People Will Talk (1951): Mankiewicz’ Serio-Comedy, Starring Cary Grant and Jeanne Crain

Joseph L. Mankiewicz directed People Will Talk, a romantic dramedy with political overtones, right after winning the Best Picture and Best Director Oscars for All About Eve.

Produced by Fox head Darryl F. Zanuck from a screenplay by Mankiewicz, the movie is based on the German play by Curt Goetz, which had been made into a 1950 German film, Doctor Praetorius.

The movie stars Cary Grant and Jeanne Crain, Hume Cronyn, Finlay Currie, Walter Slezak, and Sidney Blackmer.

Cary Grant plays Dr. Noah Praetorius, a physician who teaches in a medical school, where he established a clinic dedicated to treating patients humanely and holistically.

A professional-misconduct challenge brought against Praetorius by his more conventional colleague Dr. Rodney Elwell, who dislikes Praetorius’s unorthodox but effective methods.

Meanwhile, Praetorius must contend with a distressed young woman named Deborah Higgins (Crain), who falls in love with him while dealing with an out-of-wedlock pregnancy.

Elwell arranges for Praetorius’s misconduct hearing to be scheduled at the same time as the student-faculty orchestra’s concert. After the hearing and Praetorius’ acquittal, the film ends with Deborah in the audience watching Praetorius conduct the orchestra in the finale of Brahms’s Academic Festival Overture: Gaudeamus Igitur.

The film is personal in its political subtext, reflecting Mankiewicz’s own experiences during the communist witchhunts of the late 1940s and early 1950s, while he was President of the Directors Guild of America. The investigative trial resembles the congressional hearings by anti-communist crusaders. And just as some refused to name names, Grant’s character declines to clear his own name by revealing the private business of another person.

Cast

Cary Grant as Dr. Noah Praetorius
Jeanne Crain as Deborah Higgins
Finlay Currie as Shunderson
Hume Cronyn as Prof. Rodney Elwell
Walter Slezak as Prof. Lyonel Barker
Sidney Blackmer as Arthur Higgins
Basil Ruysdael as Dean Lyman Brockwell
Katherine Locke as Miss James

Credits:

Directed and written by Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Produced by Darryl F. Zanuck
Written by Mankiewicz, based on Curt Goetz’s 1932 play, Dr. med. Hiob Prätorius
Music by Alfred Newman
Cinematography: Milton Krasner
Edited by Barbara McLean
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date: August 29, 1951
Running time: 110 min.