manufacturers. When Michigan's Senator Homer Ferguson (Lloyd Bridges) turns a cold shoulder on Tucker's request for help, the visionary creator relies on the support of his family (Joan Allen, Christian Slater) and the legal efforts of Mr. Kirby (Jay O. Sanders) to fight the highly publicized allegations of consumer fraud while holding together the struggling company.
Filmmakers Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas (each of whom own one of the few Tucker Torpedoes ever made) enthusiastically recount the ambitions of a man bent on achieving the American dream in spite of bureaucratic meddling. While the moderate amount of profanities and Tucker's inclination to outrun the police may cause parental concern, these two consummate movie producers celebrate that internal drive that compels mankind to envision a better tomorrow. Although his ill-fated torpedo fizzled, some of Tucker's other innovations hit their mark in automotive history.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Tucker: The Man And His Dream.
Tucker is portrayed as a charming and skilled people person. How did his magnetic personality contribute to his ability to sell his dream car to prospective buyers?
In the 1940’s, Tucker introduced automotive safety features that were unheard of in his time. How many of those ideas are now standard features in our automobiles?
The Tuckers are a loving and supportive family. How do their father’s troubles affect their relationships? Are they able to maintain their support for one another during those tough times and how is that portrayed in the movie?
During one scene, a mural of Nikola Tesla is shown on the wall behind Tucker. Who was Tesla, what were his contributions to the scientific world, and is there a similarity in how his ideas were received by the public?
For more information see Tesla: Master of Lightning at www.pbs.org/tesla