Cast & Crew
Scotsman Andrew Manson, an idealistic young physician, comes to the Welsh mining of Blaenely to work as an apprentice to Dr. Page. Life is hard in the town, and even Andrew must put up with adverse conditions when his employer's penurious wife forces him to work for a pittance and live in a small room. After Andrew saves the life of an apparently still-born baby, he becomes popular with the miners and their families. He also becomes close to Dr. Denny, a brilliant, but cynical physician who drinks heavily. When a typhoid epidemic breaks out in the town, Denny suggests that they blow up the foul sewage system to force the mine owners to build a new one, and Andrew assists him. Meanwhile, Denny has met Christine Barlow, the school mistress, and is attracted to her, but cannot approach her romantically. When Andrew hears about Aberalaw, a neighboring town that needs a new physician, but will only accept married men, however, he proposes to Chris. She accepts and both soon realize that they are in love. At their new home, Andrew begins research into the study of Black Lung Disease, an ailment that afflicts the miners. Andrew publishes his findings, which impresses the medical establishment, but disturb the people in Aberalaw who distrust his research and wantonly destroy his laboratory. Disillusioned by this reaction, Andrew decides to go to London to set up a practice in a poor part of London. Despite Chris's encouragement, Andrew soon becomes despondent over his lack of patients. One day, when Andrew is alone at his surgery, a shopgirl summons him to a fashionable dress shop where a wealthy young woman named Toppy Leroy seems to be having a seizure. Andrew slaps Toppy after he realizes that she is just hysterical, and scolds her for being pampered and spoiled. Toppy is attracted to Andrew and soon introduces him to her wealthy friends. By a chance meeting, he runs into Dr. Lawford, an old schoolmate of his, and Lawford suggests that Andrew join him in a fashionable practice. Soon Andrew is making a fortune treating rich patients who have little need of anything more than a pleasant bedside manner. He also begins to see Toppy, and Chris, who does not want all of the luxuries that Andrew can now afford to give her, becomes estranged from him. Even Denny, who comes to ask Andrew to work with him again, becomes disenchanted with the changed Andrew. Though he has been sober for some time, Denny gets drunk and tells Andrew what he thinks of him, then goes into the street, where he is hit by a car. Andrew then takes Denny to the hospital and asks one of the society surgeons he knows, Charles Every to operate to save his friend's life. Andrew assists at the operation and, though the procedure should be relatively simple, Every botches the operation and Denny dies. Andrew now begins to see the sham of his exclusive practice and realizes how he has changed. A short time later, Andrew learns that Anna Orlando, the young daughter of an old friend who owns a delicatessan, is ill with tuberculosis and has not been given the proper treatment at a London hospital. By happenstance, Andrew has recently become acquainted with Richard Stillman, an American who specializes in tuberculosis. Not a licensed physician, Stillman has earned the love and respect of his patients, but the ire of the medical establishment. Andrew takes Anna out of the hospital and has her moved to Stillman's clinic, where she is cured after undergoing treatment to collapse one of her lungs. Because of this, Andrew is threatened with the revoking of his license to practice medicine. At a tribunal before a medical review board, Andrew makes a plea to his fellow physicians to accept new ideas such as Stillman's, but the physicians are reluctant. As Andrew and Chris leave the hearing, they look toward the future together.
Penelope Dudley Ward
C. C. Stevens
A. W. Watkins
Best Writing, Screenplay
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
An onscreen prologue reads: "This motion picture is a story of individual characterizations and is in no way intended as a reflection on the great medical profession which has done so much towards beating back those forces of nature that retard the physical progress of the human race." According to information contained in the file on the film in the BFI Library, the film was released in Great Britain on March 6, 1939 with a length of 9,970 ft. and a running time of 111 min. Among the differences between the original A. J. Cronin novel and the film, two are significant: first, in the book "Christine Manson" is killed after being hit by a car, whereas in the film, it is "Denny" who is hit by a car; second, in the book the bungled operation is performed on one of "Andrew's" lower-class patients, but in the film the bungled operation causes the death of "Denny." Modern sources note that the novel contained some autobiographical aspects of Cronin's life. Cronin was a Scottish-born physician who practiced medicine in a mining town in Wales, then moved to London and established himself as a prominent physician before beginning his successful writing career.
The Citadel was the second M-G-M-British production. According to a Hollywood Reporter news item on February 10, 1938, English actress Elizabeth Allan was cast as the female lead. A Film Daily news item on March 31, 1938 noted that because Margaret Sullavan was replacing Rosalind Russell in the lead of The Shopworn Angel (see below), that Russell was now available to appear in The Citadel. A April 30, 1938 Hollywood Reporter news item announced that Allan was suing M-G-M-British for breach of contract after she was removed from the picture. Allan had been under contract to M-G-M for three years when she decided to leave the United States and return to her native England. According to a news item in Hollywood Reporter on January 9, 1937, when Allan left M-G-M the studio agreed to have her "on call" for two films a year. This May have been the basis of her suit, about which no additional information been located.
Robert Donat was borrowed from Alexander Korda for his role in the film, and by terms of the agreement between Korda and M-G-M, the film was shot at Denham Studios instead of Pinewood, which was initially to be the production site. According to another Hollywood Reporter news item, Frederick Y. Smith, a former English film editor, was to be the only technician going from Hollywood to England for the film, but only Charles Frend is credited as film editor in other contemporary sources, and Smith's participation in the picture has not been confirmed. A Motion Picture Daily news item includes actor Eliot Makeham in the cast, but his appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. Russell was the only American actor to be sent to England for the picture.
According to informaion in the Howard Dietz Collection at the AMPAS Library The Citadel cost $1,012 and grossed $2,598,000. The picture was nominated for several Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director for King Vidor, Best Screenplay for Ian Dalrymple, Elizabeth Hill and Frank Wead. The National Board of Review named the film Best Picture, Donat Best Actor, and Ralph Richardson Best Supporting Actor; New York Times named the picture one of the Ten Best of the Year; and Film Daily Year Book named the picture number eight on its list of the Ten Best Pictures of 1938. Other adaptations of the Cronin novel include a 1950 television drama and a 1983 two-part BBC television drama, starring Ben Cross. The BBC drama, which was broadcast over Public Television in the United States, adhered more faithfully to the original novel than previous productions.
Re-released in England in 1948.