Madame Curie (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Mervyn LeRoy|
|Produced by||Sidney Franklin|
|Written by||Aldous Huxley
|Music by||Herbert Stothart
|Running time||124 minutes|
Madame Curie is a 1943 biographical film made by MGM. It was directed by Mervyn LeRoy and produced by Sidney Franklin from a screenplay by Paul Osborn, Paul H. Rameau, and Aldous Huxley (uncredited), adapted from the biography by Eve Curie.
It stars Greer Garson, Walter Pidgeon, Robert Walker, Henry Travers, Albert Bassermann, C. Aubrey Smith, Dame May Whitty, Reginald Owen, Van Johnson, and Margaret O'Brien and featuring narration read by James Hilton. The film tells the story of Polish-French physicist Marie Curie.
Marie Sklodowska (Greer Garson) is a poor, idealistic student living in Paris and studying at the Sorbonne. She neglects her health and one day faints during class. Her tutor, Prof. Perot (Albert Bassermann) is sympathetic and, finding that she has no friends or family in Paris, invites her to a soirée his wife is throwing for a "few friends" (primarily professors and their wives). Among the many guests is physicist Pierre Curie (Walter Pidgeon), an extremely shy and absentminded man completely devoted to his work. He allows Marie to share his lab and finds that she is a gifted scientist. Appalled that she plans on returning to Poland to teach after graduation, rather than devoting her life to further study, he takes her to visit his family in their country home. Marie and Pierre both tend to concentrate on science to the extent that they don't realize until the last minute they have fallen in love. Even when Pierre asks Marie to be his wife, he does so in terms of reason, logic and chemistry.
Fascinated by a demonstration she saw as an undergraduate, of a pitchblende rock that seems to generate enough energy to take small photographs, Marie decides to make the rock's energy the subject of her doctoral study. The measurements she takes don't seem to add up, and she decides there must be a third radioactive element in the rock in addition to the two she knows are in there. (In the midst of discussing this, she discloses offhandedly to Pierre's family that she's pregnant.)
The physics department at the Sorbonne refuses to fund their research without more proof of the element's existence, but allows them to use a dilapidated old shed across the courtyard from the physics building. In spite of its disadvantages, they import eight tons of pitchblende ore and cook it down to look for the element they call radium. In spite of inability to separate out pure radium, they know something is definitely there, as Marie's hands are being burned. They hit on a tedious method of crystallization to arrive at pure radium.
Now world-famous, they go on vacation to rest after all the press conferences and the Nobel Prize. They're granted a new laboratory by the university; before its dedication Marie shows off her new dress, inspiring Pierre to go get her a set of earrings to go with it. Walking home in the rain, he absentmindedly crosses the street in front of a delivery wagon and is run down and killed. Marie almost loses her mind, but after the concerned Prof. Perot counsels her, she rallies when she remembers Pierre's words that if one of them is gone, the other must go on working just the same. The film concludes with a speech she gives at the 25th anniversary celebration of the discovery of radium, expressing her belief that science is the path to a better world.
- Greer Garson – Marie Curie
- Walter Pidgeon – Pierre Curie
- Henry Travers – Eugene Curie
- Albert Bassermann – Prof. Jean Perot
- Robert Walker – David Le Gros
- C. Aubrey Smith – Lord Kelvin
- Dame May Whitty – Madame Eugene Curie
- Victor Francen – President of University
- Elsa Basserman – Madame Perot
- Reginald Owen – Dr. Becquerel
- Van Johnson – Reporter
- Margaret O'Brien – Irene Curie (at age 5)
- James Hilton – Narrator (voice)
- In March 1938, Anita Loos contacted Aldous Huxley, then recently moved to Hollywood, saying she would put him in touch with MGM for a writing contract. Madame Curie was originally to star Greta Garbo and be directed by George Cukor. MGM ultimately rejected Huxley's script for Madame Curie as "too literary".
- Mervyn LeRoy replaced Albert Lewin, who was fired shortly before production began.
- The film is heavily fictionalized for dramatic purposes and completely omits any mention of Marie's family in Paris, including her sister Bronislawa, an obstetrician, with whom she was very close. There is also virtually no mention of Marie's intense devotion to politics and the liberation / independence of her native Poland.
- Author James Hilton was the narrator for this film.
The film was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Walter Pidgeon), Best Actress in a Leading Role (Greer Garson), Best Art Direction-Interior Decoration, Black-and-White (Cedric Gibbons, Paul Groesse, Edwin B. Willis, Hugh Hunt), Best Cinematography, Black-and-White, Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture, Best Picture, and Best Sound, Recording (Douglas Shearer).
- Variety film review; November 24, 1943, page 18.
- Harrison's Reports film review; November 20, 1943, page 187.
- Sybille Bedford, Aldous Huxley: A Biography (1974), p. 369 and Barry Paris, Garbo (1996)
- "The 16th Academy Awards (1944) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-08-14.
- "NY Times: Madame Curie". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-12-16.
- Madame Curie at the American Film Institute Catalog
- Madame Curie at the TCM Movie Database
- Madame Curie at the Internet Movie Database