The Great Moment (1944)

Passed  |   |  Biography, Comedy, Drama  |  6 September 1944 (USA)
Your rating:
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
Ratings: 6.3/10 from 688 users  
Reviews: 16 user | 17 critic

The biography of Dr. W. T. Morgan, a 19th century Boston dentist, during his quest to have anesthesia, in the form of ether, accepted by the public and the medical and dental establishment.


0Check in

On Disc

at Amazon

Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Certificate: Passed Comedy | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

Woodrow is discharged from the military for hay fever, but fabricates receiving an heroic honorable discharge before returning home.

Director: Preston Sturges
Stars: Eddie Bracken, Ella Raines, Raymond Walburn
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

Dan McGinty has great success in his chosen field of crooked politics. But endangers it all in one crazy moment of honesty...

Director: Preston Sturges
Stars: Brian Donlevy, Muriel Angelus, Akim Tamiroff
Certificate: Passed Comedy | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

An office clerk loves entering contests in the hopes of someday winning a fortune and marrying the girl he loves. His latest attempt is the Maxford House Coffee Slogan Contest. As a joke, ... See full summary »

Director: Preston Sturges
Stars: Dick Powell, Ellen Drew, Raymond Walburn
Comedy | Romance | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

After an all-night send-off party for the troops, a small-town girl wakes up to find herself married and pregnant, but with no memory of her husband's identity.

Director: Preston Sturges
Stars: Eddie Bracken, Betty Hutton, Diana Lynn
Comedy | Romance | Western
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  

Temperamental saloon singer Freddie Jones, jealously shoots at her cheating boyfriend Blackie but mistakenly hits Judge Alfalfa J. O'Toole's honorable behind, forcing her to skip town under the guise of a schoolteacher.

Director: Preston Sturges
Stars: Betty Grable, Cesar Romero, Rudy Vallee
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

Twenty years after his triumphs as a freshman on the football field, Harold is a mild-mannered clerk who dreams about marrying the girl at the desk down the aisle. But losing his job ... See full summary »

Director: Preston Sturges
Stars: Harold Lloyd, Frances Ramsden, Jimmy Conlin
Comedy | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

Set to music, a symphony conductor envisions multiple possible scenarios for dealing with his wife's infidelity.

Director: Preston Sturges
Stars: Rex Harrison, Linda Darnell, Rudy Vallee
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  

A film producer struggles with suicidal despair.

Director: Mia Hansen-Løve
Stars: Louis-Do de Lencquesaing, Chiara Caselli, Alice de Lencquesaing
Comedy | Musical
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  
Director: Robert Siodmak
Stars: Beatrice Emanuel, Albert Préjean, Danielle Darrieux
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6/10 X  

Major Thompson, an Englishman living in France, comments in his memoirs on the peculiarities of his French wife and friends.

Director: Preston Sturges
Stars: Jack Buchanan, Martine Carol, Noël-Noël
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

Mary Maddock becomes a seamstress after her husband Steve wastes their money on booze. Her employer provides her as an escort to accompany millionaire Mallory. Her husband tries ... See full summary »

Director: Cecil B. DeMille
Stars: Agnes Ayres, Clarence Burton, Theodore Roberts
Red Sundown (1956)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  

When his life is saved in a shootout by a fellow gunman whose life he in turn had saved, Alex Longmire promises to give up his way of life. Riding into town he finds the only job available ... See full summary »

Director: Jack Arnold
Stars: Rory Calhoun, Martha Hyer, Dean Jagger


Cast overview, first billed only:
Betty Field ...
Eben Frost
Louis Jean Heydt ...
Julius Tannen ...
Professor Charles T. Jackson (as Julian Tannen)
Vice-President of Medical Society
Porter Hall ...
Dr. Heywood
Grady Sutton ...
Homer Quimby
Donivee Lee ...
Betty Morton
Harry Hayden ...
Judge Shipman
Torben Meyer ...
Dr. Dahlmeyer
Victor Potel ...
First Dental Patient (as Vic Potel)
Thurston Hall ...
Senator Borland


In the winter of 1868, Eben Frost goes to a Boston pawnshop and redeems a silver medal, inscribed to "Dr. W.T.G. Morton, the Benefactor of Mankind, with the Gratitude of Humanity." Frost drives to a country farmhouse and gives the medal to Morton's widow, Elizabeth Morton who explains to her daughter, Betty, that Frost was the first person given anesthesia by her father, Boston dentist Dr. W.T.G. Morton. The story flashes back 20 years to find Morton being wildly acclaimed by medical students as the man whose discovery of "letheon" had forever ended pain as, before that day, even amputations were performed with the patient fully conscious. "Letheron", unknown to everybody but Morton and Elizabeth, is simply highly rectified sulfuric ether - cleaning fluid - easily obtainable at a pharmacy. By keeping the secret, Dr. Morton could be rich, but he had rather be poor than see a girl strapped to an operating table under the knife of Dr. Warren, and he reveals his secret to a group of ... Written by Les Adams <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Paramount's escapist laugh tonic! Hilarious as a whiff of laughing gas!


Passed | See all certifications »




Release Date:

6 September 1944 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Great without Glory  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Filmed April-June 1942, but not released until 1944. Preview audiences found the film confusing and it was taken away from Sturges by Executive Producer Buddy G. De Sylva and re-edited over the director's objections. See more »


Prof. Warren: Gentlemen! This is no humbug!
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

THE GREAT MOMENT (Preston Sturges, 1944) ***
24 November 2007 | by (Naxxar, Malta) – See all my reviews

This film is notorious for having been butchered by the studio and shelved for two years (the trailer awkwardly tries to pass it off as another Sturges comedy); atypically for him, it’s a medical biopic on the lines of Warner Bros,’ similar films of a few years earlier – and, therefore, more serious than usual (in fact, the few comedy elements here seem like a distraction to the unfolding drama).

I own a volume of Sturges’ scripts – including the original version of this one, called TRIUMPH OVER PAIN (the book from which it derived also inspired the latter-day Boris Karloff vehicle CORRIDORS OF BLOOD [1958]!), which is certainly his most ambitious project; I had read it some years ago and recall it being quite complexly structured: what remains of the film is pretty straightforward, other than adopting a flashback framework (to which it doesn’t even return at the end!). Still, as it stands, it’s hardly a disaster (if undeniably choppy and rushed): fascinating as much for its plot about the inception of anesthesia by a forgotten small-town doctor, W.T.G. Morton, which many a fellow doctor tried to claim as their own invention, as for its handsome and meticulous recreation of an era (recalling Orson Welles’ equally compromised THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS [1942]).

The cast includes a few of Sturges’ renowned stock company: star Joel McCrea (in their third consecutive collaboration) is well-cast in the lead; William Demarest appears as his comic sidekick (the doctor’s first painless client – repeatedly, he starts to recount his experience but each time succeeding in going no further than the first couple of phrases!); Porter Hall (as the somewhat patronizing American President); Franklin Pangborn (in a brief role as secretary to an esteemed doctor whom McCrea wants to test his formula); Jimmy Conlin (the chemist who sells McCrea the ‘miraculous’ ether); Torben Meyer (an irascible doctor who is urgently called in to treat a patient administered an overdose of laughing gas – more on this later).

The remaining actors include: Betty Field as Morton’s long-suffering wife (whose limited role is often relegated to the sidelines, at least in this version); Harry Carey (dignified as the surgeon who regrets the barbaric methods he’s forced to use while operating on his patients); Louis Jean Heydt (as an arrogant young student who uses laughing gas for desensitization, but whose experiment goes comically awry); Grady Sutton (this W.C. Fields regular appears in one of only two overtly slapsticky scenes as the recipient of the laughing gas – the other involves McCrea’s first attempt to extract Demarest’s tooth, which renders him temporarily crazed and sends him crashing through the window into the street below!); Edwin Maxwell (the usual authoritarian role, in this case a colleague of Carey’s who indirectly stoops to blackmail in order to force McCrea to reveal the secret ingredient of his formula – which the latter was concealing, as a means of protection, only so long as the “Letheon” invention was officially patented).

Sturges, obviously, is all for the hero who has to face up to a general wave of both ignorance and prejudice, not to mention centuries of savage medical tradition; in fact, as depicted in the film, the students seem to treat daily grueling operations almost as another form of entertainment! The film rises to a number of good dramatic moments (usually seeing McCrea in confrontation with someone or other) – especially powerful, however, are Carey’s first successful operation with an anesthetized patient (and his surprised but enthusiastic approval of the procedure) and the ending, complete with moody lighting and religious music, as Morton compassionately approaches the next ‘victim’ of established science…when the doors of reason, as it were, are suddenly flung open and the painless method is accepted into its fold.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
Query in regard to running time jemkat
Loved this film, in today's world though, drug companies profits FlorenceLawrence
The Similarities between The Great Moment and The Social Network SoylentBlueispeople
Discuss The Great Moment (1944) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for: