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Bethune: The Making of a Hero (1990)

Bethune has long been a hero in China. Perhaps for reasons of politics and personality, however, his fame in North America lagged far behind. The film explores the complexity of a character... See full summary »



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Credited cast:
Frances Penny Bethune
Mrs. Dowd
Chester Rice
Mr. Tung
Da Guo ...
Dr. Chian
Marie-France Coudaire
Alan Coleman
Geoffrey Chater ...
Dr. Archibald
Zong-yao Tan ...
General Nieh
Ke-Yaw Zhang ...
Dr. Salvador
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Lorne Brass ...
Reporter 1
Norris Domingue
Nurse MacKenzie


Bethune has long been a hero in China. Perhaps for reasons of politics and personality, however, his fame in North America lagged far behind. The film explores the complexity of a character who could be narcissistic, petty, and cruel with those who loved him, yet capable of heroic generosity and creativity for those whom he scarcely knew. It was a Canada-China-France co-production, which by the time of its release had become the most expensive movie ever made in Canada. The production had been dogged by controversy over funding, politics, location, revenue, and a dispute over the script between the author, who had been with Bethune in Spain, and the leading actor who had already played Bethune in other venues. Some scenes are tinged with humor and Bethune's speeches about universal access to humane medicine have an uncanny appeal more than half a century later. With its beautiful backdrop of Chinese landscapes, Montreal snow, and 1930s nostalgia, the film is an evocative memorial to a... Written by Duffin, Jacalyn

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Release Date:

17 September 1993 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Dr. Bethune  »

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Did You Know?


Writer Ted Allan first attempted to sell this film to 20th Century Fox in 1942. See more »

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User Reviews

A Communist Gandhi
27 June 1999 | by See all my reviews

Although I know nothing of the life of Dr. Norman Bethune, this biopic appears to be a credible history lesson. But not much more. Though the scenery is gorgeous and we get lots of opinions on our subject, plus writings in his journal, we never really get inside Bethune. This is because the director and the screenwriter seem to be men with banal vision and little imagination.

The movie this film most reminds me of is Gandhi, whose faults it shares but Bethune does not have as powerful a cast. Acting is generally adequate but not much more than that. That the hero is a communist does not mean there couldn't have been a great story here. It does mean most American and Canadian audiences are not going to start watching wanting to see this man's greatness proven, the way they did for Gandhi.

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