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People Will Talk Reviews

Joseph L. Mankiewicz had just won two Oscars for ALL ABOUT EVE (writing, directing) and the year before that two more for the same tasks on A LETTER TO THREE WIVES. He took on a big challenge here, adapting Curt Goetz's play, "Dr. Praetorius," making it into an odd amalgam of wit, satire, high drama, and glistening dialog. Grant is an early crusader in the medical profession who thinks that the mind can cure just as well, if not better, than massive doses of medicine. He believes in treating the patient rather than the disease, a practice that delights his charges but horrifies his colleagues, who are far more traditional and hidebound in their diagnoses. Grant is teaching at a medical school and living what is thought to be a strange life. His servant and best friend is Currie, a murderer who has been sent to jail twice. His other friend is Slezak, a rotund scientist who loves model trains and knockwurst, not necessarily in that order. Grant's enemy at the school is Cronyn, a sourpuss anatomy instructor who feels more at home dissecting corpses than talking to humans. One day, while Grant is teaching his students, Crain, an aspiring young doctor, faints during the lecture. Grant is soon aware that she's newly pregnant, and when she tries to kill herself, he says that his first diagnosis was wrong, then marries her. Crain's father is Blackmer, a drunk and a loser, but a man with what Tennessee Williams called "the charm of the defeated." In between his classes, Grant conducts the school's orchestra in Wagner and Brahms. Out of spite, Cronyn contacts the dean, Ruysdael, and brings up a few interesting things about Grant's medical background, obliging Grant to defend himself to the school's board of directors. He explains his philosophy of medicine and eventually wins over the listeners. While all this is going on, Grant is spending his time at home convincing Crain that he really does love her and didn't marry her out of pity for her plight. The designation "sophisticated" applies well to PEOPLE WILL TALK, and Grant gives one of his best performances, a carefully controlled job of acting that never becomes farce. The movie is mature and frank, and Mankiewicz uses the opportunity to take a few potshots at academic hypocrisy.