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Mrs. Dubedat loves and idolizes her artist husband, Louis, but he is dying of tuberculosis. She goes to a doctor and convinces him to save her husband. The doctor can keep only so many patients, and must choose who is worth saving, but is convinced that Louis' artistic talents make him worthy. But when he and several colleague meet Louis, they discover that he is in fact a smooth-talking money-grabbing scoundrel. They also learn that he has another wife, whom he has abandoned. So, the doctor has a problem: should he let Louis die, leaving Mrs. Dubedat with her idealized image, or save him and his artistic talents, but force her to face his bigamy and other flaws? Written by
John Oswalt <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Shaw tackles some weighty subjects, but with a dose of comedy
George Bernard Shaw's play, "The Doctor's Dilemma" is adapted here by Anatole de Grunwald and directed by Anthony Asquith. Asquith has a formidable cast: Leslie Caron, Dirk Bogarde, Alistair Sim, Robert Morley, Felix Aylmer, John Robinson, and Michael Gwynn. Caron plays Mrs. Dubedat, whose artist husband Louis (Bogarde) is dying of tuberculosis. She approaches a doctor, Sir Ridgeon (Robinson) who has a cure for TB but can only treat so many patients. He's very attracted to the lovely Mrs. Dubedat and says that he must meet her husband to see if he's worth saving. Meanwhile, he finds out that a friend of his (Gwynn) is suffering from the same disease.
Mrs. Dubedat worships her husband and is blind to his faults, which are many. He hits people up for money that he has no intention of returning, he steals a cigarette case from one of the doctors, and he's a bigamist. The doctors are shocked to learn all of this. On the other hand, he's a great artist. What to do? At the time this play was written, it was somewhat topical, as there was a doctor who thought he had a cure for TB but didn't. Shaw, in his way, pokes holes at the doctors represented here - the surgeon (Morley) who thinks that there's an operation for every condition; the quack (Sim) who blames everything on blood poisoning. A third doctor (Aylmer) is more thoughtful, taking nothing for granted. Shaw was somewhat of a metaphysician, and apparently didn't believe in doctors. He believed that the human system could heal itself.
But though this has its comic moments - Dubedat's completely unapologetic attitude about his bigamy, borrowing, and stealing - it does raise questions about the iconic status some people achieve when they die young, and whether, in fact, they're not better off doing so. And what makes a person worth living? His good deeds or his great art? Bogarde is great as usual as the handsome, womanizing rogue, and he and Caron make a beautiful couple. If Caron was trying to prove she was more than a dancer with this film, she certainly did so, in a sympathetic performance. But for a woman without much money, she sure had some beautiful Cecil Beaton costumes. As the film is in color, they're even more eye-popping. The doctors Sim, Morley, and Robinsonare wonderful.
"The Doctor's Dilemma" is talky, especially in the beginning, but stick with it. It's not the best adaptation of Shaw for the screen that you'll ever see, but the performances make it worth it, and it's a thought-provoking movie.
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