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In 1860 Paris, chemist Louis Pasteur is considered a quack within the medical community for advocating that doctors and surgeons wash their hands and boil their instruments to destroy microbes that can kill their patients. He came across this belief when discovering microscopic organisms in sour wine, the organisms which could be killed if heated sufficiently. The belief among the scientific community at large is that the organisms are the result of disease and not the cause. This belief is despite the fact that thirty percent of women die in childbirth due to child bed disease, accounting for twenty thousand annual deaths in Paris alone. The debate takes Pasteur all the way to a meeting with Emperor Napoleon III and his physician, Dr. Charbonnet, who is one of the leading opponents of Pasteur. Several years later - France now a republic - much of Pasteur's reputation changes as a government sanctioned experiment with anthrax and sheep shows that a vaccine created by Pasteur proves ... Written by
Hal Wallis originally rejected Sheridan Gibney's script. Wallis wanted the movie to be a college romance. The star, Paul Muni, had script control in his contract, so the actor wrote across the top of the screenplay, "I approve this script as written." Warner Bros. had to film Gibney's original script, which went on to win an Oscar. From "Film Crazy" by Patrick McGilligan, St. Martin's Press, 1983; and "Actor: The Life & Times of Paul Muni" by Jerome Lawrence, 1974. See more »
A newspaper is shown announcing that the government (of France) is appropriating grazing land. The text surrounding the featured item mentions dollars and the Bronx, indicating the text was likely taken from a US newspaper. See more »
Dr. Louis Pasteur:
[speaking to the Emperor]
Sire, the hospitals of Paris are pesthouses. There's scarcely a doctor in the city who's not carrying death on his hands and instruments.
Because of microbes, Monsieur? Your private menagerie of invisible beasts?
Dr. Louis Pasteur:
Exactly. Doctor Charbonnet could see them for himself if he took the trouble to use his microscope. He could watch them multiply into murderous millions. They breed in filth. They may start from the gutters of Paris tonight and by tomorrow claim some mother ...
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A fine example of what Hollywood has forgotten how to do
"The Stroy of Louis Pasteur" is an example of Hollywood's Golden Era at its best. The first of the Warner Bros "biopics", it can boast of a great performance by Paul Muni, with none of the mannerisms that became a trade mark in the last and sorry years of his career. It was an example of the "good citizenship" that Warner Broa boasted of: a highly educational film that at the same time was very entertaining. The screen play was masterful and won the Oscar it the deserved. Authors Sheridan Gibney and Pierre Collings were able to dramatize scientific struggles and investigations. This was also the beginning of the most fruitful period in William Dieterle's career, an from that moment on he shared with Michael Curtiz the top assignments at Warner. It is now known that The Story of Louis Pasteur was made with a very low budget. You don't notice it. It is a wonderful show, as was the following year "The Life of Emile Zola" and, with some reservations, "Juarez" in 1939. There are notable performances in the picture by Fritz Leiber and Akim Tamiroff among others.
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