The appliance of science: geniuses in the movies
Two biopics on
– one by Robert Redford, one by Steven Spielberg – are currently undergoing gestation. Yet there has never been a serious cinematic study of
or It is enormously depressing to note how little interest mainstream cinema has in science.
Paul Muni won an Oscar playing the great French microbiologist in
But that was way back in 1937 and Pasteur’s work had an easily explicable practical application.
The same could be said of the man who found a cure for syphilis, played convincingly by Edward G Robinson in Dr Ehrlich’s Magic Bullet (1940).
– more an inventor than a research scientist – was deemed sufficiently grounded to be played by Spencer Tracy in Edison, The Man (1940). Greer Garson wasn’t at all bad in 1943’s
(What was it with science movies and the early 1940s?) However, later worthwhile theatrical releases focusing on the great paradigm-shifting theorists are shamefully rare. A Beautiful Mind (2001)? Give us a break. Barely a line of
work survives into that soppy film. Kinsey (2004)? Well, that’s more like it, but sex researcher, is hardly one of the immortals.
John Huston’s (1962), starring Montgomery Clift, is a decent attempt to get at the Viennese master. It is, however, notable that, like Kinsey, a dose of sex was required to scare up studio interest.
Sadly, the movies’ vision of the typical scientific genius remains a maniac with eccentric dress sense – Jeff Goldblum in The Fly (1986), Colin Clive in Frankenstein (1931) – cackling as he unwittingly brings catastrophe to the neighbourhood. What a disgrace.