DR. EHRLICH'S MAGIC BULLET

(1940)
With Edward G. Robinson, Ruth Gordon, Otto Kruger, Sig Ruman, Maria Ouspenskaya, Montagu Love, Donald Meek
Directed by William Dieterle
Black and White
Reviewed by JB

M'yeah, where's your syphilis now, see?    In this classy Warner Brothers production, Robinson plays the title character, German physician Paul Ehrlich*, who created a serum to cure diphtheria and discovered the cure for syphilis, only two of many accomplishments. No bullets are fired, no gangsters are double-crossing each other, not a single punch is thrown, and yet DR. EHRLICH'S MAGIC BULLET is an engrossing drama.  With apologies to the rest of the cast, an excellent one at that, it is Robinson's warm, emotional performance that keeps you glued to the screen.  If you find yourself wanting to cheer at moments when major plot points take place on slides placed under a microscope, chalk it up to Robinson's ability to completely inhabit a character to a point where you barely recall he became a star playing violent gangsters.

    Several years ago, I got on an Edward G. Robinson kick and eventually coming to the conclusion that Mr. Robinson was one of the finest actors this country had ever produced.  Perhaps it was because he was never in the position to be a romantic figure ('cheated of feature by dissembling nature" as Shakespeare might put it), he settled into character parts and proved to possess a wider range than either Cagney or Bogart.  I would never take anything away from Jimmy or Bogey, for both men remain acting heroes of mine.  But I just can't imagine Jimmy Cagney as a Norwegian farmer nor Humphrey Bogart as the German doctor who discovered the cure for syphilis. 4½ - JB

Edward G. Robinson     The Stuff You Gotta Watch

* Not to be confused with the Dr. Paul Ehrlich who predicted, wrongly, the mass starvation of the entire planet in his 1968 book The Population Bomb.

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