Another Unexpected Shaw Gem

George Bernard Shaw was one of the major playwrights of the 20th century. A number of his plays have been turned into movies including Major Barbara, The Devil’s Disciple, Caesar and Cleopatra, Heartbreak House, Saint Joan, Androcles and the Lion, and, most famously, My Fair Lady (based on Pygmalion). There are a couple of collections of his works from the BBC and Criterion and ‘single’ DVDs of other plays.

The Doctor’s Dilemma starring Dirk Bogarde, Leslie Caron, Robert Morley, Alistair Sim, and other British notables is a witty delight about art, artists, love, and the medical profession. In this entertainment, an artist’s wife visits a prominent Harley Street doctor to solicit him to operate on and save her scoundrel artist-husband. She does what she does for love and to support the success of his painting. She distracts and ends up having several doctor-friends come to visit her dying husband.

Shaw reveals the doctors to be very flawed and untrustworthy, and ends up satirizing doctors and the medical profession. there are several plot twists with a nice bit of burning bush symbolism and the turning point revelation which leads to one doctor’s dilemma, which gives its meanings to the tmovie and play’s title.

This is a delightful well-acted1958 color film screenplayed by Anatole de Grunwald and directed by Anthony Asquith. It is ironic all the way through and catches viewers and characters off-guard all the way. Your opinions of characters will be mixed; all characters are blind in various ways. It’s one of the most successful and underrated of Shaw’s plays.

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