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"People Will Talk"

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Character's Name: Doctor Noah Praetorius
Release Date:  September 2, 1951
Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Studio:  20th Century-Fox
Running Time: 109 minutes

Cast: Cary Grant (Dr. Noah Praetorius), Jeanne Crain (Annabel Higgins), Findlay Currie (Shunderson), Hume Cronyn (Prof. Elwell), Walter Slezak (Prof. Barker), Sidney Blackmer (Arthur Higgins), Basil Ruysdael (Dean Lyman Brockwell), Katherine Locke (Miss James), Will Wright (John Higgins), Margaret Hamilton (Miss Pickett), Esther Somers (Mrs. Pegwhistle)

- by Zoë Shaw
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."

VARIETY 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 photographic effects. 

NEW YORK 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 adult story.

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 profession.

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 compassion.

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 untimely death.

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 and rewarding.

- 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.

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