The Doctor's Dilemma
Cast & Crew
--In late 19th century London, eminent psychiatrist Sir Patrick Cullen pays a call on his close friend and associate, the principled Colenso Ridgeon to congratulate him on his development of a treatment to cure consumption. The publicity over Colenso's subsequent knighthood attracts the attention of Jennifer Dubedat, wife of a talented but impetuous young artist, Louis, who suffers from tuberculosis. Jennifer visits Colenso on behalf of her husband and although taken by Jennifer's youth and bohemian attitude, Colenso states that his program is restricted in size and currently full. Jennifer then shows Colenso several of Louis' sketches to demonstrate her husband's brilliance and potential. Colenso is deeply impressed by the work and asks to buy the sketches, but Jennifer offers to give them to the doctor if he will treat Louis. Colenso insists that he would have to remove a patient from his program to make room for Louis and tells Jennifer that she must prove that her husband is worth saving. After driving Jennifer to her home, Colenso invites her to a private dinner given to celebrate his knighthood and asks her to bring Louis. Pleased, Jennifer agrees. The following evening, Jennifer and the brash Louis join Colenso at the dinner given by fellow-physicians Sir Patrick, blood specialist Sir Ralph Bloomfield-Bonington, surgeon Cutler Walpole and modest general practitioner Dr. Blenkinsop, who also suffers from tuberculosis. The doctors are charmed by Jennifer and uncertain what to make of Louis' careless manner. After the young couple depart, Blenkinsop admits with some embarrassment that Louis borrowed the last of his change, leaving him without cab fare. The men are interrupted by maid Minnie Tinwell, who asks after Louis. When Cutler identifies Jennifer as Louis' wife, Minnie stuns them by revealing that she is Louis' wife and has a license to prove it. While the men wonder at this declaration, Cutler realizes that Louis has kept his gold cigarette case. As they leave the dinner hall, Colenso confesses to Sir Patrick that he is in a quandary over what to do about Louis, who is so clearly lacking in character. Colenso reflects on whether he should treat the decent but talentless Blenkinsop or the gifted but immoral Louis. Colenso admits that he is attracted to Jennifer and hopes to marry her after Louis' death, but does not want this to sway his decision. The following morning when a patient in his program dies, Colenso informs his assistant that he will name a replacement the next day. Later that afternoon, Colenso goes to Louis and Jennifer's apartment where he awaits his associates to join his consultation. After Jennifer leaves her husband and Colenso alone, Louis describes the difficulties of being talented but poor, then asks Colenso for a loan. Taken aback, Colenso refuses, then grows angry when Louis implies that Jennifer will suffer if he cannot provide for her. When Colenso again refuses Louis, the painter asks if he can supply him with commissions, then suggests that Colenso certainly must know many of his patients' secrets, which they would pay to keep confidential. Colenso, outraged, and Louis are interrupted by the arrival of Sir Patrick, Sir Ralph and Cutler. Colenso immediately relates Louis' black-mailing proposal and the men are amazed at Louis' audacity. Cutler asks for the return of his gold case and Louis admits he pawned it. Incensed by Louis' reckless manner, Colenso demands repayment of Blenkinsop's loan, forcing Louis to borrow the amount from Cutler. When the men press Louis about Minnie, he admits they were married, but then berates them for their indignation when he impishly implies that he is not married to Jennifer. Louis then assures them that he and Jennifer are married and questions the doctors' rigid morality and haste to believe the worst. Louis explains that he married Minnie and they remained together for a deliriously happy three weeks until their money ran out, then they mutually decided to return to their respective jobs. Challenged by Colenso about whether he has been honest with Jennifer, Louis acknowledges that he has not informed her about Minnie as it would only hurt her and shatter her happiness. When the men remain aghast, Louis again accuses them of narrow, intellectualized morality. The doctors then announce that after reviewing Louis' medical file they conclude that he has six months to live. Colenso declares he will do nothing for Louis and Sir Ralph concurs. Cutler, however, offers to operate, but is startled when Louis demands to know how much Cutler will pay him for removing a body part, which he deems valuable. Amused, Sir Ralph admits that most of his patients are also scoundrels and offers to take Louis' case. Jennifer returns and is startled to learn that Sir Ralph will be treating Louis. Late that night, Jennifer goes to see Colenso to demand to know why he has refused Louis. Admitting she has no confidence in Sir Ralph, Jennifer accuses Colenso of resenting Louis' genius. When Colenso informs Jennifer that he has decided to treat Blenkinsop, she is dismayed that he should choose a foolish man over a brilliant one. Jennifer admits that Louis has a number of personal faults, but insists that they are overshadowed by his unique talents. Jennifer then confides that her life's dream has been to nurture a genius to realize his full potential. Touched, Colenso tells Jennifer that in order to preserve her romantic notions, she must trust him. Jennifer agrees and Colenso declares that Louis must remain under Sir Ralph's care. Three months later, Sir Patrick visits Colenso to report that Louis is near death from galloping consumption. The men hurry to the Dubedats' studio, joining Sir Ralph and Cutler. The weakened Louis tells Jennifer that upon his death she should not insult the joy of their marriage by wallowing in grief. He instructs her to reflect their happiness by remaining beautiful and re-marrying promptly. After Louis dies, Jennifer thanks all the doctors, save Colenso whom she rebuffs, claiming he was never a friend to Louis. After a trip to Brittany, Jennifer returns to the studio to sell Louis' work to an interested art dealer. Blenkinsop drops by to apologize, insisting that he had no idea that Colenso had chosen to treat him over Louis. Some weeks later, Colenso attends the gallery opening of Louis' works and runs into Jennifer. He apologizes for thinking poorly of Louis, but refuses to admit his decision was wrong. When Colenso asks to buy a painting of Jennifer by Louis, she refuses, revealing that her new husband has purchased it for her. Colenso is shocked, but Jennifer reminds him that she is fulfilling Louis' decree to remain beautiful and happy.
Anatole De Grunwald
Anatole De Grunwald
Terence Morgan Ii
A. W. Watkins
The Doctor's Dilemma
Director Anthony Asquith had a long history with Shaw. As a young movie fan, Asquith co-founded London's Film Society in 1925 with Shaw, H.G. Wells, and other literary and artistic luminaries. After an apprenticeship in Hollywood, Asquith returned to England and became a director in 1928. He co-directed the first major film adaptation of a Shaw play, Pygmalion (1938), from Shaw's own screenplay. After the success of that film, there had been talk of a screen version of The Doctor's Dilemma with the same producer, Gabriel Pascal, and same stars, Leslie Howard and Wendy Hiller. It never happened, but Asquith became known as a director of literate, intelligent film adaptations of well-known plays such as Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest (1952), and several works by playwright-screenwriter Terence Rattigan.
By the mid-1950s, Asquith and Rattigan had collaborated on several films. Along with producer Anatole de Grunwald, they were preparing a biographical film about T.E. Lawrence, the British World War I hero known as Lawrence of Arabia, for J. Arthur Rank. Dirk Bogarde, then Britain's top male star and a Rank contract player, was cast as Lawrence. Then Rank executives abruptly pulled the plug just weeks before shooting began when they realized the enormous production costs. De Grunwald and Asquith offered the disappointed Bogarde the part of the reprobate artist in The Doctor's Dilemma as a consolation prize with MGM providing the financing and distribution.
Bogarde was every inch the handsome leading man, but some critics felt that his enormous charm and his integrity as an actor made him a less than credible cad, although they praised his witty performance in his final scene. In fact, Bogarde proved to have an affinity for morally flawed characters, and Louis Dubedat in The Doctor's Dilemma was the first in his rogues gallery of complex or corrupt characters in films such as The Servant (1963), Accident (1967), and Death in Venice (1971).
Leslie Caron, fresh from playing her final gamine in her last MGM musical, Gigi (1958), was married to British stage director Peter Hall and was living in London. She was still under contract to MGM, and eager to take on more mature roles. The part of the adoring wife of a faithless but brilliant husband in The Doctor's Dilemma was a thankless one, but at least she got to play an adult, and to wear Cecil Beaton's ravishing Edwardian costumes (Beaton had recently won a Tony Award for his costumes for My Fair Lady, the 1956 blockbuster Broadway musical version of Pygmalion). The Doctor's Dilemma was Caron's last film under her MGM contract, and in the following decades she would prove her versatility by playing a wide range of characters, earning an Oscar® nomination for her performance in The L-Shaped Room (1963).
The problem with The Doctor's Dilemma, as some critics noted, is that it's stagebound and talky. That's also its strength. Roger Manvell wrote in Films and Filming, "Anatole de Grunwald, who both produces and scripts this film, and Anthony Asquith, who directs, have kept faith with the play by not trying to obliterate it with film-makers tricks...And they have brought together a formidable cast of doctors, each contributing his own established actors personality to the rhythms of Shaw's most biting wit." That formidable cast included wonderful British character actors like Robert Morley (The African Queen, 1951), Alastair Sim (Hitchcock's Stage Fright, 1950), and Felix Aylmer (Ivanhoe 1952), and the less familiar but equally skilled John Robinson as the doctor who must decide who lives and who dies. Bosley Crowther wrote in the New York Times, "Mr. Morley is bouncy and breathless as the stuffed shirt...Mr. Aylmer is sober and sententious as the senior of the lot and Mr. Sim is delightfully fatuous...When these gentlemen are airing their theories and tossing around the dialogues that Mr. Shaw meant to rip the pretense off medical morality, this beautifully dressed color picture has humor as well as grace."
The Doctor's Dilemma did well at the box office in America, but not in England. In his autobiography, Dirk Bogarde had an interesting theory about why British filmgoers stayed away. He had starred in a series of popular British comedies about a young doctor, beginning with Doctor in the House (1954), and followed by three sequels. The films were enormously successful and had made him a star. Bogarde believed that when British audiences saw the title The Doctor's Dilemma, they assumed it was another film about the charming Dr. Simon Sparrow. They felt cheated when they found out it was about an immoral artist who's dying of consumption, so they stayed away. The film's success in America, however, proved to be a mixed blessing for Bogarde. Hollywood beckoned, but the films he made there were not very good. It was not until he returned to England that he moved from being a matinee idol to a long and lauded career as one of Britain's most respected character actors.
Director: Anthony Asquith
Producer: Anatole de Grunwald
Screenplay: Anatole de Grunwald, based on the play by George Bernard Shaw
Cinematography: Robert Krasker
Editor: Gordon Hales
Costume Design: Cecil Beaton
Art Direction: Paul Sheriff
Music: Joseph Kosma
Cast: Leslie Caron (Mrs. Dubedat), Dirk Bogarde (Louis Dubedat), Alastair Sim (Cutler Walpole), Robert Morley (Sir Ralph Bloomfield-Bonington), John Robinson (Sir Colenso Ridgeon), Felix Aylmer (Sir Patrick Cullen), Michael Gwynn (Dr. Blenkinsop), Maureen Delany (Emmy).
by Margarita Landazuri
The Doctor's Dilemma
According to a November 1957 Hollywood Reporter news item, Anatole De Grunwald acquired the rights to George Bernard Shaw's The Doctor's Dilemma intending Rex Harrison and Kay Kendall to play the leads. The Hollywood Reporter review of the film notes that the play's famous closing line uttered by "Sir Colenso Ridgeon"-"Then I have committed a purely disinterested murder"-was omitted, but its implication remained clear.
Filmed adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's 1903 classic