Search - Arrowsmith on DVD

Actors: Ronald Colman, Helen Hayes, Richard Bennett, A.E. Anson, Clarence Brooks
Director: John Ford
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
NR     2005     1hr 48min

The legendary John Ford directs this provocative and acclaimed film based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Sinclair Lewis and adapted by Sidney Howard. Country doctor Martin Arrowsmith (Ronald Colman) is idealistic,...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Ronald Colman, Helen Hayes, Richard Bennett, A.E. Anson, Clarence Brooks
Director: John Ford
Creators: Ray June, John Ford, Hugh Bennett, Arthur Hornblow Jr., Samuel Goldwyn, Sidney Howard, Sinclair Lewis
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Love & Romance, Classics
Studio: United Artists
Format: DVD - Black and White,Full Screen - Closed-captioned,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 03/08/2005
Original Release Date: 12/26/1931
Theatrical Release Date: 12/26/1931
Release Year: 2005
Run Time: 1hr 48min
Screens: Black and White,Full Screen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 3
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English, Italian, Swedish
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish

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Movie Reviews

Lawyeraau | Balmoral Castle | 12/22/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)

"This highly touted 1931 film, based upon the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Sinclair Lewis (who refused to accept the Pulitzer), was named one of the ten best films of the year by none other than The New York Times. It also received a number of Academy award nominations, including that of Best Picture. Directed by the now legendary John Ford, I had high expectations of the film that were, unfortunately, not met.

This is a film that has not aged that well. While Ronald Colman, in the role of the central character, Martin Arrowsmith, is excellent, the film does not live up to its reputation. This film was shot in the early years of talkies, and it still carried some of the earmarks of a silent film. Exaggerated posturing, odd segues, and somewhat disjointed scenes mark it as such. It also suffers from a somewhat uneven screenplay.

The story revolves around a young, idealistic man who wishes to become a research doctor, rather than a practicing physician. He runs into a nurse, Leora Tozer (Helen Hayes), whom he falls in love with almost immediately and marries right away. One wonders what the urbane Arrowsmith sees in this somewhat pedestrian woman, as there appears to be no chemistry between them.

After they marry, he gives up his dream to be a medical researcher and, instead, moves to South Dakota, where his wife, Leora, is from and sets up a country practice. While working as a local physician, he interests himself in the plight of the local bovine, as they have fallen prey to disease. He comes up with a serum that saves the day, and he publishes his findings.

His research comes to the attention of the well respected McGurk Institute in New York City, where his medical school mentor, Dr. Gottlieb, is established. They make him an offer he cannot refuse, and he and the devoted Leora relocate to the big apple. There, he has a break through, having created a bacteria destroying serum. When Bubonic plague besets the then British West Indies, he goes down there to conduct a clinical trial with his serum. Leora also goes with him, against his better judgment.

While in the British West Indies, the authorities refuse to let him conduct clinical trials. They want him to give the serum to everyone. Arrowsmith is not prepared to do that as a medical researcher. He is then approached by a black doctor, a graduate of Howard medical school, who is working with the native population in one of the outer islands. He is willing to have Dr. Arrowsmith conduct his clinical trials on the native population. So, Arrowsmith goes off, leaving Leora behind on the main island, where he believes she will be safe.

A tragic set of circumstances causes the devoted Leora to contract the plague, while Arrowsmith is away. By the time he returns to her, it is too late. Going off the deep end, he stops his clinical trials and does the humanitarian thing, indiscriminately giving the serum to all. When he returns home, he is hailed as a hero, but he knows that, as a man of science, he has failed in his objective.

The most interesting segments of the movie are those scenes that take place on the islands. They are beautifully shot, moody and atmospheric. It was interesting to see the inclusion of the black doctor, at a time when Hollywood films generally only included blacks as eye rolling, singing, dancing Stepin Fetchit characters.

Ronald Colman is his usual velvet voiced and handsome self, competent and sympathetic in his role as the idealistic man of science. Helen Hayes I found to be lackluster and annoying in the role of Leora. When she contracted the Bubonic plague, I could not help but think that Arrowsmith would now be free of this stupid and insipid albatross. Myrna Loy has a bit, and I mean bit, part in this film, as a lovely looking woman, who is definitely interested in Arrowsmith.

Notwithstanding its shortcomings, fans of Ronald Colman, as well as those who love vintage films, will enjoy this one."
Much better than I was led to believe
Mrs Baldwin | Portland, OR | 04/02/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Don't let the "professional" editor's review for this DVD stop you. This movie was far from "creaky". The picture quality is beautiful, the camera moves very well for being an early talky, and the plot moves as well. There are also some interesting visual/arty shots in the film that impressed me, and the acting was quite good too, although there were a few scenes that had overdramatic elements. But, I don't find this a problem.

Ronald Colman is, as always, charming; the story and role are good for him, and as I said above, the direction was excellent. So many early talkies ARE stagey and static - this one is not.

One scene that I found really cute was the one where he pulls out a little boy's tooth and remarks to the boy that he "hasn't been making the most of his toothbrushing opportunities".

Get this movie. It comes highly recommended from me as a fan of both Ronald Colman and old films."
One of Ronald Colman's best screen performances
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 04/01/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)

""Arrowsmith," the 1931 film directed by John Ford and adapted from Sinclair Lewis' classic novel by screenwriter Sidney Howard, was actor Ronald Colman's favorite film until he made "A Tale of Two Cities." Colman stars as Martin Arrowsmith, the idealistic young doctor who seeks a cure for bubonic plaque. Inspired by his mentor Professor Gottlieb (A. E. Anson) to pursue medical research, Arrowsmith gets his medical degree and marries nurse Leora Tozer (Helen Hayes) and ends up being set up by her family as a country doctor in South Dakota. He proves to be a poor physician, but he does come up with a serum to cure cattle of a disease. After returning to New York to work with Dr. Gottlieb, Arrowsmith is inspired by the Swedish doctor Gustav Sondelius (Richard Bennett) to go to the West Indies where the bubonic plague is raving the islands. Gottlieb wants Arrowsmith to give the test serum to only half the patients, to do a sound clinical study. But after Leora succumbs to the disease, Arrowsmith gets drunk and ends up giving the serum to all of the patients. Although the British authorities credit him with ending the epidemic, Arrowsmith knows he has betrayed science to be a humanitarian.Certainly an interesting film, which Sinclair Lewis considered an excellent cinematic representation of what he had tried to do in his novel, even with the major cuts and changes mandated by Howard's screenplay. The author had refused the Pulitzer Prize for his 1925 novel, so if he is happy with the adaptation I am not going to accuse him of merely being polite. The choice of John Ford to direct the film does not end up being significant in any noticeable way and I would think most viewers would be surprised to see his name on this one. Colman's performance is excellent in a part that plays to his strengths, and since his character dominates the movie he gets the main credit for making it work. His scenes with Hayes, who won the Oscar that year for "The Sin of Madelon Claudet," are quite effective as if young Myrna Loy as Joyce Lanyon, who briefly catches Arrowsmith's eye. The story is certainly atypical in that it speaks for the important of scientific research over the healing arts that Hollywood usually associates with great doctors. "Arrowsmith" received Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Writing (Adapted), Cinematography and Art Direction, and the score is by Alfred Newman."
A victim of the limited technology of the day
Bomojaz | South Central PA, USA | 11/30/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)

"With the advent of sound, it seems movie directors forgot what pictures could be. Certain technical problems of the early sound era (positioning of microphones, for example) were a major source of these difficulties, but generally speaking the movies made furing this time period (1929-1934 or so) are incredibly stagey and stiff.

In this picture Ronald Coleman plays Dr. Martin Arrowsmith, the idealistic young medical doctor who discovers a serum for plague; Helen Hayes is his devoted wife, who dies from the disease. The script is almost laughably inane, the acting utterly wooden. Coleman, with his highbrow English accent and stiff manner, seems miscast; Hayes at least shows a little bit of life. For some inexplicable reason the movie struck a chord with the public and it was nominated for an Academy Award, though it lost to GRAND HOTEL.

Note and question: For years it's been reported that the movie originally ran 10 minutes longer, with much of the part with Myrna Loy as the "other woman" being cut and apparently lost. I notice the running time of the movie given on the DVD is about 10 minutes longer than the time given on older VHS copies. Does this mean the snipped film has been restored??"