In the winter of 1868, Eben Frost goes to a Boston pawnshop and redeems a silver medal, inscribed to "Dr. W.T.G. Morton, the Benefactor of Mankind, with the Gratitude of Humanity." Frost drives to a country farmhouse and gives the medal to Morton's widow, Elizabeth Morton who explains to her daughter, Betty, that Frost was the first person given anesthesia by her father, Boston dentist Dr. W.T.G. Morton. The story flashes back 20 years to find Morton being wildly acclaimed by medical students as the man whose discovery of "letheon" had forever ended pain as, before that day, even amputations were performed with the patient fully conscious. "Letheron", unknown to everybody but Morton and Elizabeth, is simply highly rectified sulfuric ether - cleaning fluid - easily obtainable at a pharmacy. By keeping the secret, Dr. Morton could be rich, but he had rather be poor than see a girl strapped to an operating table under the knife of Dr. Warren, and he reveals his secret to a group of ...Written by
Les Adams <email@example.com>
Sturges intended this to be a much more serious film. Panicked by some inconclusive reviews, Paramount cut it as a traditional Sturges comedy. The director, no longer associated with the studio, asked former friend and studio chief Frank Freeman to entitle the film "Triumph Over Pain," and he wrote and offered to write, direct, and appear in a prologue gratis. Paramount did not want to expend the additional $50,000 this would incur, and they ignored his offer. See more »
Everybody else seems to think there's a lot wrong with this film, but I rather liked it. THE GREAT MOMENT (1944) sees Preston Sturges doing something a little different from the screwy comedies that he's known for. The movie is not a comedy, first of all. It's a more serious Sturges film about a real historical figure. It's the story of the discovery of anesthesia, which would revolutionize medical practice by allowing for painless surgeries. I thought it was very interesting.
Joel McCrea plays W.T.G. Morton, the dentist and amateur scientist who experiments with the use of ether vapor to dull the senses. Ultimately he must share his discovery with the world for the benefit of all mankind, rather than exploit his secret for profit.
The flick breezes by at 81 minutes, so it doesn't delve into the protagonist's personal life as much as other biopics. Sturges puts his own spin on the Hollywood biopic with his flair for comedy still shining through, particularly in William Demarest's scenes. Under Sturges's direction, even the scenes of Morton reading a reference book manage to capture the thrill of scientific discovery and there's some interesting non-linear storytelling early on.
THE GREAT MOMENT may not be a signature Preston Sturges comedy, but that doesn't mean there's anything wrong with it.
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