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Arrowsmith (1931)

Passed | | Drama | 26 December 1931 (USA)
Based on Sinclair Lewis's novel "Arrowsmith". A medical researcher is sent to a plague outbreak, where he has to decide priorities for the use of a vaccine.



(based upon the novel by), (adapted for the screen by)

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Nominated for 4 Oscars. See more awards »
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Complete credited cast:
A.E. Anson ...
Clarence Brooks ...
Twyford (as Alec Francis)
Claude King ...
David Landau ...
State Veterinarian
Sir Robert Fairland - Governor


Based on a Sinclair Lewis novel "Martin Arrowsmith". A medical researcher is sent to a plague outbreak, where he has to decide priorities for the use of a vaccine. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


HE FOUGHT FOR MAN... and lost a woman!




Passed | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





| |

Release Date:

26 December 1931 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El doctor Arrowsmith  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (TCM print)

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The first American sound film to feature a black character ("Dr. Oliver Marchand" played by Clarence Brooks) with a university degree who speaks perfect English, does not shuffle, and does not act in the usual stereotypical manner in which blacks were depicted in Hollywood films at the time. See more »


In the night scene outside the research building when Dr. Arrowsmith's wife catches up to him, the snow becomes very scant and then a whole clump of snow falls, as though thrown by an off-screen hand. See more »


Dr. Martin Arrowsmith: You've got to get used to hearing my ideas.
Leora Arrowsmith: Oh! I'm gonna hear a lot of them?
Dr. Martin Arrowsmith: You're going to marry me.
Leora Arrowsmith: You don't tell me.
Dr. Martin Arrowsmith: I certainly do.
Leora Arrowsmith: Now, you know, I shouldn't wonder if you're right. Of course, it's a little early in the game to be dead sure, but I shouldn't wonder.
See more »


Referenced in The Making of 'Lost Horizon' (1999) See more »


William Tell Overture
(1829) (uncredited)
Written by Gioachino Rossini
Played on piano from a recording
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User Reviews

John Ford Never Met A Doctor He Didn't Like
9 October 2006 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

The fact that an idealistic medical doctor was the protagonist in Arrowsmith is the reason why John Ford must have been attracted to this story and agreed to film it for Sam Goldwyn.

Allegedly it was not a happy collaboration. Two very individualistic men wanted to have their imprimatur on the film. They never worked together on a finished product again, though Ford did start filming The Adventures of Marco Polo for Goldwyn and quit.

I read the novel way back in the day when I was in high school and we only get the second half of it. There's a great deal in the book before Ronald Colman as Martin Arrowsmith goes to work for the Research Foundation and A.E. Anson as Max Gottlieb. You miss quite a lot of the character development of Arrowsmith.

Of course the plot mostly centers on Colman and his other mentor, Richard Bennett going to a Caribbean Island where there has been an outbreak of plague. Along for the trip is Helen Hayes who is Colman's wife Leora.

Colman is there to test a new serum and he's under orders as a researcher to only administer the real stuff to half his patient and a placebo to the others as a control group. This is where the racism of the time kicks in as these human guinea pigs are black, probably the descendants of runaway slaves. There is a black doctor named Marchand in the cast played by Oliver Brooks and it is a rarity among black performers at the time in that the role was hardly servile at all. Brooks seems to go along with the controlled experiment, but he becomes one of many in the cast to meet a tragic end.

With some of what came out about the Tuskegee experiments later on Arrowsmith may have been quite on target without knowing it. A harrowing thought.

Colman and Hayes are an attractive pair of leads. Myrna Loy has a much abbreviated role in the film as a New York socialite that Colman meets down in the islands. In the book he has an affair with her and marries her later on. You won't see that here.

Arrowsmith is a good film though I wish more of Lewis's story got into the final product. But it probably would have run for three hours and films just didn't do that back then.

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