- by Zoë
The plot, very briefly, begins with the
investigation by one Professor Rodney Elwell (Hume Cronyn in a really waspy
turn) into the life and career of the unorthodox - medically and
philosophically - Dr. Noah Praetorius (Cary Grant), favorite teacher at a
middle America medical school. (Whether intentional or coincidental, the
investigation and eventual hearing of Noah conducted by the school board has
a definite parallel to the HUAC hearings which were going on at the same
time.) Noah's basic credo is that it is a doctor's duty "to make sick
people well." He demonstrates this by, among other examples:
lecturing his students on knowing the difference between the cold, lifeless
human cadaver which was before death a warm, feeling human being; gently
describing his own near death experience to an elderly lady who is
convalescing in the progressive clinic he operates; and finally convincing
Deborah, a young unwed mother-to-be (Jeanne Crain), to cry tears of joy and
not sorrow at the advent of having a baby. Along with these lessons, talks,
and acts of charity, Noah conducts the student orchestra and chorus with the
same precision and spirit that he practices and teaches medicine. His
colleagues include fellow Professor Barker (Walter Slezak), who can "name
every neuron and electron", but cannot play the bass fiddle that
accompanies the student band, and a gently spoken, towering giant named
Shunderson (Finlay Currie), whom Noah fiercely protects, and who proves to
have a major role in the doctor¹s early medical practice. Finally, Deborah's
father (Sidney Blackmer), becomes Noah's friend, and, eventually, his
father-in-law - when Deborah and Noah fall in love.
- Jonathan Baker
This film is a little known
gem in the career of Cary Grant. Based on a play titled "Dr.
Praetorius", it was adapted, produced, and directed by Joseph
Mankiewicz. Interestingly, this film is not as famous as another
Mankiewicz effort from the early 1950's, "All About Eve."
Both are literate, cleverly written, and have interesting,
in-depth, and even mysterious characters. While "All
About Eve" has bordered on becoming a camp classic, with
Bette Davis' now iconic "fasten your seatbelts...it's going
to be a bumpy night" declaration, "People Will Talk"
could have had the potential of becoming an underground cult
favorite. It deals with heavy, at the time taboo subjects
(premarital pregnancy, attempted suicide, unorthodox medical
philosophies). Indeed, what other movie can boast of having
its doctor hero being a gynecologist (which is actually
mentioned!) It is perhaps because this film was so ahead of its
time that it does not have the same popularity as "All About
Eve." In spite of this, it is still a
thought-provoking, interesting movie.
The film is full of ironies and
paradoxes, Cary Grant's performance being the most notable. His
Dr. Noah Praetorius is quietly confident, almost always
reflective, even a bit detached - but always aware of the
feelings, moods, and foibles of those around him. He will calmly
and effortlessly ease the mindset of his distraught young love
Debra, but, conversely (and comically), have a wildly passionate
argument with Barker and his father-in-law about who is
responsible for wrecking the formation pattern of his electric
train set! It is this kind of irony which makes the film hard to
classify, but also what makes it interestingly different. Whether
it is a drama with dashes of comedy thrown in, or a comic drama,
"People Will Talk" is definitely worth a look for any
Grant fan who has yet to see it. It may be like an acquired taste,
but definitely worth trying. Grant plays a role which has many
different shadings and nuances, and it serves as another example
of how adept he was at playing more dramatically complex
characters. And as a demonstration of the Grant charisma,
there is one scene where he is triumphantly conducting the student
concert. Smiling proudly and openly, looking back into the
audience and quickly giving Deborah the famous 'eyebrow arch',
this concert moment should be included in any future Cary Grant 'famous
scene' retrospective; right in between with being chased by the
cropduster in "North by Northwest" and fuming at
Katherine Hepburn as she
destroys his golf clubs in "The Philadelphia Story."
Film Review - August 22, 1951
- by "Brog"
- submitted by Barry Martin
20th-Fox has a promising boxoffice entry in "People Will
Talk." Holding out that promise of a favorable ticket window
reaction is the star bracketing of Cary Grant and Jeanne Crain,
and the added importance it gains from being a Darryl F. Zanuck production,
insuring it a strong selling push all down the line.
"People" again teams the
successful combination of Zanuck and Joseph L. Mankiewicz. As to
be expected from the pairing, this is a well-polished
presentation, slickly cast and smoothly turned out. Interest for
adult ticket buyers is good, and story content is especially
slanted for distaffers, who will give the film its biggest boost.
Curt Goetz's play and film,
"Dr. Praetorius," was used by Mankiewicz as the basis
for his screenplay, and the script reflects his construction skill
at melding drama. Serious aspects of the play, concerning a doctor
who believes illness needs more than just medicinal treatment,
have been brightened with considerable humor, and the camera adds
enough scope to help overcome the fact that the picture's legit
origin is still sometimes apparent.
As usual, Mankiewicz's dialog is
polished to the nth degree and he uses a lot of it during the 109
minutes, but the words are smooth although occasionally erudite.
His directorial handling is just as smooth, keeping the slightly
over-length footage moving and interesting. The players,
individually and as a whole, react correctly to his direction to
help point up the story. Three is a good satirically humorous
touch in the way the script takes a poke or two at accepted
medical foibles and practices.
Grant is the doctor and Miss Crain
the medical student who are the principals mixed up in the plot.
Grant, facing charges of conduct unbecoming to his profession,
finds time to become interested in Miss Crain when she faints
during a classroom lecture. He discovers se is pregnant, but when
she tries to commit suicide, he proclaims the diagnosis a mistake
and marries her. Masculine reaction to this development should
stir up some pros and cons, but Mankiewicz handles it expertly and
femmes will respond favorably.
Climax is hung on Grant's trial by
the college board, and its more serious touches are carefully
leavened with a lightness that makes it more effective. The
on-trial medico gets off the hook by explaining the reasons why he
had brought a man back to life, and why, during the early days of
his practice, he had dispensed medical advice in the guise of a
butcher because most people like to believe in miracle working.
Grant and Miss Crain turn in the
kind of performances expected of them and their work receives top
support from the other members of the largish cast. Findlay Currie
is grand as the faithful companion of the man who had saved his
life. Hume Cronyn, the small-minded medical professor whose
jealousy started the investigation, registers, as do Walter Slezak,
another of the professors, Sidney Blackmer, Miss Crain's father,
and Basil Rusdael, the dean. Among others noticeable for good work
are Katherine Locke, Will Wright and Margaret Hamilton.
Quite a point is made of music in
the drama through having Grant practice his hobby of conducting a
hospital orchestra. Used are Brahms' Academic Festival Overture,
and Wagner's Prize Song, both beautifully integrated into the film
under Alfred Newman's baton.
Zanuck's production helming insured
topflight technical exerts to back up the picture. Among them are
the photography by Milton Krasner, the art direction and special
TIMES Film Review - August 30, 1951
- by Bosley Crowther
- submitted by Barry Martin
Joseph L. Mankiewicz and his
boss, Darryl F. Zanuck, who must be weary from taking bows for
last year's "All About Eve," are due for a lot more of
such gratifying exercise for "People Will Talk," which
came to the Roxy yesterday. For this merry mélange of
medicine, mystery and what must be the Mankiewicz philosophical
code takes itself seriously but not so seriously as to avoid
injecting as many chuckles as possible within the framework of an
We have no idea as to how the
American Medical Association will cotton to this tale of an
eminent physician beset by chivying of a petty, jealous colleague,
but we are certain "People Will Talk" is closer to
Hippocrates and the funny bone than it is to some of the creations
emerging from Hollywood.
Lest there be some misconception,
it should be noted that Mr. Mankiewicz et al are not concerned
solely with the medical life and the Groves of Academe.
Using a script which is as sharp as a scalpel and which is derived
from "Dr. Praetorious," a German play and a 1933 film by
Curt Goetz, the scenarist-director is relating the story of a
strange, handsome medico - a doctor who is not content to diagnose
and cure but one who knows there is a vast difference between that
concept and his duty which is "to make sick people
well." It seems also that Dr. Praetorious, a most
successful practitioner, who not only has his own clinic but
teaches gynecology at the university, is the thorn in the side of
Professor Elwell. That pedagogue, a stickler for correctness
in practice, is conducting a personal investigation of Dr.
Praetorius, whose methods, he feels, are unbecoming to the
Our hero falls in love with and
marries one of his students, a comely lass, who he learns, is
bearing a former sweetheart's child and has attempted
suicide. Dr. Elwell brings the results of his private
snooping before the Dean and the faculty board. Their
demands for an explanation of his past, - an old background
that included practice in a backwoods village under the guise of
being a butcher not a doctor and a friendship with a strange,
hulking laconic, elderly man - is made with neatness, humor and
But a synopsis is merely a bare and
unflattering skeleton. It does not reveal that Mr.
Mankiewicz and crew are railing against callousness in medicine,
that "the human body is not necessarily the human
being." It does not indicate, for example, that, among
other ideas broached, is the one that "our American mania for
sterile packages has removed the flavor from most of our foods -
that there was never a perfume like an old-time grocery
store." "Now they smell like drug stores,"
Dr. Praetorius holds.
Among other things it does not
illustrate the comic and satiric overtones of the dialogue with
which Dr. Praetorius - through another accomplishment, conductor
of the college orchestra - argues with his friend and colleague,
Dr. Barker, an atomic scientist and bull fiddle player.
Cary Grant, who is obviously having
the time of his life playing Dr. Prateorius, perhaps, is a mite
too gay as the self-effacing and crusading healer. But his
portrayal is an effective mixture of medicine and merriment.
Hume Cronyn turns in a gem of a performance as his professional adversary.
As the frustrated, envious "little man," he is a schemer
who it is a pleasure to hate. Walter Slezak adds a deftly
natural assist as his loyal colleague. Jeanne Crain is
decorative and properly charming as Grant's wife and Finlay
Currie, who may be remembered as the irascible Scot's sanatorium
patient in "Trio," is fine in the unusual role of
Shunderson, Grant's right-hand man and the gent he saved from an
Despite the fact that Mr.
Mankiewicz' script is in error sometimes - atomic scientists are
using atomic energy to make people well - it does make its points
clearly and with humor. It is biased, of course, and it
takes a little too long to reach its conclusions. But "People
Will Talk" does have something to say and it does so with
erudition and high comedy, a compound that is vastly entertaining
- C.J. Dellard
Dr. Noah Praetorius is an unconventional doctor who cares a
lot about his patients. One of is patients is an unwed pregnant woman who attempts to
commit suicide rather than tell her father that she is pregnant. While helping her through
her situation, he falls in love with her. However, he has a mysterious past that could
well affect his future.
This is a charming love story that I recommend to all.
Click here to read Jenny's Crackpot
Reviews at the Cary Grant Shrine
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