Arrowsmith is the big box office winner and well-reviewed movie of 1931 that made the NBR's ten best of the year and one of the big hits, that is top 20 of its year. An adaptation of that famous muckraker, Sinclair Lewis, at least it has made me curious to read the book upon which the movie is based, at least to find out if the theme is as muddled as this movie's theme is. First of all, what's there to like about this movie. The unstaginess and fluidity of the camera is almost ridiculous for a 1931 movie. In the early days of sound pictures through at least 1931, the camera did not move and most movies from back then feel extremely stagy. You ought to watch a big budget box office hit from the year before called Disraeli to ponder the nadir of such film-making. But the always reliable John Ford keeps the action flowing. The lack of studios sets and actual location filming especially in the boondocks is a nice change but Samuel Goldwyn was an independent producer not aligned with any studio. So this might explain that. Now, the problem is the always charming and debonair Englishman, Ronald Colman. For this fine actor and good line deliverer, this is not his finest hour at the least, especially a drunk to the point of going crazy scene which he just butchers and is a classic case of cringe-worthy acting. The plot as it is, appears to be pretty straightforward. Young doctor graduate, meets girl, falls in love, moves to small town to work for the people. Later, moves to big city, good old New York, where results and making the front page is a higher priority to serving science. But what exactly is wrong with the big hospitals with their corporate funding and what is the gain of being small as opposed to big is left unsatisfactorily explained. Instead we suffer through Hollywood melodrama as Helen Hayes suffers away as the good, supportive wife who pays the ultimate price for her man and dedication. Ford direction is crisp as always, especially a scene in the Caribbean Islands where he builds slow tension with exquisite lighting and framing as only John Ford can. the funny thing is I could see similarities btw the world of scientific research that is presented in this 30's movie and today's current health world we live in, so it is not outdated. Just sloppily put together in a fashion that leaves one seeking clarity and resulting in lack of resonance with this viewer.
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