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This is a great film that is also very historically and scientifically
correct. Almost everything in the movie REALLY happened to the real
Louis Pasteur. I am a high school biology teacher and I show this film
every year when we study viruses and bacteria. When I tell the students
that it is a black and white film from 1935, I get moans and words of
disapproval. But every year after they have viewed the film almost all
students come away legitimately liking the film.
Paul Muni's performance is extraordinary and may be the best performance of his entire career. I highly recommend watching this film. It was nominated for BEST PICTURE, Paul Muni won BEST LEAD ACTOR, it won BEST WRITER, and won BEST EDITING that year.
What a pleasure to see a film so unabashedly idealistic! The film's
emotional ending (a well-deserved and long-overdue tribute to Pasteur's
by his collegues) centers on a closing speech by Pasteur (Paul Muni) in
which he explains, simply and with passion, that making a contribution to
the wellbeing of mankind is the most important work of
Pasteur's discovery of the role of bacteria in spreading disease seems self-evident now, but he faced years of ridicule and isolation before his findings were accepted and played their part in transforming our world.
This film is a vaccine against the cynical, self-referential, "in it for me (and maybe my small circle of friends)" films of the recent decades. See it and feel good about being human.
"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.
1936 was the career turning point year for Paul Muni. It was the year
that he got the first of three biographical films at Warner Brothers
that would forever give him his place in cinema history. The Story of
Louis Pasteur (1827-1895) was also the film that got Muni his Academy
Award for Best Actor that year.
It's hard to imagine the world of science and medicine without the contributions of Pasteur. He was a chemist and as such his scientific experiments when they encroached on the medical field was greeted with suspicion and hostility. His chief critic Dr. Charbonnet played by Fritz Lieber nearly sank Pasteur's work with a bold move that I cannot tell about, but will make you gasp when you see it on screen.
Josephine Hutchinson is Muni's ever faithful wife Marie and she does well by what is really a rather colorless part. It was the same for Muni in his biographical picture the following year of Emile Zola where Gloria Holden also had a part that called for little, but to look faithful. There is a nice subplot involving Donald Woods as an early convert to Pasteur's way of thinking wooing and winning daughter Anita Louise.
The film goes through Pasteur's main achievements of sterilization during medical procedures and cures for anthrax and hydrophobia. The story and screenplay which also won Oscars for 1936 is simple and straightforward enough for any lay person to follow.
There are several good performances of men of science who opposed and/or supported Pasteur's work, in some cases opposed then supported. Porter Hall, Akim Tamiroff, and Halliwell Hobbes who has a small part as Joseph Lister, the English scientist.
Pasteur fought hard for his ideas against the medical and scientific establishment of his day and lived long enough to receive due acclaim from his nation of France and the world. It's still an inspirational story about a man convinced of the rightness of his cause and having the wisdom and perseverance to see it through.
This was a pretty interesting historical account of the man who first
discovered that microbes - germs - were the cause of many sicknesses.
Dr. Louis Pasteur then went about the make changes so these germs were
not so prevalent and causing so much sickness. We can thank him for
Paul Muni does a fine job of playing the title role. He seemed to always play intense roles.
The story is very frustrating, however, as we watch "Pasteur" become the target of an ignorant medical profession at the time, constantly trying to discredit the famous man's work. We know, of course, through history that he was right so to listen to his naysayers go on and on and on is frustrating.
At least we know Pasteur and his discoveries were finally accepted and he was given the recognition he deserved. In the end, there is a final, very moving scene that gives him his due.
Paul Muni has the title role in "The Story of Louis Pasteur," a 1935
film also starring Josephine Hutchinson, Anita Louise, Donald Woods,
and Fritz Lieber.
The biopic focuses on Pasteur's work in sterilization, rabies, and anthrax, and includes his inoculation of the small boy Joseph Meister (Dickie Moore) which is a famous - and risky - moment in Pasteur's life. Strangely, there is nothing about pasteurization, although with a great scientist who was responsible for so many innovations, you can't show everything. And certainly the rabies and anthrax stories are more dramatic.
Some of the film, I believe, is fictionalized - his nemesis, Dr. Charbonnet, was probably created to represent some of the criticism Pasteur faced in his lifetime. The love affair between his assistant, Dr. Martel (Donald Woods) and Pasteur's daughter Annette doesn't seem to be true either. Typical Hollywood.
Nevertheless, this is a reverent biography with a strong performance by Muni and good work by the rest of the cast. It seems crazy to think that before Pasteur, doctors did not sterilize instruments and wash their hands, but apparently, they didn't.
In 19th century France, a ridiculed chemist branching out into medicine is called a charlatan by Europe's most prestigious doctors, even after he finds a vaccine for anthrax in sheep; next, he tackles hydrophobia in dogs, then humans. Medical history, compressed and simplified for the sake of popular entertainment, but no less rewarding for it. Paul Muni gives an impressive, Oscar-winning performance as Louis Pasteur, so fiercely dedicated to his findings and the results they receive, he drives himself to a partial stroke. One might think Pasteur as a family man might be difficult to live with, yet his loved ones merely beam and glow with pride, as does the opposition (seen as ego-fed and pig-headed) once Pasteur's experiments pay off. It's an awfully brief biography at just 85 minutes, yet it certainly has charm and moments of solid drama. **1/2 from ****
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Apparently none of the previous reviewers,most of whom praise the film
for its accuracy, have actually read a biography of Louis Pasteur.The
most glaring inaccuracy is in the relationship between Pasteur and
Napoleon III.Back in the 1930's the latter was invariably shown in a
bad light.While far from an admirable character-he was an inept
politician and a self-appointed "military genius" who allowed France to
be dragged into a disastrous war,he was not the stupid reactionary
depicted here. He had an intelligent interest in science,and like many
other people in the 19th century saw a bright future because of the
improvements it would bring.Far from exiling Pasteur, he was his
PATRON,building him a laboratory and providing him with all the
resources that he needed for his research.While the lab was under
construction, Pasteur became gravely ill.A bureaucrat, deciding it was
a waste of money to build a laboratory for someone who would soon be
dead, ordered work halted on his own authority.When the emperor heard
about this, his outrage shook the bureaucracy so that there was a
flurry of buck-passing, and work promptly resumed.The Emperor
personally visited Pasteur to comfort him and reassure him that he
would get his lab.The emperor would often bring members of his court to
admire Pasteur's projects,and it was obvious to everyone that Pasteur
was one of the emperor's favorites.Pasteur's main worry concerning the
Emperor was that Napoleon thought Pasteur was virtually a miracle
worker who could do almost anything, and was constantly assigning him
tasks outside of his previous experience.Pasteur, a very modest man,
was always protesting this, but Napoleon would say that he had complete
faith in him,and Pasteur despite his misgivings, always came
through.They always had a close and friendly relationship,and after the
Emperor was overthrown, Pasteur refused to say a bad word about
him,grateful to the end of his life.
The part about his daughter having the baby, and Pasteur sacrificing his principles to get a doctor, never happened.The part about the anthrax and rabies, for which he was famous, is generally correct, but the notion that the anthrax experiment raised him from obscurity to fame is false.He was famous and respected at the time this happened.This movie is OK from a dramatic standpoint,but very distorted as biography.
Story of Louis Pasteur, The (1935)
*** (out of 4)
Bio pic of chemist Louis Pasteur (Paul Muni) who found a cure for the black plague but was then blacklisted when he made the claim that childhood fever was caused when doctors didn't wash their hands before delivering babies. This is a pretty strong film from start to finish that features a terrific performance by Muni who rightfully deserved his Best Actor Oscar. I was really shocked at how well Muni was here because I was a little skeptical going in. God knows he's given countless great performances throughout his career but I was shocked at how well he play Pasteur who of course used his brains more than his muscles or mouth like many of Muni's other roles. There's not a single second where Muni comes off as himself but the entire film he gives the performance that we think we're actually watching Pasteur work. The supporting cast is also very good with Josephine Hutchinson, Anita Louise and Donald Woods all turning in good work.
PAUL MUNI gives an eloquent performance as Louis Pasteur in this
abbreviated biography of his life which never has time to mention some
of his other achievements, such as pasteurized milk. Instead, it
concentrates on the difficulties he has of convincing any of the
medical experts that microbes are the cause of disease. His experiments
with finding a cure for anthrax and rabies are at the centerpiece of
JOSEPHINE HUTCHINSON is his devoted and loyal wife who has to remind him to eat dinner when he's caught up in his experiments with animals to prove his theories. ANITA LOUIS and DONALD WOODS provide what little romantic interest there is in the tale, strictly cardboard characters little more than ciphers.
Muni ages convincingly without the use of heavy make-up and won a Best Actor Oscar for his detailed performance. HALLIWELL HOBBES as Dr. Lister, AKIM TAMIROFF as Dr. Zaranoff, PORTER HALL as Dr. Rossignol, and FRITZ LEIBER as his nemesis, Dr. Charbonnet, are excellent in supporting roles.
Nicely directed by William Dieterle.
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