AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Madame Curie
Director: Mervyn LeRoy (Dir)
Release Date:   Feb 1944
Premiere Information:   World premiere in Los Angeles: 15 Dec 1943; New York opening: week of 16 Dec 1943
Production Date:   1 Mar--15 Mar 1943; 29 Mar--mid-Jul 1943
Duration (in mins):   121 or 125
Duration (in feet):   11,186
Duration (in reels):   13
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Cast:   Greer Garson (Madame Marie Sklodowska Curie)  
    Walter Pidgeon (Dr. Pierre Curie)  
    Henry Travers (Dr. Eugene Curie)  
    Albert Basserman (Professor Perot)  
    Robert Walker (David LeGros)  
    C. Aubrey Smith (Lord Kelvin)  
    Dame May Whitty (Mme. Eugene Curie)  
    Victor Francen (President of university)  
    Elsa Basserman (Mme. Perot)  
    Reginald Owen (Dr. Becquerel)  
    Van Johnson (Reporter)  
    Margaret O'Brien (Irene Curie, age 5)  
    James Hilton (Narration)  
    Lumsden Hare (Professor Roget)  
    Charles Trowbridge (Board member)  
    Edward Fielding (Board member)  
    James Kirkwood (Board member)  
    Nestor Bristoff (Board member)  
    Moroni Olsen (President of businessmen's board)  
    Miles Mander (Businessman)  
    Arthur Shields (Businessman)  
    Frederic Worlock (Businessman)  
    Eustace Wyatt (Doctor)  
    Marek Windheim (Jewelry salesman)  
    Lisa Golm (Lucille)  
    Alan Napier (Dr. Bladh)  
    Linda Lee Gates (Perot grandchild)  
    Marie Louise Gates (Perot grandchild)  
    Ray Collins (Lecturer's voice)  
    Howard Freeman (Professor Constant's voice)  
    Francis Pierlot (Mons. Michaud)  
    Almira Sessions (Mme. Michaud)  
    Dickie Meyers (Master Michaud)  
    Leo Mostovoy (Photographer)  
    Dorothy Gilmore (Nurse)  
    William Edmunds (Cart driver)  
    George Davis (Cart driver)  
    Ilka Gruning (Seamstress)  
    Harold DeBecker (Professor)  
    Guy D'Ennery (Professor)  
    Michael Visaroff (Proud papa)  
    George Meader (Singing professor)  
    Wyndham Standing (King Oscar)  
    Ghislaine Perreau (Eve, 18 months)  
    Franz Dorfler (Assistant seamstress)  
    Ray Teal (Driver)  
    Noel Mills (Wedding guest)  
    Teddy Infuhr (Son)  
    Mariska Aldrich (Tall woman)  
    Ruth Cherrington (Swedish queen)  
    Al Ferguson (Man at accident)  
    Ben Gerien (Man at accident)  
    Tony Carson (Man at accident)  
    Maria Page (Woman at accident)  
    Isabelle Lamore (Woman at accident)  
    Justine Duney (Woman at accident)  
    Nita Pike (Woman at accident)  

Summary: 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." 

Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. (Loew's Inc.)
Distribution Company: Loew's Inc.  
Director: Mervyn LeRoy (Dir)
  Albert Lewin (Dir)
  Tom Andre (Asst dir)
  Hugh Boswell (Asst dir)
  Harry Beaumont (2d unit dir)
Producer: Sidney Franklin (Prod)
  Edward J. Mannix (Exec prod)
Writer: Paul Osborn (Scr)
  Paul H. Rameau (Scr)
  Walter Reisch (Contr wrt)
Photography: Joseph Ruttenberg (Dir of photog)
  Jimmy Hackett (Asst cam)
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons (Art dir)
  Paul Groesse (Assoc)
Film Editor: Harold F. Kress (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Edwin B. Willis (Set dec)
  Hugh Hunt (Assoc)
Costumes: Irene (Cost supv)
  Sharaff (Assoc)
  Gile Steele (Men's cost)
Music: Herbert Stothart (Mus score)
Sound: Douglas Shearer (Rec dir)
Special Effects: Warren Newcombe (Spec eff)
Make Up: Jack Dawn (Makeup created by)
Production Misc: Bert Cannon (Unit mgr)
  Dr. Rudolph M. Langer (Tech adv)
Country: United States

Source Text: Based on the book Madame Curie by Eve Curie (Paris, 1938).
Authors: Eve Curie

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number Passed By NBR:
Loew's Inc. 1/12/1943 dd/mm/yyyy LP12429 Yes

PCA NO: 9500
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Sound System

 
Genre: Biography
 
Subjects (Major): Marie Curie
  Pierre Curie
  Marriage
  Research
  Scientists
 
Subjects (Minor): Accidental death
  Henri Becquerel
  Books
  Burns
  Chemistry
  Children
  Croquet (Game)
  Earrings
  Experiments
  Fainting
  Family relationships
  France--History
  Graduations
  Grief
  Honeymoons
  Jewelry stores
  Laboratories
  Lectures
  New Year's Eve
  Paris (France)
  Physics
  Poles
  Professors
  Proposals (Marital)
  Rainstorms
  Romance
  Safety
  Sexual discrimination
  University of Paris

Note: 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 Aug 1938, before the English translation of Eve Curie's book had been published, MPD announced Greta Garbo as the film's star and Aldous Huxley as the screenwriter. Huxley speculated in a Nov 1938 NYT 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 Apr 1939, however, the studio signed Jacques Thery to write the script, and in Dec 1940, the project was shelved. In a Mar 1940 NYT 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 Jul 1942 HR 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. HR 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 Apr 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 HR 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 20 Dec 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 HR news items. HR 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 16 Sep 1946, Lux Radio Theatre broadcast a radio adaptation of the film, starring Garson and Pidgeon, and on 31 Jan 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 31 Aug 1977. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   27 Nov 1943.   
Daily Variety   19 Nov 43   pp. 3-4.
Film Daily   22 Nov 43   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   25 Apr 39   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   4 Dec 40   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   30 Jul 42   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   13 Aug 42   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   19 Nov 42   p. 25.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Feb 43   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   3 Feb 43   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   26 Feb 43   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   1 Mar 43   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   16 Mar 43   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   19 Mar 43   p. 4, 10
Hollywood Reporter   29 Mar 43   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   6 Apr 43   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   11 Jun 43   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   28 Jun 43   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   1 Jul 43   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   9 Jul 43   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   19 Nov 43   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   23 Nov 43   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   1 Dec 43   pp. 6-7.
Hollywood Reporter   8 Dec 43   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   20 Dec 43   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   27 Dec 43   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   27 Jan 44   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   22 Mar 44   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   11 Apr 44   p. 3.
Life   13 Dec 43   p. 118, 120-122, 125
Look   11 Jan 1944.   
Motion Picture Daily   9 Aug 38   p. 1, 7
Motion Picture Herald   20 Nov 1943.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   20 Nov 43   p. 1633.
New York Times   27 Nov 1938.   
New York Times   3 Mar 1940.   
New York Times   17 Dec 43   p. 23.
Variety   24 Nov 43   p. 18.

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