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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
From The Great McGinty until leaving Paramount at the close of World War II, Preston Sturges created a stream of comedy classics, some of the funniest moments ever put on film. His one failure while he was at Paramount was this film, The Great Moment.
Paramount had Sturges under contract and as such he had to do their bidding and on this occasion the studio required of him to direct this biographical film of the life of William T.G. Morton, the alleged inventor of ether.
From their point of view it was one odd choice to direct a biographical film like The Story of Louis Pasteur or Dr. Ehrlich's Magic Bullet. What possessed the studio brains to select Sturges? On the other hand Sturges did have a lot of creative freedom at Paramount so why didn't he just take one for the team and direct a straight forward biography?
He did neither and the film had stalwart Joel McCrea as the dentist who demonstrated the first public use of ether during surgery. Betty Field was his long suffering wife in an earnest, but rather dull biographical study. It's not even that Morton was that noble because there were other claims by people who were working along the same lines as he. It all amounts to a confusing story.
William Demarest was a player beloved of Preston Sturges and he appeared in all of his Paramount films. He does so here as a man who was willing to be experimented on by McCrea. When McCrea gives him a dose of the wrong stuff the results are hilarious, but oh so out of place in this type of film.
For those who love Preston Sturges's comedies as I do, this is one to stay away from.
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