Dr. Ehrlich's Magic Bullet (1940)

103 mins | Drama | 2 March 1940

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HISTORY

The working titles of this film were The Life of Dr. Ehrlich , A Magic Bullet , Test 606 and The Story of Dr. Ehrlich's Magic Bullet . An onscreen prologue reads: "This picture is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Paul Ehrlich whose dream it was to create out of chemicals 'magic bullets' with which to fight the scourges of mankind...and this is the story of his devotion to that ideal." The film ends with the following written epilogue: "...And the temples to his memory are the bodies of human beings purified and made whole." The reviews note that the screenplay was based upon material in the possession of the Ehrlich family.
       According to materials contained in the MPPDA/PCA files at the AMPAS Library, the PCA was reluctant to award a certificate of approval to this film. The code specifically forbade the use of venereal disease as a subject for films and consequently, executive producer Hal Wallis argued that the picture was not about venereal disease but a biographical film about Dr. Ehrlich. Wallis compared the film to The Life of Emile Zola and The Story of Louis Pasteur . In fact, the original title of the film, Test 606 was rejected by the MPPDA Title Committee because it referred to the cure for syphilis. The studio then changed the title to Dr. Ehrlich's Magic Bullet , thus changing the focus of the film to Dr. Ehrlich's achievements rather than his cure for syphilis. Although Joseph I. Breen, director of the PCA, accepted Wallis's argument, he worried that if ... More Less

The working titles of this film were The Life of Dr. Ehrlich , A Magic Bullet , Test 606 and The Story of Dr. Ehrlich's Magic Bullet . An onscreen prologue reads: "This picture is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Paul Ehrlich whose dream it was to create out of chemicals 'magic bullets' with which to fight the scourges of mankind...and this is the story of his devotion to that ideal." The film ends with the following written epilogue: "...And the temples to his memory are the bodies of human beings purified and made whole." The reviews note that the screenplay was based upon material in the possession of the Ehrlich family.
       According to materials contained in the MPPDA/PCA files at the AMPAS Library, the PCA was reluctant to award a certificate of approval to this film. The code specifically forbade the use of venereal disease as a subject for films and consequently, executive producer Hal Wallis argued that the picture was not about venereal disease but a biographical film about Dr. Ehrlich. Wallis compared the film to The Life of Emile Zola and The Story of Louis Pasteur . In fact, the original title of the film, Test 606 was rejected by the MPPDA Title Committee because it referred to the cure for syphilis. The studio then changed the title to Dr. Ehrlich's Magic Bullet , thus changing the focus of the film to Dr. Ehrlich's achievements rather than his cure for syphilis. Although Joseph I. Breen, director of the PCA, accepted Wallis's argument, he worried that if the picture was awarded a certificate, it would open up the topic of venereal disease for discussion. In order to win approval, Wallis appealed to Will H. Hays, the president of the MPPDA, who issued a special executive order allowing the picture to be made. Hays directed the studio to minimize all references to syphilis and reduce it to an incident rather than the subject of the picture. He also instructed the studio to delete all scenes dealing with the treatment of syphilis and to refrain from mentioning the disease in advertising and publicity campaigns. The film was rejected in Peru and received an "adult permit" in England with the proviso that all use of the word syphilis be deleted from the film. John Huston, Heinz Herald and Norman Burnside were nominated for an Academy Award in the Writing (Original Screenplay) category. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
2 Feb 40
p. 3.
Film Daily
2 Feb 40
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Oct 39
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Nov 39
pp. 6-7.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Feb 40
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Feb 40
p. 3.
Life
4 Mar 40
pp. 74-77.
Motion Picture Daily
5 Feb 40
p. 2.
Motion Picture Herald
30 Dec 39
p. 52.
Motion Picture Herald
10 Feb 40
p. 38.
New York Times
15 Feb 40
p. 5.
New York Times
24 Feb 40
p. 9.
Variety
7 Feb 40
p. 14.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Warner Bros.--First National Picture; Jack L. Warner, in charge of production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dial dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Assoc prod
WRITERS
From an idea by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Orch arr
SOUND
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
PRODUCTION MISC
Tech adv
Unit mgr
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
A Magic Bullet
The Life of Dr. Ehrlich
The Story of Dr. Ehrlich's Magic Bullet
Test 606
Release Date:
2 March 1940
Premiere Information:
Memphis, Tenn: 8 February 1940
Production Date:
began 23 October 1939
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
2 March 1940
Copyright Number:
LP9451
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Recording System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
103
Country:
United States
PCA No:
5813
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Discharged from his Berlin hospital post in the latter half of the 19th century for opposing the primitive medical treatments perscribed by his superiors, Dr. Paul Ehrlich goes on to develop a dye which delineates the tubercule bacillus . For his achievement, Ehrlich is awarded a position by the famous research bacteriologist Dr. Robert Koch. Ehrlich's exposure to tuberculosis has infected him with the disease, however, and he is forced to travel to Egypt for his health. There, while treating a snake bite victim, he conceives of the idea of anti-toxins, and upon his return to Germany, Ehrlich works with his friend, Dr. Emil von Behring, to develop a serum for diptheria. After their development of a vaccination that arrests the diptheria epidemic, Ehrlich pursues his dream of finding a "magic bullet" to destroy invading microbes. He spends fifteen years developing a theory of how nature fights disease, and for his efforts is awarded the Nobel Prize and an institute in which to work. There he launches a series of experiments which apply his theory to the task of curing disease, but his efforts are attacked by a recalcitrant medical community, led by his old friend Behring. Assailed on two fronts, Ehrlich struggles to develop a cure for syphilis while fighting to keep his budget intact. When his budget is cut in half, he turns to wealthy widow Franziska Speyer for funding. Six hundred-and-six experiments later, he discovers the cure for syphilis, and in the hope of saving lives, is persuaded to release the formula before testing is completed. Finding himself under atack when a few patients die from ... +


Discharged from his Berlin hospital post in the latter half of the 19th century for opposing the primitive medical treatments perscribed by his superiors, Dr. Paul Ehrlich goes on to develop a dye which delineates the tubercule bacillus . For his achievement, Ehrlich is awarded a position by the famous research bacteriologist Dr. Robert Koch. Ehrlich's exposure to tuberculosis has infected him with the disease, however, and he is forced to travel to Egypt for his health. There, while treating a snake bite victim, he conceives of the idea of anti-toxins, and upon his return to Germany, Ehrlich works with his friend, Dr. Emil von Behring, to develop a serum for diptheria. After their development of a vaccination that arrests the diptheria epidemic, Ehrlich pursues his dream of finding a "magic bullet" to destroy invading microbes. He spends fifteen years developing a theory of how nature fights disease, and for his efforts is awarded the Nobel Prize and an institute in which to work. There he launches a series of experiments which apply his theory to the task of curing disease, but his efforts are attacked by a recalcitrant medical community, led by his old friend Behring. Assailed on two fronts, Ehrlich struggles to develop a cure for syphilis while fighting to keep his budget intact. When his budget is cut in half, he turns to wealthy widow Franziska Speyer for funding. Six hundred-and-six experiments later, he discovers the cure for syphilis, and in the hope of saving lives, is persuaded to release the formula before testing is completed. Finding himself under atack when a few patients die from adverse reaction, Ehrlich is finally vindicated in a court trial led by Behring. The struggle has drained the doctor's health, however, and Ehrlich pays for the development of his miracle cure with the cost of his own life. +

GENRE
Genre:
Sub-genre:
Medical


Subject

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.