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Adapted from A. J. Cronin's best-selling novel, The Citadel (1938) is about a doctor (Robert Donat) temporarily forsaking his ideals for money. At first, full of lofty goals as he labors in the slums of a mining town, Dr. Manson struggles to save the health of downtrodden miners only to be beaten by both the bureaucracy and the rebellious miners. His disillusionment leads him to London with his wife Christine (Rosalind Russell), where a chance encounter with a medical school chum (Rex Harrison) leads to his quiet seduction by an ethically-challenged medical establishment. Soon he finds himself questioning his own ethics when his best friend Denny (Ralph Richardson) dies at the hands of an incompetent, social-climbing surgeon.
Rosalind Russell, the sole Yank in the cast, recalled working on the film in her autobiography with Chris Chase, Life is a Banquet: "Travel is a perk that comes with an acting career, and I got my first taste of this in 1938 when Metro sent me to England to make a picture called The Citadel. It had a tremendously polished cast - Robert Donat, Ralph Richardson, Rex Harrison, Emlyn Williams - and I don't think I was a very welcome addition to it, since the English labor unions had wanted an English girl to play my part. The rules are still strict about American actors working in England, but in the thirties they were even worse. King Vidor, the director, and I were the only two non-Britons involved in The Citadel; even so, my being there caused a furor. It was during this stay in London that I was invited to the American Embassy. Joseph Kennedy was our Ambassador, and everybody assumed that I'd known the Kennedys in the United States. (I hadn't.) Everybody also assumed that the Kennedys had pulled a gaffe. "You're going to the Embassy? That's never been done before, they don't have actresses." Rosalind, the social pariah, didn't care. I put on my long white gloves and off I sailed."
The Citadel was King Vidor's first MGM film under the (newly formed by Vidor) Screen Directors Guild contract and the studio's second British co-production with a script co-authored by Elizabeth Hill (who Vidor would soon marry). In many ways, The Citadel is the missing link between idealized medical biographies like The Story of Louis Pasteur (1936) and strong, socially conscious films like John Ford's How Green Was My Valley (1941). The only reason American doctors didn't raise a fuss over the film's often negative view of the medical profession is probably because the story takes place in England and not the United States. The critical success of The Citadel was followed by Academy Award Nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor (Robert Donat), Best Director (King Vidor), and Best Original Screenplay (Ian Dalrymple, Elizabeth Hill, Frank Wead).
Director: King Vidor
Producer: Victor Saville
Screenplay: Ian Dalrymple, Frank Wead, and Elizabeth Hill; additional dialogue: Emlyn Williams; from the novel by A. J. Cronin
Cinematography: Harry Stradling
Editor: Charles Frend
Art Direction: Lazare Meerson and Alfred Junge
Music: Louis Levy
Sound: A. W. Watkins and C. C. Stevens
Cast: Robert Donat (Andrew Manson), Rosalind Russell (Christine), Ralph Richardson (Denny), Rex Harrison (Dr. Lawford), Emlyn Williams (Owen), Penelope Dudley Ward (Toppy LeRoy)
BW-113m. Closed captioning.
by Celia Reilly