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That Mothers Might Live (1938)

Approved | | Short, Biography, Drama | 30 April 1938 (USA)
It's the mid-nineteenth century. As long as their have been hospitals, the joy that women have felt having just given birth in a hospital may be quickly marred by their sudden death due to ... See full summary »

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Won 1 Oscar. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Shepperd Strudwick ...
Dr. Semmelweis (as Sheppard Strudwick)
John Nesbitt ...
Himself - Narrator (voice)
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Storyline

It's the mid-nineteenth century. As long as their have been hospitals, the joy that women have felt having just given birth in a hospital may be quickly marred by their sudden death due to what is known as childbed fever, its cause unknown. Dr. Semmelweis, who many women come to specifically to assist in their childbirth, is not immune to patients who have died in such a way. By happenstance, Dr. Semmelweis eventually discovered the reason for the illness was mere sanitation, and the need for doctors to wash their hands after each procedure. Coming to this realization and convincing the world, especially the established medical community, are two different things. Dr. Semmelweiss, who published a book on the subject, may not have gotten the recognition for this discovery during his lifetime as he tried to make his findings known and accepted, but that word would eventually spread to be commonplace and taken for granted as truth today. Written by Huggo

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Short | Biography | Drama

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Release Date:

30 April 1938 (USA)  »

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(Western Electric Sound System)

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1.37 : 1
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Soundtracks

Waltz #15 in A flat major ('Lullaby'), Op.39
(1865) (uncredited)
Written by Johannes Brahms
Variations in the score often
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Semelweiss had an idea
2 January 2014 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

Long before as producer/director Fred Zinnemann won Oscars for A Man For All Seasons and From Here To Eternity as a young Viennese immigrant he toiled at the MGM studios doing short subjects. It was there he showed his promise directing this Best Short Subject for 1938 That Mothers Might Live.

Going to hospital was a dubious proposition as far as your health was concerned, especially for pregnant women to give birth. Infant mortality was high in those days for any number of reasons, one of them simply because hospitals were not kept sterile and newborns picked up all kinds of infections and died.

Ignaz Philipp Semelweiss working in a hospital in Budapest came to see that just washing hands cut down the death rate in maternity wards. He was on the right track but it would be left to better known scientists like Louis Pasteur and Joseph Lister to fully develop the germ theory and the science of microbiology. It was left to Semelweiss to be ridiculed by his professional peers for most likely simply not taking the next steps that Pasteur and Lister did.

Sheppard Strudwick made his film debut in this short as the subject of same. It's a nice tribute to a forgotten and unappreciated man during his lifetime.


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