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|Index||22 reviews in total|
This picture illustrates everything wonderful about the confidence,
expertise and narrative power of Hollywood films near the end of the
classic period: it is entertaining, intelligent and carefully made in
every department. A smooth celebration of scientific theory and of the
romantic partnership of two scientists.
The first third of the film is in many ways the best: a very funny and sensitive depiction of the courtship of two gauche scientists. Often filmed in long-shot on beautifully detailed, cavernous sets, we see Garson and Pigeon sometimes isolated in space, sometimes haltingly moving through crowds, tentatively finding their way to each other. Though Mervyn Leroy could be a stolid director, here he shows great delicacy and judgment and he perfectly sets a mood of gentle comic romance.
The middle third deals with the engrossing scientific mystery that led to the discovery of radium. The lightness of touch and the humor of the first third are not entirely abandoned here, but there is a greater seriousness and a kind of reverence for knowledge and scientific endeavor that is virtually absent from films today (the exception would be A BEAUTIFUL MIND, which I kind of hated). There are some striking visuals, including a tracking shot across hundreds of bowls of evaporating chemicals and a haunting image of a glowing dish of radium in a large, dark shed.
The last third is the dullest and most conventional portion of the film: fame and celebration for the Curies and a renewal of their love just before Pierre died prematurely in a traffic accident. The high point here is what surely won Pigeon his Oscar nomination for Best Actor: the speech to a jeweler in which he describes the beauty of his wife just before his untimely death. There is also the evocative image of a wet umbrella broken under a wagon wheel.
Of course, what you think of this idealistic, creamy and sure-footed vehicle (which must have packed 'em in at Radio City Music Hall) depends entirely on what you think of Greer Garson, as well as your opinion of the popular Garson-Pigeon screen team. Their looks and personalities were perfect matches, templates of feminine and masculine 'virtues'. There was nothing sexy about them but they suggested a platonic ideal of what every child would wish their parents to be. They were the last stars to make middle age look glamorous and desirable.
As for me, I like her. Her mannerisms are kept to a minimum in this restrained performance. The famous tinkling laugh, the arched eyebrow, the flaring nostrils -- so overused in some other films -- are not much in evidence here. But her best qualities are: the sense of intelligence, of quiet watchfulness, self-possession, dignity and tact are all here. The source of her screen personality has always seemed sane and tranquil, relaxing to watch and finally, to me, admirable. I can understand why some people (like critic Pauline Kael) felt that Hollywood's ladylike stars presented an outdated, oppressive ideal for women. But from this distance, Garson's confidence and ease, her capability, her self-containment all strike me as civilized and even sophisticated traits. She played grownups, and we have never had enough of those on screen . . .
Hollywood did a lot of biography pictures in the 1940s. Most of them
were awfully good, though a little bit too idealized. Almost all were
pretty entertaining. Among them, there are some standouts, such as Dr.
Ehrlich's Magic Bullet and Madame Curie. This film was reasonably
faithful to her real story, though most notably Greer Garson was a tall
lady and Ms. Curie was, according to everything I have read, a tiny
little woman. And, thankfully, the MGM people didn't change how her
husband died (such as having him survive in order to give the movie an
upbeat ending). So what we have is a good primer for kids and teens
about the accomplishments of this great lady.
Garson and Pigeon did a nice job--give it a try.
"Madame Curie" is the beautiful and intriguing biography of the scientist
who discovered radium. The direction was brilliant; the plot unfolded in
such a way that there was never a dull moment. There was a nice balance
between Curie's personal life - her falling in love with a fellow scientist
and marrying him - and her scientific work. Many of these kind of films are
"over the heads" of the average viewers, pretentiously spewing out
scientific jargon at such a fast pace that one gets lost. But "Madame Curie"
was easy to follow, in fact interesting and exciting. Greer Garson (as
Curie) is such a jewel of an actress and has been all-too-forgotten.
What made me so captivated by this film was that the scientific world is quite bereft of female expertise, especially back in those days! It was soothing to see a woman use her intelligence and not be stopped by the social obstacles society threw in her way to discourage her from triumph. Her qualities of perseverance were breathtaking; she just wouldn't give up. A number of years ago, I came across a list, put together by historians, of the 100 most influential people in history. Madame Curie was just about the only female on the list!
"Madame Curie" is outstanding - an overlooked and forgotten masterpiece. (10 out of 10)
Here we have Greer Garson in the kind of role that would later inspire that
wonderful sequence from 'Ziegfeld Follies' (the 'Madame Crematon'
impersonation by Judy Garland, a rip-off of Greer in her great lady roles).
But, surprisingly or not, Garson and Pidgeon are teamed in a very eloquent
and moving biography, one of the more tasteful and dignified bios of the
1940s considering it deals with subject matter not conducive to popular
Their long work in the laboratories finally leads to the discovery of radium--and this is the fascinating story of how they met and married and indulged in their lifelong pursuit of discovery. A young and rather miscast Robert Walker plays a fellow lab worker. Van Johnson has a few brief moments toward the end, as does Margaret O'Brien. But the focus is on Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon and they both deliver Oscar nominated performances.
This is one of the better screen biographies and one that has been sorely neglected over the years. Watch for my career article on GREER GARSON to appear in an upcoming issue of FILMS OF THE GOLDEN AGE.
Following their success as a romantic pairing in "Mrs. Miniver", the
wartime morale-booster, Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon were twice more
placed in romantic vehicles by MGM, this being the more successful of the
In the late nineteenth century, a beautiful young Polish woman enrols at the Sorbonne. Mademoiselle Sklodowska is a brilliant physicist, and before long she has been attached to Doctor Curie, the shy boffin with the large laboratory. One day, the lives of both scientists are profoundly affected when a colleague shows them the strange radiant properties of certain rocks. Marie and Pierre decide to devote their careers to understanding how minerals can cause changes in a photographic plate.
Mervyn LeRoy ("I Am A Fugitive", "Gold Diggers", etc) directed this conservative little biopic with quiet professionalism. If the film never truly hits the heights, it has to be said that it is a near flawless piece of workmanship. The writers, Osborne and Rameau, produced a literate and well-paced screenplay, and the incipient romance between the two shy scientists is depicted with delicacy and gentle humour.
Doctor Curie gradually falls for his gifted student. The graduation ceremony is cleverly depicted as a crowded sell-out, which the absent-minded doctor almost misses. We hear, but do not see, Marie receive the first prize.
The critical point in the relationship comes when Pierre invites Marie to spend a weekend at his parents' country villa. Marie retires to bed, and the agitated Pierre spends the night pacing up and down in his room, not entirely sure what is bothering him. When he finally resolves to propose marriage, we see him ascend the stairs walking away from the camera: this emphasises his nervousness, because he is moving 'out there'. After Marie accepts, Pierre is shot from the reverse angle going back down the stairs - now he 'belongs' to Marie, and we see him from her point of view. The scenes which follow are deeply attractive. The studio sets of the villa garden and Grenoble are sumptuous, and the location shots of the honeymoon absolutely idyllic. The hard labour back in Paris will seem all the grimmer after this interlude.
The film is almost an hour old before Marie embarks on her discovery of radium. The experiment to separate uranium and thorium is lit from below, resembling the dramatic paintings of Joseph Wright of Derby. Infinite patience was required during the four years of toil which culminated in the preparation of radium, and the film conveys a vivid sense of the Curies' dedication. The new century begins with the gentle glow of the isolated radium sample, a beacon heralding the wonders of the dawning age.
Interesting side issues include the appearance of a very young Robert Walker as David, the lab assistant, and an equally callow Van Johnson as the cub reporter. Some lines in the script were perfectly innocent in their day, but raise a titter now. Telling Marie how much she will like his father, Pierre goes on to add, "And my mother's quite gay - you'll enjoy them both!" When Pierre leaves the house in pouring rain on some purpose of his own, Marie calls after him, "Don't forget your rubbers!"
Marie's reaction to the news of the accident is well done, but her final speech to the Faculty of Science fails to inspire. It is her work that is uplifting, not her oratory, and the film puts this across.
Verdict - Solid, well-made biopic which doesn't quite ignite.
For their third MGM collaboration, Walter Pidgeon and Greer Garson were
cast as Pierre and Marie Curie in this epic biographical drama about
the first woman to win a Nobel Prize in science. The Curies
contribution to science was a newly discovered element radium which did
nothing less than alter how we think about matter itself.
The film carries the story of Marie Curie's life when she was a young student at the Sorbonne from Poland under her maiden name of Sklodowska. The mere fact she was a student there and a brilliant one was highly unusual for women in the 19th century. Her brilliance attracts the attention of young instructor there Pierre Curie, first her mind and then her heart.
Pierre and Marie Curie seem such a perfect fit for each other mainly because Pidgeon and Garson worked so well together on screen. Both got nominations for Best Actor and Actress for 1943, repeating what they had done for Mrs. Miniver in 1942. This was Pidgeon's second and last nomination. They lost to Paul Lukas and Jennifer Jones in their respective categories. The film itself was nominated for Best Picture but lost to Casablanca.
What I like most about Madame Curie is that you don't need a degree in physics to understand what's happening. The actors, the direction by Mervyn LeRoy and the script all are at their best.
Look for up and coming MGM stalwarts like Robert Walker and Van Johnson to play brief roles. Easy to tell why both became stars.
I think Madame Curie and her husband would both have liked the way they were portrayed in this film.
M-G-M Studios bought the rights to film "Madame Curie" with Greta Garbo in mind, but Garbo left the studio in 1941 and the world was plunged into the grips of World War II. The studio now worried that wartime audiences would find this story rather drab. But the casting of the magical screen team of Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon guaranteed its success. Both Garson and Pidgeon received Academy Award nominations for their performances.
The movie depicts very realistically and very endearingly, the dedication of Pierre and Marie Curie in search of the new element radium. Flawless acting from Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon. Takes you back in time to the turn of the 20th century.
You do not change a winning team:so they took Mr and Mrs Minniver to
portray Pierre Curie et Madame Curie.
The movie got chilly reviews in France ,some critics going as far as to write Mrs Garson was not well cast as Madame Curie and that the movie was boring and languid.
I'm French and I do not agree with them. Even if Greer Garson does not resemble Marie Curie ,she is very convincing as the scientist ;only a small part of her life was filmed ;the movie stops with Pierre's tragic death :her second Nobel prize ,her role during WW1 ,her daughter Irene who became a great scientist too,all this is passed over in silence.After Pierre 's death,Marie had a love affair with a married man,which did not fit well into the picture of the absolutely perfect woman the screen writers wanted to show to the world.Male chauvinism,which was rampant at the time,did not spare Marie either.
This is minor quibble:the movie is good,sometimes excellent,mainly in the scenes depicting the long research in an icy ware-house.
People interested in Marie Curie should try and watch "Une Femme Honorable" ,a MTV work starring Marie -Christine Barrault ,a miniseries which covers the whole life of Madame Curie.
The story of Marie Curie who at the beginning of the film is a Polish student at the Sorbonne who is given the opportunity for working with Dr. Pierre Curie on his experiments when the two learn of a fellow professor who has found a rock that seems to give off its own light and energy despite being deep underground for centuries. The two find that it must contain a new element, more radioactive that uranium. The two are able to isolate the new element despite the hardships of inadequate lab equipment, the birth of a young daughter, their colleagues questioning their work, and numerous failed experiments. Excellent film dealing with the hard work of the Curies and the realization that hard work and commitment will pay off (nice ideal during the war years). Garson and Pidgeon build on the great chemistry the two had in Mrs. Miniver, and are helped by an excellent supporting cast. The screenplay and LeRoy's direction do each other perfect justice by combining the romance and drama superbly. Rating, 8.
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