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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 New York Times list of the best films of 1936, and the Film Daily 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 Daily Variety 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 November 23, 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 ( for The White Angel). Modern sources add the following credits: Makeup Clay Campbell.