That portion of the citizenry which has read the Sinclair Lewis novel will probably be in sympathy with the filmization. Those who haven’t will not be prone to deem this macabre tale entertainment. Both factions will find it hard to believe Ronald Colman in the title role.
The responsible factors include complete elimination of the novel’s expose phase as regards the medical profession; unusual length; a tendency on the part of the director, John Ford, to too often disregard or overlook tempo; and an unhappy ending. But above all these things is the inability of Coleman, a romantic juvenile, to convince as the intense scientist.
Helen Hayes, as the nurse who becomes the promising physician’s wife is wholly delightful and gives an enlightening and natural performance. She is mostly responsible for the interest in the early reels. Richard Bennett, as Sondelius, a Swedish scientist, opens up impressively in the picture but eventually seems to pale. Along with Hayes, A.E. Anson is the most genuine figure in the film, although Claude King also makes a small part stand out.
1931/32: Nominations: Best Picture, Adaptation, Cinematography, Art Direction