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The Peanut Man

The Peanut Man(1947)

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Remind Me

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At the offices of Consolidated Producers Corporation, producer Tony Paton is determined to make a film about the great African American chemist, George Washington Carver. His backer, Murphy, is skeptical about the marketability of such a project, but Paton convinces him that it is time to depict the truth about races, creeds, and religions and trust that ticket buyers will make their own decisions about the merits of such an unusual film. The story begins in Alabama, at the great Negro university, the Tuskegee Institute: Carver, who teaches as well as does research at the institute, chats on his front porch with two children. One of the children, a boy named Augustus, tells Carver that he wants to be just like him when he grows up, and then asks if the scientist, who has demonstrated the many uses of the peanut, can even make the homely crop sing. A bemused Carver then asks the children to sing a Sunday school song, as the music gives him inspiration to continue his labors. Later, in his laboratory, Carver assists his young apprentice, Robert, in perfecting a "chemurgy" process which will make the earth's soil more productive. One day, Mr. Jeffries, an entrepreneur, arrives with a business proposition for Carver. Jeffries suggests that they manufacture soap, butter, flour and axle grease, all to be made using Carver's formulas. Carver rejects the proposition, however, as he wants no profits from his work, and sends the disappointed Jeffries away. Lucretia, Augustus's mother and Robert's fiancée, next knocks on the lab door to tell the men that her son is very sick. Carver is at first annoyed at having his work again interrupted, but when he sees the note that the boy's physician, Dr. Miller, has written, he discovers to his shock that the boy has poliomyelitis. Carver tells Lucretia to go to her sister's house and pray, imploring her to maintain a "mustard seed of faith." With his own mustard seed of faith, Carver determines to find a cure for the damaging effects of the polio virus. Carver goes to visit Augustus and, looking at a picture of the boy's father, tells Robert that the man was one of Tuskegee's best students, but died as a medic in the war. Carver then says he hopes that Augustus, who will surely pursue his father's career, will not be a wheelchair-bound scientist. Carver tries an experimental treatment on Augustus, which includes massage, to promote circulation and re-establish the connection of the brain to the atrophied muscles. Time passes, and Augustus makes great progress. Years later, Robert and Lucretia, now married, and Augustus, go to visit Carver. Lucretia says that they will take Carver home with them to dine upon his favorite dish. Carver replies that he has a hunch that he should not go. Sensing that his death is near, Carver tells the men to learn more about the polio virus, and then tells Lucretia to make herself useful by sewing dresses for a few more little girls. He finishes his speech by telling Augustus never to forget the benefits of education as well as the peanut and all its uses. Carver says he must complete his final experiment in eternity, and his figure is seen passing through a closed door upon which a flower is painted.