Cast & Crew
In the early 1890s, at the Sorbonne in Paris, Marie Sklodowska, a poor Polish student, faints from hunger during one of Professor Perot's physics lecture. Concerned for Marie's health, Perot invites the gifted scholar to lunch and, after questioning her about her future plans, offers her a research job. Perot suggests that Marie conduct her research at the laboratory of chemistry and physics instructor Pierre Curie and arranges for her to meet him at a dinner party that night. Despite the Perots' attempts to make them comfortable, the absentminded Pierre acts shy around the equally reserved Marie. Before Marie arrives at the lab the next day, Pierre, who believes that women and science are "incompatible," instructs his young assistant, David LeGros, to set up her research equipment in a far corner. David is startled by Marie's attractiveness and awkwardedly shows her to her work station. Weeks later, after work, Pierre shares his umbrella with Marie during a rainstorm and chats with her for the first time. Pierre is greatly impressed by Marie's insightful scientific observations, and soon after, presents her with an inscribed copy of his new book. At that moment, Dr. Becquerel, another scientist in the building, rushes into the lab, anxious to share his latest discovery. Becquerel shows Pierre and Marie a light-sensitive plate with a photographic impression of a key on it. The impression was made inadvertently inside a drawer when the plate came into contact with some pitchblende ore. Marie is fascinated by the phenemenon and wonders aloud how light could be "locked up inside" the rock. Marie then informs Pierre that once she has graduated, she will be returning to Warsaw to be with her father. Although Pierre admonishes her not to give up her research, Marie is adamant about leaving. After Marie is honored at graduation as the top-ranked physics student, Pierre, anxious to delay her departure, invites her to spend the weekend at his parents' country home. There, Marie is welcomed by Pierre's physician father Eugene and his kind, perceptive mother. On the last day of her visit, Mme. Curie suggests that Marie prolong her visit, but once again, Marie insists that she has to return to Poland. Desperate, Pierre bursts into Marie's room that night and proposes they marry and pursue their "common scientific dream." Marie happily accepts and, during their honeymoon, reveals to Pierre that her dream is to uncover the mystery of the pitchblende phenomenon. Encouraged by Pierre, Marie undertakes her investigation of radioactivity, but after weeks of seemingly inaccurate test results, becomes discouraged. When Pierre suggests one evening that her equipment may be faulty, the couple races back to the lab to revamp the machine. The test results do not change, however, and Marie concludes that an unknown light-producing element must be present in the ore. Marie and Pierre eventually identify two elements, which they name radium and polonium, as the source of the radiation. Armed with this new information, Marie and Pierre apply for funding for a new laboratory, but the skeptical university board offers them only a rundown shed. Despite the serious discomforts of the large shed, the Curies begin the tedious process of isolating radium from the ore. A year later, after they have reduced the ore to two bonded elements, barium and radium, Marie consults with a doctor about some odd burns on her hands. Fearing that the burns may eventually become cancerous, the doctor advises Marie to stop the experiment. Marie insists on continuing, however, and comments to Pierre that if radioactive material is capable of burning healthy tissue, it might someday be used to destroy cancerous tissue. Marie then begins wearing gloves in the lab, and the burns disappear. Over the next two years, the Curies undertake to remove the barium from the sample, using a slow crystallization process. On New Year's Eve, the last crystallization is finally complete, and the scientists stare eagerly into the small lab dish, in which they expect to see a chunk of radium. To their great dismay, however, only a stain remains. Marie is crushed by their seeming failure, but later, in bed, she wonders whether the stain is, in fact, the radium. Marie and Pierre then rush back to the lab and are thrilled to see light emanating from the dish, indicating the presence of radium. Later, after they are awarded a Nobel Prize for their discovery, the Curies and their two children, Irene and Eve, enjoy a much-needed country vacation. As Pierre and Marie contemplate their future, which is to include a new, fully equipped lab, Pierre confesses that he has had premonitions about his death and tells Marie that, in the event of either of their deaths, the other must continue their work. On the day of the new lab's presentation, as Marie is being fitted for an elegant gown, Pierre goes out to buy her some special earrings. After leaving the jeweler's, Pierre walks distractedly into the street and is struck and killed by a passing truck. Paralyzed with grief, Marie withdraws from life and listens stone-faced as a concerned Professor Perot counsels her to go on with her work. Later, however, while going through Pierre's last effects, Marie finds the earrings and sobs, finally able to begin healing. Many years later, in honor of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the discovery of radium, Marie, who continued her research, lectures at the Sorbonne. Calling science "the clear light of truth," she advises her audience to "take the torch of knowledge and build the palace of the future."
C. Aubrey Smith
Dame May Whitty
Linda Lee Gates
Marie Louise Gates
Harold F. Kress
Dr. Rudolph M. Langer
Edward J. Mannix
Paul H. Rameau
Edwin B. Willis
Best Art Direction
Best Music, Original or Comedy Series
Curie's daughter Eve published a well-received book on her extraordinary mother's life in 1937 called Madame Curie: A Biography. Hollywood's interest was peaked, and Universal Studios quickly bought the rights with Irene Dunne in mind to play Marie. Dunne traveled to Europe and met with Eve Curie to discuss the project, but nothing ever came of the meeting. A few years later Universal sold the property to MGM, who wanted it for their star Greta Garbo. Writers such as Aldous Huxley and F. Scott Fitzgerald took a stab at adapting the screenplay for Garbo, but the project again was shelved when Garbo left MGM in 1941 and the country was thrown into World War II.
Meanwhile at MGM actors Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon had been making names for themselves as a popular onscreen duo. Audiences loved them together in such hits as Blossoms in the Dust (1941) and Mrs. Miniver (1942). MGM resuscitated the Madame Curie project for them with Garson as Marie and Pidgeon as her husband Pierre. This was the fourth onscreen pairing of the duo. Mervyn LeRoy, who had directed them in their first movie together Blossoms in the Dust, was named director with Sidney Franklin, who had produced Mrs. Miniver, producing. Franklin very much wanted to keep the events in the film as historically and scientifically accurate as possible. To do this he brought in Dr. Rudolph Langer, a physicist from Cal Tech, as an official technical advisor. In addition to providing input on the script, Dr. Langer also contributed by re-creating some of the Curies' experiments for the screenwriters to observe.
The biggest challenge for making a movie of Madame Curie was in making the unlikely subject of the discovery of radium interesting and entertaining for audiences. The film managed to adhere to the facts more than most biopics of the 1930s and 40s, and it also took time to develop the sweet romance between Marie and Pierre, two shy scientists fiercely dedicated to their work. This balance between showing the Curies' personal lives and scientific work was key to its success. Director Mervyn LeRoy, who considered Madame Curie to be among his personal favorites, was careful to keep the complicated scientific material easy to follow. "I didn't let a scene go by unless I understood it myself," Mervyn LeRoy said in his 1974 autobiography Mervyn LeRoy: Take One.
The science meets Hollywood strategy worked, and audiences and critics alike loved Madame Curie. Bosley Crowther of the New York Times said, "It has made their (the Curies') absorption as comprehensible as the urge to read good books. Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon are ideal in the leading roles." Eve Curie even wrote a letter of approval to Mervyn LeRoy saying how much she had liked his film adaptation of her book. Madame Curie was honored with seven Academy Award® nominations including Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Actress. Ultimately, however, it took home none, losing out to Casablanca (1942) for Best Picture.
In some ways, Madame Curie was a mixed blessing for Garson who, prior to playing the role, was quoted as saying, "Here am I, possibly the only natural redhead in Hollywood, mildewing away the years in shawls, shrouds, and chignons in unrelieved black and white. I hope that Madame Curie will be my last heavy dramatic role I shall play for some time." (from Michael Troyan's biography, A Rose For Mrs. Miniver: The Life of Greer Garson). Garson was equally concerned about audiences "believing" her transition from youth to old age in the course of the film. "When I'm 62, they'll probably cast me as an ingenue. At 70, I'll be in pigtails. Anyway I can dream can't I?"
After Madame Curie, Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon went on to make five more features together; they were teamed on the screen a total of nine times. Also included in the cast of Madame Curie are Robert Walker as a young lab assistant, Van Johnson as a cub reporter, and Margaret O'Brien as the Curies' daughter Irene.
Producer: Sidney A. Franklin
Director: Mervyn LeRoy
Screenplay: Paul Osborn, Paul H. Rameau
Cinematography: Joseph Ruttenberg
Film Editing: Harold F. Kress
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons
Music: Herbert Stothart
Cast: Greer Garson (Mme. Marie Curie), Walter Pidgeon (Pierre Curie), Robert Walker (David LeGros), Van Johnson (Reporter), Albert Bassermann (Prof. Jean Perot), Henry Travers (Eugene Curie), C. Aubrey Smith (Lord Kelvin).
BW-124m. Closed captioning. Descriptive Video.
by Andrea Passafiume
TCM Remembers Van Johnson - Important Schedule Change on TCM In Honor To Salute VAN JOHNSON
The new schedule for the evening of Tuesday, December 23rd will be:
8:00 PM In the Good Old Summertime
9:45 PM A Guy Named Joe
12:30 AM Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo
2:30 AM The Last Time I Saw Paris
4:30 AM Thrill of a Romance
Van Johnson (1916-2008)
Van Johnson, the boyish leading man whose clean cut, All-American appeal made him a top box-office draw for MGM during World War II, died on December 12 in Nyack, New York of natural causes. He was 92.
He was born Charles Van Dell Johnson on August 25, 1916, in Newport, Rhode Island. By his own account, his early childhood wasn't a stable one. His mother abandoned him when he was just three and his Swedish-born father offered little consolation or nurturing while he was growing up. Not surprisingly, Johnson found solace in singing and dancing lessons, and throughout his adolescence, he longed for a life in show business. After graduating high school in 1934, he relocated to New York City and was soon performing as a chorus boy on Broadway in shows such as New Faces of 1936 and eventually as an understudy in Rodgers and Hart's musical, Too Many Girls in 1939.
Johnson eventually made his way to Hollywood and landed an unbilled debut in the film version of Too Many Girls (1940). By 1941, he signed a brief contract with Warner Bros., but it only earned him a lead in a "B" programmer Murder in the Big House (1941); his contract soon expired and he was dropped by the studio. Johnson was on his way back to New York, but as luck would have it - in the truest Hollywood sense - friends Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz introduced him to Billy Grady, a lead talent scout at MGM, which was currently Ball's new studio. Johnson was signed up and almost immediately MGM had a star on its hands.
It might have been slow going at first, with Johnson playing able support in films such as Dr. Gillespie's New Assistant and The War Against Mrs. Hadley (both 1942). By 1943 the studio capitalized on his broad smile and freckles and starred him in two of the studio's biggest hits: A Guy Named Joe and The Human Comedy. Those two films transformed him into a boxoffice draw with a huge following, particularly among teenage girls. A near fatal car accident that same year only accentuated the loyalty of his fans, and his 4-F status as the result of that accident created an opportunity for him when so many other leading actors of the era (James Stewart, Clark Gable) were off to war. Johnson was quickly promoted as MGM'sleading man in war heroics and sweet romancers on the big screen: The White Cliffs of Dover, Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (both 1944), Thrill of a Romance, the episodic Week-End at the Waldorf (both 1945), and a musical remake of Libeled Lady entitled Easy to Wed (1946).
Hits though these were, it wasn't until after the war that Johnson began to receive more dramatic parts and better material such as supporting Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy in the political farce State of the Union (1948). other significant roles included the well-modulated noir thriller The Scene of the Crime, the grim war spectacle Battleground (both 1949), the moving domestic drama Invitation (1952) in which he played a man who is paid to marry a woman (Dorothy McGuire) by her father. Before he left MGM, he closed his career out in fine form with the sweeping musical Brigadoon, co-starring Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse; and the lilting soaper The Last Time I Saw Paris (both 1954) with Elizabeth Taylor.
After he left MGM, the parts that came Johnson's way weren't as varied, but he had his moments in The Caine Mutiny (1954), the beguiling romance drama Miracle in the Rain (1956) with Jane Wyman; and his lead performance in one of the first successful made for-TV-movies The Pied Piper of Hamelin (1957). By the '60s, Johnson returned to the stage, and played the title role in London's West End production of The Music Man. He then returned to Broadway in the drama Come on Strong. He still had a few good supporting parts, most notably as Debbie Reynolds' suitor in Norman Lear's scathing satire on marital differences Divorce American Style (1967); and television welcomed his presence on many popular shows in the '70s and '80s such as Maude, Fantasy Island, The Love Boat and of course Murder She Wrote. There was one last graceful cameo in Woody Allen's The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), yet for the most remainder of his career, Johnson worked mainly on the dinner theater circuit before retiring from showbiz completely by the mid-90s. He is survived by a daughter, Schuyler.
by Michael T. Toole
TCM Remembers Van Johnson - Important Schedule Change on TCM In Honor To Salute VAN JOHNSON
Voice-over narration spoken by popular novelist James Hilton, who made his screen debut in the picture, is heard intermittently throughout the film. Eve Curie, who wrote the book on which the film is based, was Marie and Pierre Curie's youngest daughter. As depicted in the film, the Curies achieved renown for their revolutionary work in the study of radioactivity and their discovery of the elements radium and polonium. Marie, who was born Maria Sklodowska in 1867 in Warsaw, Poland, earned degrees in mathematics and physics at the Sorbonne in Paris in 1893 and 1894. She met Pierre, who, along with his brother Jacques, had pioneered the field of electromagnetism and was the head of the laboratory at the Ecole de Physique et de Chimie Industrielle, in the spring of 1894 and married him a year later. Marie then began her study of radioactive pitchblende, which had been discovered in 1896 by Henri Becquerel, using an electrometer built by Pierre and Jacques. Pierre joined his wife's work soon after, and a year later, they discovered two new radiating elements, which they named polonium (after Poland) and radium. In 1903, after years of effort isolating and studying the elements, Marie was awarded her doctorate and, with Pierre and Becquerel, won the Nobel Prize for physics for their joint discovery of radioactivity. Pierre was appointed professor at the Sorbonne in 1904, and Marie worked as his assistant until his traffic accident death in 1906. As described in Eve Curie's biography, Marie was deeply affected by Pierre's death, but eventually accepted his professorship and became the first woman lecturer at the Sorbonne. In 1908, she was appointed professor, and in 1911, she received a second Nobel Prize in chemistry for her work on the isolation of pure radium. During World War I, Marie turned her attention to the development of x-rays, and in 1918, became the director of the Radium Institute. Her elder daughter Irene worked at the Institute with her husband, Frederic Joliot. In her later years, Marie devoted herself to the study of the chemistry of radioactive materials and their medical applications. She died in 1934 of leukemia, which many assume she contracted as a result of her experiments.
In August 1938, before the English translation of Eve Curie's book had been published, Motion Picture Daily announced Greta Garbo as the film's star and Aldous Huxley as the screenwriter. Huxley speculated in a November 1938 New York Times article that he was hired because, as an essayist and the son and brother of scientists, he had the necessary scientific background and temperament to write the picture. In April 1939, however, the studio signed Jacques Thery to write the script, and in December 1940, the project was shelved. In a March 1940 New York Times article, Huxley was quoted as saying that his screenplay "disappeared without trace," because, he presumed, "the older Curie daughter objected to it, fearing that her father, who was quite as great a scientist as her mother, would be slighted in favor of Greta Garbo." A late July 1942 Hollywood Reporter news item, however, noted that M-G-M was reconsidering Huxley's script as a vehicle for Katharine Hepburn. Two weeks later, Ann Harding was announced as the film's star. The exact contributions of Huxley and Thery to the completed film, if any, have not been determined.
Madame Curie marked the third film in which Greer Garson was paired with Walter Pidgeon. Their prior film, M-G-M's Mrs. Miniver, was an enormous critical and box office success, and publicity for Madame Curie exploited the connection. One advertisement for the film read: "Mr. & Mrs. Miniver Together Again in Another Screen Hit!" In addition to Garson and Pidgeon, producer Sidney Franklin, cameraman Joseph Ruttenberg and actors Dame May Whitty and Henry Travers also worked on both films. Albert Lewin began as director of Madame Curie, but was replaced by Mervyn LeRoy two weeks into production because of differences he and executive producer Edward J. Mannix had over the story. Alan Baxter, Patric Knowles and John Craven tested for roles in the film, but they did not appear in the completed film. Hollywood Reporter news items add Vladimir Rachevsky, and Eldon and Elton Burkett as cast members, but their participation in the final film has not been confirmed. According to M-G-M publicity material found at the AMPAS Library, photographs provided by Eve Curie served as guides for the film's makeup, costuming and sets. Some scientific equipment was borrowed from various Los Angeles universities, but most, including a copy of the Curie magnetic balance, was built in the studio's shop. Although an April 1943 M-G-M publicity item announced that Garson was to sing two songs in Latin and several songs in French, she did not perform any songs in the film.
According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, Frank Whitbeck prepared two special trailers, in addition to the regular advance trailers, to play in ten Los Angeles theaters for two weeks prior to the Hollywood premiere of the film. The premiere at Grauman's Chinese Theatre was a benefit for the Volunteer Army Canteen Service. Madame Curie was nominated for 1943 Academy Awards in the following categories: Best Picture; Best Actress (Greer Garson); Best Actor (Walter Pidgeon); Best Art Direction (black and white); Best Sound Recording; Best Scoring of Dramatic or Comedy Picture; and Best Cinematography (black and white). Garson and Pidgeon won Australia's Walling Award for their performances in the picture. Garson was nominated for a 1944 Janeway Medal, a prize awarded annually by the American Radium Society, for her work on the film and was featured on the December 20, 1943 cover of Time in connection with the picture. In addition to receiving praise from scientists, the film was selected as a "best film" by Scholastic Magazine and Parents magazine, according to Hollywood Reporter news items. Hollywood Reporter also notes that Victory OWI Magazine ran a two-page photo spread about the production, marking the first time that a government-sponsored publication had publicized a commercial film.
On September 16, 1946, Lux Radio Theatre broadcast a radio adaptation of the film, starring Garson and Pidgeon, and on January 31, 1954, the Hallmark Playhouse broadcast another version. In addition to various documentary shorts, Marie Curie was the subject of a BBC television production, starring Jane Lapotaire and Nigel Hawthorne and directed by John Glenister. The program, titled Marie Curie, was broadcast on the PBS network in five hour-long installments, beginning on August 31, 1977.