The Story of Louis Pasteur (1936)

84-85 or 87 mins | Drama | 22 February 1936

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HISTORY

At various times prior to release the film was entitled Enemy of Man , The Fighter , and Death Fighter . Paul Muni won the Oscar for Best Actor for his performance as Pasteur. Writers Sheridan Gibney and Pierre Collings also won Oscars for Best Original Story and Best Screenplay. The film was nominated for Best Picture and was on the NYT list of the best films of 1936, and the FD list of ten best films. The National Board of Review named it the best picture of 1936 and it was one of the top moneymaking films of the year.
       A news item in DV notes that over 100 notes were received from anti-vivesectionists angered by a film honoring Pasteur, claiming that his experiments were cruel to animals. Modern sources note that Muni was also awarded the Volpi Cup by the International Cinema Exposition Committee in Venice, Italy. Muni and Leiber repeated their roles for a radio adaptation which was broadcast on the Lux Radio Theatre over CBS on 23 Nov 1936. In his autobiography, producer Hal Wallis notes the extensive research performed by the studio. Files at the Mayo Clinic trophy room and the Bausch-Lomb Corporation Library were studied. The Breen office insisted that dead or dying sheep must not be shown on screen. Modern sources note that Gibney worked almost alone on the screenplay as co-author Collings was too seriously ill to write; Wallis did not like the material and asked to have Gibney replaced by Laird Doyle, but at Muni's insistence Gibney was retained, and to punish Muni, the ... More Less

At various times prior to release the film was entitled Enemy of Man , The Fighter , and Death Fighter . Paul Muni won the Oscar for Best Actor for his performance as Pasteur. Writers Sheridan Gibney and Pierre Collings also won Oscars for Best Original Story and Best Screenplay. The film was nominated for Best Picture and was on the NYT list of the best films of 1936, and the FD list of ten best films. The National Board of Review named it the best picture of 1936 and it was one of the top moneymaking films of the year.
       A news item in DV notes that over 100 notes were received from anti-vivesectionists angered by a film honoring Pasteur, claiming that his experiments were cruel to animals. Modern sources note that Muni was also awarded the Volpi Cup by the International Cinema Exposition Committee in Venice, Italy. Muni and Leiber repeated their roles for a radio adaptation which was broadcast on the Lux Radio Theatre over CBS on 23 Nov 1936. In his autobiography, producer Hal Wallis notes the extensive research performed by the studio. Files at the Mayo Clinic trophy room and the Bausch-Lomb Corporation Library were studied. The Breen office insisted that dead or dying sheep must not be shown on screen. Modern sources note that Gibney worked almost alone on the screenplay as co-author Collings was too seriously ill to write; Wallis did not like the material and asked to have Gibney replaced by Laird Doyle, but at Muni's insistence Gibney was retained, and to punish Muni, the film was budgeted at under $400,000 and was filmed partially on converted musical film sets--in one case a Busby Berkeley set became the palace of Napoleon III--and the laboratory set from The Mystery of the Wax Museum . Modern sources also note that Warner Bros. was not convinced that the film would attract an audience and initially sold it to exhibitors for a smaller than usual percentage of the gross. The film's success convinced Wallis to proceed with another medical biography, he notes in his autobiography, and he and Robert Lord soon began preparations for a film on Florence Nightingale (See Entry for The White Angel ). Modern sources add the following credits: Makeup Clay Campbell. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
19 Nov 35
p. 3.
Daily Variety
30 Dec 35
p. 4.
Film Daily
23 Nov 35
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Nov 35
p. 3.
Motion Picture Daily
21 Nov 35
p. 6.
Motion Picture Daily
30 Jan 36
p. 2, 7
Motion Picture Daily
18 Feb 36
pp. 6-18.
Motion Picture Herald
28 Sep 35
pp. 343-44.
Motion Picture Herald
30 Nov 35
p. 58.
New York Times
10 Feb 36
p. 15.
Variety
12 Feb 36
p. 16.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Cosmopolitan Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dial dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Exec prod
WRITERS
Story and scr
Story and scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
ART DIRECTOR
FILM EDITOR
COSTUMES
MUSIC
PRODUCTION MISC
Press agent
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Death Fighter
The Fighter
Enemy of Man
Release Date:
22 February 1936
Production Date:
late August--late September 1935
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Bros Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
31 January 1936
Copyright Number:
LP6101
Physical Properties:
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
84-85 or 87
Length(in reels):
10
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
1551
SYNOPSIS

In 1860, chemist Louis Pasteur is scorned by most doctors because of his theory that germs cause disease. When a doctor is killed by the husband of one of his patients who died of puerperal fever, because the husband read Pasteur's pamphlet advocating the sterilization of instruments, Pasteur is ordered to stop publishing. Ten years later, there is an epidemic of anthrax in France which is decimating the livestock needed to pay war reparations to Prussia. Only one area has no problem with the disease. Dr. Radisse and his assistant, Dr. Jean Martel, investigate and learn that Pasteur has been inoculating the district's sheep for free. Although Martel is curious and stays behind to study with Pasteur, Radisse is skeptical. He believes that for some reason the soil in the area is free of the disease, and to prove his theory he imports sheep. Pasteur tries to stop him, and another doctor proposes that Pasteur inoculate half the sheep to see if his vaccine is really effective. At the end of the test, all the inoculated sheep are alive while the uninoculated ones are dead. After watching a villager die from rabies, Pasteur begins work on a cure for the disease. He has no luck until Dr. Charbonnet injects himself with rabies virus to prove it cannot cause the illness. When he does not become ill, Pasteur realizes that the virus loses its virulence over time and conceives the idea of injecting increasing amounts of rabies virus in order to build resistance. He reluctantly experiments on a small boy bitten by a rabid dog. In the ... +


In 1860, chemist Louis Pasteur is scorned by most doctors because of his theory that germs cause disease. When a doctor is killed by the husband of one of his patients who died of puerperal fever, because the husband read Pasteur's pamphlet advocating the sterilization of instruments, Pasteur is ordered to stop publishing. Ten years later, there is an epidemic of anthrax in France which is decimating the livestock needed to pay war reparations to Prussia. Only one area has no problem with the disease. Dr. Radisse and his assistant, Dr. Jean Martel, investigate and learn that Pasteur has been inoculating the district's sheep for free. Although Martel is curious and stays behind to study with Pasteur, Radisse is skeptical. He believes that for some reason the soil in the area is free of the disease, and to prove his theory he imports sheep. Pasteur tries to stop him, and another doctor proposes that Pasteur inoculate half the sheep to see if his vaccine is really effective. At the end of the test, all the inoculated sheep are alive while the uninoculated ones are dead. After watching a villager die from rabies, Pasteur begins work on a cure for the disease. He has no luck until Dr. Charbonnet injects himself with rabies virus to prove it cannot cause the illness. When he does not become ill, Pasteur realizes that the virus loses its virulence over time and conceives the idea of injecting increasing amounts of rabies virus in order to build resistance. He reluctantly experiments on a small boy bitten by a rabid dog. In the meantime, Pasteur's daughter Annette, who has married Martel, is about to give birth. The only doctor available to attend her is Pasteur's old enemy Charbonnet. Pasteur insists that he use sterile means to deliver the child, and Charbonnet agrees if Pasteur will sign a letter testifying that his studies are worthless in light of the fact that Charbonnet did not contract rabies. To save his daughter, Pasteur agrees. When the bitten child recovers, however, Charbonnet is humbled and admits Pasteur's genius. After suffering a stroke, Pasteur is at long last honored for his achievements on his seventieth birthday. +

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.