Yellow Jack (1938)

83 mins | Drama | 27 May 1938

Director:

George B. Seitz

Writer:

Edward Chodorov

Producer:

Jack Cummings

Cinematographer:

Lester White

Editor:

Blanche Sewell

Production Designer:

Cedric Gibbons

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Full page view
HISTORY

Sidney Howard's play was based in part on Paul De Kruif's non-fiction book Microbe Hunters (New York, 1926), which included a chapter on the work of the real Maj. Walter Reed. Sam Levene was the only member of the original Broadway production of the play to appear in the film. According to a news item in MPD , Yellow Jack was banned in Cuba because the film failed to credit the real Dr. Finlay properly and because the Cuban government felt that the film gave a general distortion of the facts. The picture marked the feature-film debut of Charles Coburn, who had previous appeared in the 1933 short film Boss Tweed , playing the title role. Two ABC television dramas were also based on the same source, one in 1952, the other in ... More Less

Sidney Howard's play was based in part on Paul De Kruif's non-fiction book Microbe Hunters (New York, 1926), which included a chapter on the work of the real Maj. Walter Reed. Sam Levene was the only member of the original Broadway production of the play to appear in the film. According to a news item in MPD , Yellow Jack was banned in Cuba because the film failed to credit the real Dr. Finlay properly and because the Cuban government felt that the film gave a general distortion of the facts. The picture marked the feature-film debut of Charles Coburn, who had previous appeared in the 1933 short film Boss Tweed , playing the title role. Two ABC television dramas were also based on the same source, one in 1952, the other in 1955. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
20 May 38
p. 3.
Film Daily
18 May 38
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Dec 37
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Mar 38
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Mar 38
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
20 May 38
p. 3.
Motion Picture Daily
19 Apr 38
p. 1, 6
Motion Picture Daily
19 May 38
p. 2.
Motion Picture Herald
23 Apr 38
p. 43.
Motion Picture Herald
28 May 38
p. 51, 54
New York Times
20 May 38
p. 17.
Variety
25 May 38
p. 12.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
Contr to trmt
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir assoc
Art dir assoc
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
COSTUMES
Ward
Men's ward
MUSIC
Mus score
SOUND
Rec dir
VISUAL EFFECTS
Mont effs
PRODUCTION MISC
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play Yellow Jack by Sidney Howard in collaboration with Paul De Kruif (New York, 6 Mar 1934).
DETAILS
Release Date:
27 May 1938
Premiere Information:
New York opening: week of 18 May 1938
Production Date:
14 March--15 April 1938
Copyright Claimant:
Loew's Inc.
Copyright Date:
17 May 1938
Copyright Number:
LP8045
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
83
Length(in reels):
8
Country:
United States
PCA No:
4234
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

Following the Spanish-American War of 1898, Yellow Fever rages through Havanna, killing thousands of Cuban civilians and American soldiers. U.S. Army medical corps. surgeon Major Walter Reed and his staff are frustrated in their attempts to stop the disease's spread until Reed learns about an old theory of retired doctor Finlay. Reed visits Finlay and learns that nineteen years before, Finlay had proposed that a mosquito named the stegomia carried the disease. Because his theory was ridiculed, Finlay could not prove its validity and suggests to Reed that he could prove it now. Because the disease does not appear in animals, Reed realizes that he must scientifically test it on humans and decides to ask for volunteers among the soldiers stationed in Cuba. He knows that to prove the theory he must study two groups of men under controlled conditions. Though Reed is offering volunteers $300 each to participate in the experiment, no one comes forward. Nurse Frances Blake, who admires Reed and believes in his work, asks Sgt. John O'Hara, a solider who is in love with her, to volunteer himself, but he refuses to do so and the two quarrel. When Dr. Lester Lazear, one of Reed's staff, dies after being bitten by the mosquito himself, however, Breen a young soldier in O'Hara's platoon, gets the courage to volunteer. O'Hara and the rest of the men soon follow suit and Reed's experiment, which he plans to last twenty-days, begins. In one cottage, three of the men, Breen, "Jellybeans" and Busch, live in squalid conditions, among unwashed utensils and bed clothes used by men who had died of the fever. In the ... +


Following the Spanish-American War of 1898, Yellow Fever rages through Havanna, killing thousands of Cuban civilians and American soldiers. U.S. Army medical corps. surgeon Major Walter Reed and his staff are frustrated in their attempts to stop the disease's spread until Reed learns about an old theory of retired doctor Finlay. Reed visits Finlay and learns that nineteen years before, Finlay had proposed that a mosquito named the stegomia carried the disease. Because his theory was ridiculed, Finlay could not prove its validity and suggests to Reed that he could prove it now. Because the disease does not appear in animals, Reed realizes that he must scientifically test it on humans and decides to ask for volunteers among the soldiers stationed in Cuba. He knows that to prove the theory he must study two groups of men under controlled conditions. Though Reed is offering volunteers $300 each to participate in the experiment, no one comes forward. Nurse Frances Blake, who admires Reed and believes in his work, asks Sgt. John O'Hara, a solider who is in love with her, to volunteer himself, but he refuses to do so and the two quarrel. When Dr. Lester Lazear, one of Reed's staff, dies after being bitten by the mosquito himself, however, Breen a young soldier in O'Hara's platoon, gets the courage to volunteer. O'Hara and the rest of the men soon follow suit and Reed's experiment, which he plans to last twenty-days, begins. In one cottage, three of the men, Breen, "Jellybeans" and Busch, live in squalid conditions, among unwashed utensils and bed clothes used by men who had died of the fever. In the other cottage, O'Hara and Brinkerhoff stay in a scrupulously clean environment, but one of the them is bitten by the mosquito as the experiment starts. After many days, Brinkerhoff, who had been bitten by the mosquito, is the only who contracts the disease. Though the experiment is apparently successful and Brinkerhoff will recover, Reed knows that to be certain that the theory is correct, he must prove that O'Hara did not get the disease because he is simply naturally immune. Though Nurse Blake, who has now come to love O'Hara, begs him not to do so, he volunteers to be bitten by a disease-carrying mosquito. Soon he becomes gravely ill, but, through arduous work, Reed and his staff develop a serum to fight the disease, and O'Hara lives. Now knowing that the mosquito is the carrier of Yellow Fever, Reed's commanding officer, Major General Leonard Wood, orders his men to clean up Havana and its contaminated water supply, breeding grounds for the insect. After ninety days, their efforts are proven successful when no new cases of Yellow Fever are reported. Finally, Nurse Blake proposes to O'Hara and they plan to marry soon. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.