Successful and well-liked, Dr. Noah Praetorius becomes the victim of a witch hunt at the hands of Professor Elwell, who disdains Praetorius's unorthodox medical views and also questions his relationship with the mysterious, ever-present Mr. Shunderson. Fuel is added to the fire when Praetorius befriends young Deborah Higgins, who has become suicidal at the prospect of having a baby by her ex boyfriend, a military reservist who was called up for service in the Korean War and killed in action.Written by
The working title for the film when it was announced, according to the In Hollywood column by Erskine Johnson, syndicated by NEA, was "Dr. Praetorious", the same as the German original, but acknowledged that the title was expected to be changed. (The San Bernardino Daily Sun, San Bernardino, California, Monday 9 April 1951, Volume LVII, Number 189, page 4.) See more »
The "cadaver" is clearly not a cadaver, because prior to dissection, cadavers are embalmed -- a process which renders the body decidedly un-lifelike -- and presented for dissection in a supine position. See more »
When you get one of Hollywood's most powerful producers, Darryl F. Zanuck, working with a screenwriter/director, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, then you know you're in for a film that's a cut above the average.
In this story, Cary Grant is a hugely successful doctor (as Dr Noah Praetorious) with unusual healing practices; Jeanne Crain (as Deborah Higgins) is an aspiring medical student who falls in love with him; the almost legendary Finlay Currie is a mysterious assistant (as Shunderson) to the doctor; another great character actor, Hume Cronyn, plays the devious and deceitful Prof. Elwell; and there is Walter Slezak as Prof. Barker, who provides (with Grant) much of the comedy and witty lines.
This is an unusual story because it mixes genres: it's a comedy, it's a love story, it's a (double) mystery, and it's a drama. The first genre is provided largely by Cary Grant and Walter Slezak who bounce off each other with some of the best scenes and wittiest lines. The second, of course, is between Cary Grant and Jeanne Crain. The third is provided by Cary Grant and Finlay Currie, Grant being the doctor whose methods are suspect and his past under scrutiny by Prof. Elwell, while Currie is Grant's constant companion aloof, quiet and almost robotic in his demeanour. But, who really is Shunderson? And the fourth is the drama between Dr Praetorious and Prof. Elwell, as the latter seeks to have the doctor expelled from the clinic and university for malpractice.
Weaving those four elements together into a cohesive plot is no mean feat, but Mankiewicz succeeds brilliantly. The acting is superb, and even Jeanne Crain not one of my favorites at all manages to almost overshadow Hume Cronyn in a key scene where there is a battle of wills and words. The real surprise, however, is Finlay Currie who usually appears in biblical and/or historical dramas and who usually is given a lot to say in any of his film appearances. But, not in this one: in fact, he says hardly a word until almost the end, but simply maintains a deceptive and mysterious quietude at the side of Cary Grant. The resolution to that mystery is a tour de force and with a twist.
Even though I'm not a big comedy fan it's the most difficult to portray on film I'm very partial to Mankiewicz and his films. On that basis alone I'd recommend this film for you to see as another in the great tradition of Classic Hollywood Cinema. But, for anybody who likes the debonair Cary Grant, well, what are you waiting for ?
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