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Something the Lord Made (2004)

A dramatization of the relationship between heart surgery pioneers Alfred Blalock and Vivien Thomas.

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Nominated for 2 Golden Globes. Another 17 wins & 30 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
Vivien Thomas (as Mos Def)
...
Mary Blalock
...
Clara Thomas
...
Mrs. Saxon
Clayton LeBouef ...
Harold Thomas
...
William Thomas (as Charles Dutton)
...
Dr. Helen Taussig
Cliff McMullen ...
Lodel Williams
...
Charles Manlove
...
Frances Grebel
John Emmanuel ...
Man at park
Harold J. Abell Sr. ...
Man #1
Michael E. Russell ...
Bank Officer
Henri Edmonds ...
Mary Thomas
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Storyline

Alfred Blalock (1899-1964), a cardiologist (therefore, self-confident to the point of arrogance), leaves Vanderbilt for Johns Hopkins taking with him his lab technician, Vivien Thomas (1910-1985). Thomas, an African-American without a college degree, is a gifted mechanic and tool-maker with hands splendidly adept at surgery. In 1941, Blalock and Thomas take on the challenge of blue babies and invent bypass surgery. After trials on dogs, their first patient is baby Eileen, sure to die without the surgery. In defiance of custom and Jim Crow, Blalock brings Thomas into the surgery to advise him, but when Life Magazine and kudos come, Thomas is excluded. Will he receive his due? Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

A breakthrough that changed the face of medicine. A unique partnership that broke the rules.

Genres:

Biography | Drama

Certificate:

See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

Official Sites:

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Language:

Release Date:

30 May 2004 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

La création de Dieu  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Dr. Irving Sorkin, a retired dentist, was instrumental in getting Katie McCabe's article made into a feature film. Dr. Sorkin died of lymphoma on October 18, 2007, at the age of 88. See more »

Goofs

When Reader's Digest publishes a photograph of the first operation, one participant is identified as Dr. Michael DeBakey. Although he was a professor at Tulane, he was on leave as a consultant to the Surgeon General in Washington. See more »

Quotes

Alfred Blalock: Vivian, that's a girl's name.
Vivien Thomas: Yes, my mother was so sure she was having a girl, she picked the name early and kept it.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Dead Teenagers (2007) See more »

Soundtracks

Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy
Written by Hugh Prince (as Hughie Prince) and Don Raye
Performed by The Andrews Sisters
Courtesy of MCA Records
Under License from Universal Music Enterprises
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User Reviews

 
I wasn't expecting a story this powerful.
22 October 2004 | by (North Carolina) – See all my reviews

It's gratifying to know that I'm not the only one who was surprisingly moved by this story. I had known only a tiny part of the story before the movie: that a white surgeon and a black technician developed the process that could save "blue babies." That's a huge accomplishment, but only a portion of the story.

Alan Rickman does a splendid job portraying Dr. Blalock. There are a few moments when his southern accent slips and a little British comes through, but in terms of portrayal of the character, he is convincing. Blalock is ambitious, and in fact so focused on his professional and medical goals that sometimes he's clueless as to what others are going through to get him what he wants. He's also at turns arrogant and compassionate...exactly what one would have to be to do what he did. One thing the movie communicates very effectively is just how much of a revolution this surgery was: not merely operating on a baby heart, Dr. Blalock opened the gate to surgery on *any* human heart. Rickman doesn't overdo it, but he gets the character across.

Mos Def steals the show, however, in his subtle portrayal of Vivien Thomas. There's no grandstanding in this performance; he makes us believe that we know Thomas, and that to know him is to love him. He plays a man who had more character in his little finger than most people find in their whole lives, and he does it with zero ham. It isn't just that he gives an understated performance...he becomes this man who feels deeply even though he doesn't express it loudly. You see it in his eyes, in his pauses, in his voice. It's hard to describe, except to say that beneath the calm, quiet, even deferential exterior there is, undeniably, a whole person, a fully human, noble, wise, mature, gracious character.

A previous commentator asks if the presentation, near the end of the story, of an honorary degree was supposed to be an apotheosis of sorts. Perhaps. I suspect, however, that it isn't the conferring of a degree but the unveiling of the portrait, that actually vindicates Thomas and lifts him to his place in the medical pantheon of Johns-Hopkins' larger-than-life wonder-workers. At the end of the film, Vivien is sitting in the lobby, looking at his own portrait next to that of Blalock's when he's paged as "Dr. Thomas." He has to wipe the tears from his eyes to respond to the page. Maybe it's the degree and the portrait together.

The same commentator asked whether the film omitted mention of Thomas's eventual title. Actually, there's a scene immediately after their arrival in Baltimore in which the Director of Laboratories gives Vivien some money and tells him to bring coffee and a donut. At the end of the film, when Blalock calls Vivien's office, we see Vivien's title on the office door: Director of Laboratories. The irony is sweet.

This is a compelling, touching film, with wonderful performances all around.


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