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A Moving Film of Medicine and Morals
madshell22 August 1999
A morality tale of medicine, this film brilliantly illustrates the plight of a doctor who truly cares for healing the sick -- yet even finds his patients to be dishonest. Robert Donat is superb in his transformation from a good doctor to a money making doctor for the rich. Roselyn Russell compliments his performance with her own emotional struggle, as she watches her husband all but lose his heart. Brilliant direction from early veteran director King Vidor gives this film a worthy place in film history. This is a must see for any doctor -- IMHO.
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Excellent cast, script in a tale of ethics vs. ease
Robert Reynolds6 January 2001
This film features an excellent cast, ably led by Robert Donat in a performance that is superior to his marvelous performance one year later in Goodbye, Mr. Chips. As a young doctor, he begins with the highest intentions, gradually becoming cynical and disillusioned. He decides it's better to have money than scruples, with predictable results. Outstanding work as well by Rex Harrison and Rosiland Russell and a very good script. Most recommended.
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Moving drama with some excellent, though uneven, acting.
bearndahl3 February 2000
Very good film from King Vidor with a great look and a mostly excellent cast, take from the classic novel by A Cronin. Robert Donat as Dr. Manson, a highly-principled physician who struggles with the conflicting demands of his profession, provides an uneven central performance. It is sometimes hard to understand his motivations and this is the film's biggest weakness. Rosalind Russell does a fine job as his ever-faithful, often suffering wife. Her performance is perfect, and does provide a moral core to the film. The film wisely avoids a lot of details of the novel that would have muddied up the storyline. (In the book, Dr. Manson has an affair with one of society patients.) The film also boasts some fine performances from a very young Rex Harrison and Ralph Richardson. In fact, Richardson's role as an idealistic, though flawed doctor steals the spotlight every time he is on the screen. The film also has a great look, especially the outdoor scenes of the British villages.
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One of the better British films of the 'thirties
jandesimpson27 April 2003
"The Citadel" is one of those circular morality fables - idealistic young man sets out full of good intentions to put the world to right, but, finding his dreams dashed by prejudice and ignorance, throws in his lot with the protection of an easy but dishonest life only to realise the error of his ways through personal tragedy with consequent redemption. A;though stylistically and culturally a world apart, it is thematically a precursor of Mizoguchi's "Sansho Dayu". Made in great Britain in 1938, its MGM backing certainly shows in higher production values than most home grown films of the period - and this in spite of much reliance on back projection of the sort that even the great Carol Reed could not always effectively disguise. One of Hollywood's top directors, King Vidor, invests it with visual quality and, in a part that could have been tailored for Greer Garson, Rosalind Russell makes a surprisingly convincing female lead, supporting the hero throughout his tribulations with every ounce of Garsonian understanding he needs. But it is Robert Donat as the idealistic doctor, who first tries his professional hand in the dark Welsh colliery valley, that is the film's greatest strength. Here was an actor who brought a sense of dignity and integrity to every role he undertook from the earliest Richard Hannay to the Chinese nobleman in "The Inn of the Sixth Happiness" which he was brave enough to play when he was literally gasping for breath. His performance in "The Citadel" is not entirely free from cliché but I imagine this was something imposed by the conventions of the period. How else to explain that when he becomes mean and mercenary he suddenly sports a very short and unsympathetic moustache which, if memory serves me right, miraculously disappears for the final scene of redemption. For the rest there is a galaxy of British acting talent to be found among the supporting roles with a brief glimpse of the dignified Nora Swinburne and a few more of a youthful Francis L. Sullivan doing his obese bigot stuff with rather less brains than usual. And as if this was not all, there is "Sexy Rexy" Harrison gracing the Harley Street scene, Cecil Parker playing a particularly odious surgeon who would no doubt be struck off the Medical Register if he were around today and the great Ralph Richardson investing the role of Donat's best friend with just about the right amount of Shakespearean rhetoric that the part will support. All in all a veritable treat provided you suspend just a little bit of disbelief.
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A Superior Look at the Medical Profession
theowinthrop11 December 2005
If you look at my review of the Samuel Goldwyn - John Ford version of ARROWSMITH (1932) I pointed out that the real hard hitting attack on the worst abuses of the training of doctors in the United States and the ambition, greed, and rivalries that mar the medical profession in this country were discarded for the most part when that film was made. Fortunately, six years later, this wonderful film was made by King Vidor on a similarly critical novel by the English writer A. J. Cronin (THE KEYS TO THE KINGDOM, HATTER'S CASTLE). Cronin usually was not, like Sinclair Lewis, a social critic - he was a general novelist. But in THE CITADEL he turned perceptive social critic. Like Lewis (in his novel) the society is just as guilty about the malfunctions of the medical profession as the doctors are. But here it was spelled out.

Robert Donat is a newly trained doctor in England, and he initially is quite the idealist as Ronald Colman was as Martin Arrowsmith. Donat's Dr. Andrew Manson tries to fight society for it's own good, but finds it has a habit of hitting back at idealists. Soon, despite the emotional support of his wife Christine (Rosalind Russell), Andrew discovers the pleasures of becoming a prosperous society doctor. He has such wonderful models before him - like Rex Harrison, who talks of the "heart of gold" of his patients in reference to their bank accounts rather than their personalities (Harrison, in his autobiography REX, admitted that he got into serious trouble with his personal doctor after the latter heard that line and confronted him at Rex's next examination).

His best friend and colleague (Dr. Denny - Ralph Richardson) tries to get him to work with a set of idealistic doctors in making a first rate, reasonably priced clinic for the poor and working classes, but Donat rejects the offer. He also turns out to be cold towards the plea of the owner of an Italian restaurant for help for her little daughter (although he is aware of an odd-ball genius who can help the girl with a radical surgery technique). It is only when a tragedy occurs that he is shaken out of his current complacency back to his duty as a healer.

It is regrettable that ARROWSMITH was badly butchered in it's script and production, but it is to be thoroughly commended that this excellent version of THE CITADEL exists to show how the first novel should have been handled.
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Breaching the Citadel
bkoganbing9 December 2005
The Citadel is a fine and inspirational film about a dedicated young doctor and the hardships he has to overcome to see his destiny and move to fulfill it. A lot of the same ground was covered before in Arrowsmith and would be covered again in Not As A Stranger and then in over a dozen or more medical drama shows on television. Stories about medicine and its practice is a genre we will never tire of.

Robert Donat plays the idealistic young doctor who is assigned a number of positions in Great Britain and the story is how he deals with the various situations he encounters. Along the way he picks up a wife in the person of Rosalind Russell.

For an American to review this film probably one should have a knowledge of the British health system and remember this would have been before the days of the current health system of socialized medicine. That system was put in before the post World War II Labour government changed things.

One of his assignments is a coalmining area in Wales and Donat because of his own integrity and commitment manages to make a whole bunch of enemies and has to leave. His assignment is in what might be described as an HMO run by the coal miner's union. He starts doing research in a chronic cough he notices several of the miners have and upsets a whole lot of applecarts both with labor and management. He also isn't so easy with giving sick slips to malingering workers and they don't come to his defense. Not easy at times to be an idealist.

For a while Donat takes an easy road in a wealthy sanitarium that caters to upper class hypochondriacs. Doctors Felix Aylmer and Rex Harrison are getting rich themselves off them. But eventually Donat finds his true calling in research.

Rosalind Russell said that working with Donat was a pleasure, but the film itself wasn't. She and Director King Vidor were the only Americans in this film and she and Vidor took a lot of criticism for taking jobs away from British players. Not like she had anything to say about it, MGM loaned her out there. Still she did her job without a trace of a British accent.

Besides Aylmer and Harrison other noteworthy British players in the cast are Emlyn Williams and Francis L. Sullivan. Williams is one of the local union heads and Sullivan is a blustering boorish lout of a miner who leads the opposition to Donat's research. All of them do fine jobs and Harrison got his first real notice by American audiences in his role.

Because for two generations we Americans have been awash with medical dramas all these situations seem all to familiar to us. That's a jaded point of view. The Citadel is a fine drama and worth seeing.
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Great acting, philosophical writing, and direction
rollo_tomaso14 May 2001
Donat was never better, and the supporting cast is excellent all the way with no false notes. The period and its concerns and constraints are captured perfectly. This is the kind of philosophical statement movies that did well in the 30's and 40's but later became a lost art. This is worth seeing by young and old alike.
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Thought-provoking yet thoroughly entertaining, not too dated
doc-5519 June 2001
A look at the medical profession today will convince anyone that this narrative of the conflict a sensitive young physician experiences: whether to serve the not-especially-appreciative poor or the hypocond- riac and over-appreciative wealthy, if he caters to their whims. (At the end one wonders how great a difference there is between these two constituencies.) How many medical school graduates today choose to into small-town or rural general practice, as opposed to pursuing lucrative specialist careers? Robert Donat's effective performance is, as usual, understated; while Rosalind Russell easily matches him in a portrayal that makes one regret that she later became typed in comic roles as a result of superb performances in that genre. A supporting cast that includes the youthful Rex Harrison, Emlyn Williams and Ralph Richardson, all early in their careers and all with perfectly formed characteriza- tions, gives the film depth that one might not have anticipated. This is one of those films that makes one regret the loss of the old studio system, which enabled MGM, with its guaranteed bookings, to make a prestige film on a serious social issue with relatively few melodramatic excesses; and to offset probable box office losses by the studio's many box office bonanza romantic, comic or musical star vehicles. And today??
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The Citadel has a fine story and a terrific performance by a great actor
kdmcc-124 March 2006
This is a wonderful film that deserves to be seen by a wider audience than it currently receives. The screenplay of "The Citadel" is excellent and deals with issues that have a continuing relevance today. Indeed, its theme--the importance of having a strong sense of vocation and integrity --especially among medical doctors, will probably always retain its original significance.

Robert Donat plays a physician who starts out as an idealistic young man working in a poor Welsh coal mining district, but after a series of disappointments he leaves and becomes a cynical member of a London clinic for rich patients, practising the kind of assembly line medicine that is all too common today in many countries. It is likely, however, that the film had a definite influence in countries like the United Kingdom and Canada, which developed publicly-funded medical plans after World War Two.

But even the best universal health care systems can still be prone to such problems as inequities in the availability or quality of treatment and incompetent or uncaring doctors, interested only in making money. Moreover, the issues of professional ethics, individual conscience and personal commitment are applicable to many other occupations, as we've recently seen in the cases of corrupt corporations, such as Enron, which have also abused people's trust.

The other main virtue of this film lies in the acting of Robert Donat. Sir Laurence Olivier once stated that Robert Donat would have been a greater actor than Olivier himself was, had it not been for the chronic asthma that plagued Donat throughout his life and ultimately killed him. That terrible respiratory illness may have inspired him, in "The Citadel," to give one of the most sensitive and moving performances I have ever seen on film, during the scene in which Dr. Manson gets a baby, thought to have died, to breath again.

Donat's complete mastery of what the legendary Konstantin Stanislavsky called "tempo-rhythmn" gives a palpable urgency to this scene that is unforgettable. Watch his delicate and expressive use of his hands while he works to save the infant he's holding. These are the hands of a great actor giving life to a scene, and, at the same time, the hands of a great doctor giving life to a child.

This is acting of the highest order, and if you want to see what the real "Stanislavsky Method" (and not the inferior misinterpretation of it by Lee Strasberg) was all about, Donat's performance in this scene remains as magnificent a demonstration of its goal of emotional truth as I have ever witnessed in many years of watching theatre and film. The rest of his performance is equally brilliant. The changes in his face perfectly convey the degrees by which the former idealist becomes a jaded opportunist, and then. . .

Well, I don't want to be a spoiler and give the whole story away! I highly recommend "The Citadel" to anyone who enjoys films that have real meaning, or who appreciates the true, and truthful, art of acting--acting that is so brilliant and free from any trace of mannerism and artifice that we forget we're watching acting at all. We're seeing life and art unfold together. Thanks to the talent of Robert Donat, form and content become one: his concern with integrity and the film's concern with it simply merge into an inseparable artistic unity. This is a cinematic experience that nobody should miss.
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Perfect - i'm only sad that it hasn't been rediscovered yet...
Ben Parker5 April 2004
I wasn't too sure what to think of Vidor after Our Daily Bread. Usually, filmmakers who have a message to get across, and who don't do it all that subtly, rub me the wrong way. But after seeing The Citadel i'm starting to rethink King Vidor. Indeed i thought Our Daily Bread a very fine film, certainly from the standpoint of direction. But what Bread lacked in the two lead performances (which are quite corny and camp), has been perfected in The Citadel, where we are given two marvellous performances from Robert Donat and Rosalind Russell. And i didn't have the same feeling about Vidor's message-making in Citadel that i did in Bread. It is more subtle in Citadel, and also for a better cause (altruism in the medical profession, a very noble thing, as opposed to socialism, the subject preached about in Our Daily Bread). But now i've started thinking this about Vidor:

He was a passionate artist - how much do i prefer this to someone like Rossellini who didn't think much of movies, or someone like Bergman, who often (he can be optimistic) depicts human nature as an empty, valueless abcess. The fact that he expresses such strong messages, and that in fact he has something that he finds of value, is immensely reassuring. I get so used to railing against preachy filmmakers that i seem to equate non-preachiness with cynicism, and even nihilism. Well, one doesn't have to dispise everything to make a wonderful film, which is what Vidor has done here.

Everything works in The Citadel. It draws you very nicely, without pomp or flashiness, but with immense skill, into its environment, and what a lovely environment it is. You so badly want nothing bad to happen to earnest, idealistic young doctor's assistant Dr Andrew Manson. I hesitate to use the word perfection, but there is a real perfection to this movie. And i was more than a little bit moved by it. I really enjoyed it, i just thought it was wonderful. Mr Vidor really was a king.
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A Doc's progress
jc-osms6 August 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Superior drama, effectively recounting Donat's progress from innocent idealism through corrupted morals and back, just in time for the movie climax. Based on a best-selling contemporary novel, the movie plays almost inevitably episodically but the tale is well told in "rise, fall and rise again" fashion, reaching a suitably noble climax as Robert Donat rediscovers his true self and at the same time rekindles the dying love of his wife Rosalind Russell. The contrasts between the poor living conditions of the working class Welsh village he initially serves to the opulence of the high - society aristocrats who seduce his ideals (largely out on the golf - course) are well brought out by director Vidor but above all else he's aided by a top cast on top form. Donat effortlessly moves from youthful high hopes (and spirits!) in the company of Ralph Richardson (especially the drunken comedic scene where they blow up the sewers to ward off a typhoid risk) to lazy disaffectation, in the company of the ever - urbane Rex Harrison with equal elan. Although his role is speechy at times, he is always convincing and believable. The afore - mentioned Messrs Richardson & Harrison show their already established talents in contrasting roles and Russell is youthfully radiant as his supportive wife. Illness was to deprive Donat of making the most of his talents, but just consider the disparate movies he adorned of those he managed - "Goodbye Mr Chips", "The Thirty Nine Steps" and right at the end of his life "The Inn of the Sixth Happiness". That he shines in the artistic company which surrounds him here is further testimony to an underrated talent.
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Excellent and well worth seeing despite its age
MartinHafer4 March 2007
While this film about doctors might seem a tad dated, its messages are rather timeless and the film is well worth your time. In many ways, the film is very reminiscent of several other 1930s "noble doctor films", such as ARROWSMITH, but there's enough uniqueness to the film that it's still well worth seeing.

Young Robert Donat is just out of medical school and eager to help mankind--particularly the poor and often forgotten. Unfortunately, the two times in the film where he devotes so much of his energy to assisting these people he is ultimately disappointed and sometimes betrayed by the very people he wants to help. So, naturally, after either struggling to make ends meet or being attacked for trying to innovate, he is sick of it all and begins working with rich clients who don't particularly have any problems--other than the fact that they are pampered and love to throw their money at doctors with the latest fad and quack treatments! How Donat and his lovely wife, Rosalind Russell make it through all this is pretty interesting. Plus, I was pretty amazed and happy that the film ended on a very uncertain note. Some may hate the vagueness of the conclusion, but I liked it this way, as it really encouraged you to think.

The film has excellent acting, writing and direction and it a great film for young doctors to see as they go out into the world.
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Delightful film with notable performances
Jugu Abraham23 January 2002
I found the performances of Donat and Russel fascinating so many years after the film was made. A J Cronyn's story is relevant even today and that makes the film entertaining. King Vidor needs to be complimented on getting such wonderful performances out of the leading pair as well as Rex Harrison and Ralph Richardson. Mary Clare as Mrs Orlando was also an interesting though brief performance. Harry Stradling's camerawork is impressive, if taken in perspective of the film's vintage.

What is a shame is that Rosalind Russel was not picked up by good directors for meaty serious roles, after this noteworthy performance.
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The citadel scales the heights to become a great motion picture
krorie8 October 2005
This is King Vidor's best talky and almost an equal to his silent masterpieces "The Crowd" and "The Big Parade." Based on a best selling novel by A.J. Cronin, this is one of the few times when the movie is actually better than the book. Added to the exceptional direction - pay particular note of the scene where Dr. Manson (Robert Donat) wanders the streets in a daze following the death of his best friend and appears to be oblivious to the poverty and hardships of street life - is a cast made in Hollywood heaven. Not only do you have two of the best actors around in 1938, Robert Donat and Rosalind Russell, you also have two of the most gifted performers ever to grace the big screen: Ralph Richardson and Rex Harrison. Then take a look at the rest of the cast. What talent in front of the camera.

The story never degenerates into soap opera melodrama. Some have called it a morality tale. To some extent that is true, but it is a morality tale of the highest order. The citadel of medical science is what Dr. Manson climbs to reach in his early idealistic days in a Welsh mining town, not unlike the one in "How Green Was My Valley." He meets his life companion there, a school teacher, Christine Barlow, (Rosalind Russell). She never loses her idealism, unlike her husband who becomes cynical and comes to love the materialistic life. He stops his climb toward the citadel. Instead he descends into depravity and greed until his friend's death brings him to his senses. Though he has still not reached the citadel at the end of the movie, we know he will someday.
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Plot is clear but the end is muddy
nellybly2 October 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This film has a lot of enjoyable moments, such as when Manson (Robert Donat) and Denny (Ralph Richardson) drunkenly blow up the sewer that has been the cause of so much misery and death in the village early on.

The ending sort of dangles. The powers that be, after Dr. Manson has, with the help of an unlicensed practitioner, saved a little girl's life by collapsing her lung with a new, untried method (she's the daughter of the Italian restaurant's owner who Manson, now a society doctor, had tuned out when telling of her daughter's problem), are looking very seriously to striking the good doctor from the medical register. He and his wife blithely leave the courtroom to face an uncertain future, possible as an unlicensed practitioner himself. But who cares as long as they have each other!

Cecil Parker is excellent as the society surgeon who has no more business in an operating room than the man in the moon. I felt like Dr. Manson should have pushed him away and dove in when Denny's life hung in the balance and was lost. Denny had been hit by a car after leaving Manson's posh flat, having fallen off the wagon when he realized his friend had lost his ideals.

That was the beginning of Manson regaining his ideals.

It's ironic that Donat's character is interested in lung ailments since chronic asthma is was took him. It had been commented on (about another of Donat's movies, I believe) that asthma is treatable now and with today's treatments he would have survived longer. Maybe. Maybe not. Asthma is an unstable enemy. Just when you think you have it under control, it turns around and bites you. True, there are more and better treatments. In Donat's time the standard treatment was adrenaline shots and tedral tablets. But it's still a killer.

Hmmm, maybe that's the aspect of the character that attracted him to making the movie.

One of the reviews for this movie said that Manson didn't have an affair with a society woman, as he did in the book (which I haven't read). They sure did imply a "relationship" since he stands his wife up for the hysterical (on many levels) society patient. Takes a little more than professional interest in her.
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Fantastic film even though it is old
andrew-11929 April 2006
I've seen this film at least 3 times during the last 12 months in the early hours of the morning, when TCM (Turner Classic Movies) have chosen to air it during the wee hours when most sane people are still producing the Z's. And despite seeing it before and knowing the storyline more or less by heart, I have to watch it again and again.

I've become something of a Robert Donat fan thanks entirely to TCM. This and other splendid films he made during his all-too-brief lifetime are a trademark of outstanding capability. He died only a couple of years after my own life began so I never knew him in respect of current performances.

In this film one can easily imagine the obstacles that a young doctor faced in dealing with "the establishment" during the early 20th century. Sadly, even in the early years of the 21st century "the establishment" still feels it knows best in some quarters.
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Superb acting in a predictable plot
calvinnme17 February 2010
I thought Robert Donat's portrayal of Andrew Manson, a doctor at first thrilled by the act of healing and then later seduced by the easy money for caring for very wealthy - but more lonely and obsessed than sick - patients was superb. Rosalind Russell at first seemed like an unlikely choice for the female lead as Manson's wife, but she does a first-rate job and makes me believe that she is this quiet yet individualistic Welsh schoolmarm who falls for and marries the young doctor. Their courtship is touching, and the reason for the doctor's proposal to her makes for an awkward but sweet scene between the two. Ralph Richardson, in the years before he was given to largely playing various shades of scoundrel, is here the voice of medical ethics, bawdy though that voice may be.

The film's larger storyline was far from original, and you can pretty much see what direction the plot is going to take at each juncture as the film is neatly subdivided into three parts. I was therefore quite surprised to discover it was Oscar-nominated for its screenplay. I'd recommend this one mainly to watch the outstanding performances of Robert Donat, Rosalind Russell, and Ralph Richardson early in their careers as well as a very young Rex Harrison playing a rather devilish doctor in a supporting role.
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You gain the world and lose your soul.
dbdumonteil10 October 2001
This is not one of King Vidor's finest achievements.A pioneer during the silent area(the big parade,the crowd),a great director in the talkies too (our daily bread,duel in the sun,Ruby Gentry,Fountainhead),he does not seem to be that much inspired with AJ Cronin's rather conventional novels.The direction is academic and static,inspiration is absent.

What still appeals in this movie is the interpretation.Robert Donat is a very competent actor,particularly in the first part.Because it's basically a two-part movie:

-The first part,the most convincing, deals with poor parts of England,focusing on the miners' health.Although some scenes seem unlikely (the baby),the depiction of this little town,with its simple life,its teacher (a good Rosalind Russel) who will marry the doctor,its tragedies in the mine,is really endearing.Maybe John Ford will remember it when he films "how green was my valley".

-The second part,in which the hero loses -temporarily- his soul and gains the world-London-.An excellent Rex Harrison-sadly,his part is much too short-"treats" old rich hypocondriacs.And the hero realizes that rich people mean a lot of money.Sometimes it verges on caricature(the hysterical woman).The best scene :the owner of the small Italian restaurant tells Donat about her daughter's health problems ,and he goes on picking out his hors d'oeuvres ,indifferent to the mother's plight.

This seems often dated,but it's worth watching.
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Exposing the callous side of some medical doctors in the 1930's
George Wright25 February 2009
This movie shows the ease with which a young doctor can lose his ideals when he finds himself in the company of colleagues whose prime motivation is status and material reward. The role of the doctor is performed by Robert Donat, with Rosalind Russell as his wife. The Citadel is directed by King Vidor with a strong supporting cast, particularly the role performed by Ralph Richardson.

It is Richardson's accident that brings Donat to his senses as he realizes he has lost the ideals that once motivated him. Movies can entertain or provide escapism but the medium can also say something important. It can give us a dose of social realism such as Bicycle Thieves (the post World War II Italian film) or as in this film, exhort us to improve the human condition.

In this movie, medicine is subverted for personal gain and social status. The theme of the movie is not about medicine per se but about values. In this case, the ethics that certain professional people adopt when they make their way in the world. This theme is not new but deserves repeating, no less today than in the 1930's when the movie was made.
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The Citadel- A True Doctor's Dilemma With Great Inspiration ***1/2
edwagreen11 July 2008
A wonderful look into the medical profession with a fine performance by that wonderful character actor Robert Donat.

Rebuked by the coal citizens of Wales when he wants to research tuberculosis and working in the mines, Donat is lured to working with the wealthy and living the appropriately high society life style.

It is only with the death of a friend during botched surgery by a doctor for the wealthy, the Donat character realizes that it's time to go back to his former way of doctoring.

Rosalind Russell is miscast as Donat's wife. In the film, she is the prim teacher who gave up her teaching career to marry the good doctor.

This film is an excellent representation of the medical profession. It is extremely well done and worth watching.
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An absolute must-see!
JohnHowardReid21 April 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Director: KING VIDOR. Screenplay: Ian Dalrymple, Frank Wead, Elizabeth Hill. Additional dialogue: Emlyn Williams. Based on the 1937 novel by A.J. Cronin. Film editor: Charles Frend. Art directors: Lazare Meerson, Alfred Junge. Photography: Harry Stradling. Music director: Louis Levy. Production manager: Harold Boxall. Assistant director: Pen Tennyson. Sound recording: A.W. Watkins, C.C. Stevens. Producer: Victor Saville. An M-G-M British Picture. Copyright 18 October 1938 by Loew's Inc. New York opening at the Capitol: 3 November 1938. U.S. release: 28 October 1938. London opening at the Empire, Leicester Square: 22 December 1938. Australian release: 13 April 1939. 112 minutes.

SYNOPSIS: A dedicated doctor battles TB in a Welsh mining town.

NOTES: Best Motion Picture of 1938.-New York Film Critics Award. Best Film (in English) for 1938.-National Board of Review (New York), who also cited Robert Donat, among others, for the year's Best Acting. Number two on Frank Nugent's order-of-merit listing of the Ten Best Pictures of 1938 for The New York Times. Number eight in the annual poll of American film critics conducted by The Film Daily. Number one attraction at British cinemas for 1939. Number nine at Australian ticket-windows.

Nominated for four Academy Awards: Best Picture (lost to You Can't Take It With You); Best Actor, Robert Donat (lost to Spencer Tracy in Boys Town); Best Director, King Vidor (lost to Frank Capera for You Can't Take It With You); Best Screenplay (only Dalrymple, Hill and Wead were nominated) lost to George Bernard Shaw for Pygmalion.

COMMENT: Although a huge critical and commercial success, this trenchant attack on the medical profession (written by one of their own too!), filmed in appropriately bleak locations in Wales, is hardly the sort of movie one associates with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. (It was in fact the second production of M-G-M's British unit, after successfully launching the project with A Yank at Oxford). Deftly directed by American King Vidor, The Citadel has not lost its relevance for today. Doctor Cronin based the novel on his own experiences and was in fact sued for libel by one of the characters in the book shortly before the film was released.

Vidor makes not only extremely effective use of his natural locations and sound effects, but leads a fine cast to deliver some really stirring performances.

Donat, as usual, is marvellous. His impassioned final plea before being kicked out of the medical profession for his ideals, is one of the film's high points. Also strikingly impressive are Rex Harrison as a rakish, money-mad, bedside-mannered rogue, and Cecil Parker as a venally incompetent surgeon.

It would be churlish not to commend Penelope Dudley Ward, who makes something human out of the flashy Toppy Leroy, and serves as such a delightful contrast to Rosalind Russell's realistically dowdy schoolteacher of a wife. Nor must we forget the forceful cameos supplied by Francis L. Sullivan, Emlyn Williams and Joss Ambler. Sir Ralph Richardson's contribution is also worthy of note, though he does have the advantage of being an actual participant in one of the film's most memorable scenes.
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Very strong film with an excellent performance by Donat
vincentlynch-moonoi14 August 2016
Warning: Spoilers
There's little question why this film earned an Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor (Robert Donat), Direction, and Adapted Screenplay. It's an excellent film with Robert Donat in particular providing a superb performance.

Donat plays a doctor who goes to work in the coal mining area of Great Britain. He becomes frustrated when the yokels rebel against his rather tame experiments trying to prove that coal dust is what is causing most of their lung problems. As a result, he and his wife (Rosalind Russell) head for London, where the popular thinking is more modern. There he runs into Rex Harrison, a doctor who is catering to the rich set and their many imaginary illnesses. It's lucrative work, but Russell becomes discouraged over her husband's abandonment of his principles. He comes to his senses and saves a child ballet prodigy, only to be accused of assisting an unlicensed doctor. He, however, wins his case and seems to be back on track to be the responsible physician he once was.

As I indicated, Robert Donat is excellent here; quite a shame that his acting career was cut short due to his illness. While important to the story, Rosalind Russell's stint here as the wife is clearly secondary; this is Donat's film from beginning to end; nevertheless, she does well. A key player here, who does not get enough screen time, is the wonderful Ralph Richardson as another small town doctor who maintains his principles throughout. Rex Harrison is just right for his part.

There was really only one criticism I had of the film -- the ending. I often think films end too abruptly, and this is one of those. With just a few minutes more we could have been treated to "a year later" where he is working hard at a progressive clinic for real sick people. With something like that, I might have considered an "8" for the film, but instead I'll give it a very strong "7".
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lovely film, and what a cast
blanche-29 June 2012
A.J. Cronin's book "The Citadel" was adapted for a 1938 film starring Robert Donat, Rosalind Russell, Ralph Richardson, Rex Harrison, and Emlyn Williams, directed by King Vidor.

Donat plays Andrew, a young, idealistic new doctor who goes to work in a small Welsh mining town, where he marries a pretty schoolteacher, Christine (Rosalind Russell). Many of the miners have a persistent cough, and he becomes interested in finding the cause. But the miners have little understanding of the big picture and just want the "pink medicine" the old doctor gave them, which just helped their symptoms.

Thwarted at every turn, Andrew and Christine move to London, where Andrew opens a practice. Then he has a change of fortune when he runs into an old friend (Rex Harrison) who gets him on the society doctor track, where he gets big money for treating hypochondriacal patients and by merely being present while a surgery is being performed, or taking a referral.

A beautiful movie with the underrated Donat turning in a wonderful performance of quiet intensity. Russell's expressions say more than her words - you know exactly how she's feeling. Ralph Richardson -- was he ever bad? - plays Andrew's old friend Denny, who notices the change in Andrew's goals.

A.J. Cronin was one of the authors whose novels were often adapted for film in the old days: "The Spanish Gardener," "The Green Years,", "Keys of the Kingdom," "Bright Victory," "Vigil in the Night," and others. Some of his stories involve medicine/science and sacrifice/dedication. Those books made for some inspiring films in the '30s and '40s.
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My brief review of the film
sol-18 December 2005
Quite a strong film towards the end, it has some bravura sequences, including a segment where the protagonist wanders through the streets, the film is however rather tame by standards today, and for the most part, it is not all that brilliant. The fable structure works out for the better by the end, but it is conventional film-making in the along the way. The romantic love interest is quite obvious and the film lacks excitement. It is nevertheless very well acted by Robert Donat throughout, even though his accent - which tends to vary - provides an awkward distraction from the plot. It is certainly okay stuff to watch overall, even with an unnecessary final scene that pushes the messages too far.
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not bad
kyle_furr26 January 2004
This has been the second film i've seen of king vidor, the first being duel in the sun and the next being stella dallas. Robert Donat and Rosalind Russell both give good performances, but the last scene of the movie feels tacked on and unnecessary.
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