A partir del volumen 13 número 1 de 2017 la Revista de Medicina y Cine se encuentra alojada en

http://revistas.usal.es

Archibald Joseph Cronin: a Writing-Doctor Between Literature and Film

Alberto Enrique D’Ottavio Cattani 1,2

1Cátedra de Histología y Embriología. Facultad de Ciencias Médicas.

2Consejo de Investigaciones de la Universidad Nacional de Rosario (Argentina).

Correspondence: Alberto Enrique D’Ottavio Cattani, Matheu 371. 2000 Rosario, Santa Fe (Argentina).

e-mail: Esta dirección de correo electrónico está siendo protegida contra los robots de spam. Necesita tener JavaScript habilitado para poder verlo.

Received 1 October 2008; modified 18 March 2009; accepted 19 March 2009


Summary

This paper broaches the subject of the life and numerous cinematographic and TV adaptations of the vast and controversial literary work of Scottish doctor Archibald Joseph Cronin (1896-1981). Through it, we intend to stress the influence his books and/or the films based on them had on many young generations who, under their shelter, chose a career in medicine. Prize-winning writer and PhD, in his works -formally adorned with his great talent for description and observation- he intermingles naturalism, conflicting passions, medical situations and social criticism. Beyond all discussion about his literary career and his repercussion on film, his influence on those who embraced Medicine following in the steps of his characters, many of whom were nothing more than a reflection of himself, is unquestionable.

Keywords: Cronin, Doctor, Writer, Film, Literature.


To AJ Cronin, whose works strengthened my decision to become a doctor

Life and work of Archibald Joseph Cronin

The writer-doctors whose works have been rescued by film making are not few. Among them, we can mention Friedrich von Schiller and his William Tell; Sir Arthur Conan Doyle with the “Sherlock Holmes” saga, The Lost World and The Time Machine; Antón Chekhov and The Shooting Party, Uncle Vanya, Three Sisters, The Seagull, Lady with the Dog and others; Axel Munthe and some of the events in The Story of San Michele filmed by the German film industry in 1962, Somerset Maugham with The razor’s Edge, Of Human Bondage, The Painted Veil, The Letter and others1,2.

There was, however, another writer-doctor who was highly resorted to by film: Archibald Joseph Cronin. This article addresses his work and the connections between it and its cinematographic and TV adaptations.

A Scottish novelist and doctor, he was born in Cardross-on-Clyde (County of Dunbartonshire) on 19 July, 1896. An only child, his mother was Jessie Montgomerie and his father Patrick Cronin. In an apparently paradoxical way, following the death of his father, who professed Catholicism, Archibald was raised as a Catholic by his Protestant mother. During his stay at the Dumbarton Academy, sponsored by his uncle, he showed great potential as a sportsman and writer, which led him to win prizes in those fields. Living in Glasgow, he attended the Jesuit School San Luis Gonzaga and, owing to his abilities, he was awarded a scholarship to study Medicine at the local University. When the First World War broke out, he interrupted his university studies; he enrolled in the Royal Navy, and remained there until the end of the conflict, when he took up Medicine again and graduated cum laude in 1919. In 1921, he married Agnes Mary Gibson (May), already a doctor, who he met as a student. Archibald and Agnes then set up home in Tredegar, a small southern Welsh town where Cronin, assisted by May, did research into anthracosis while working at the town’s General Hospital. His first son, Vincent, was born there and Archibald became medical inspector of mines for Great Britain, both events taking place during 1924. In 1923 he had earned a Diploma in Public Health and again in 1924 he was awarded a degree as a Doctor in Medicine for his dissertation on the history of aneurysm. Moving to Notting Hill (London) brought him a stream of patients which noticeably improved his economic situation. His other sons -Patrick and Andrew- were born in London in 1926 and 1937 respectively. In 1930, while on holiday in the Scottish Highlands, his life took a significant turn, since the completion of his first novel in just three months, Hatter’s Castle turned out to be a resounding success; it drove him away from medical practice and fully turned his interests towards literature. In the late 30s and in the early stages of the Second World War, he travelled to the United States with his wife and his three children. There he wrote The Keys of the Kingdom. As the years went by, as an already definitely established author, he returned to Europe to spend the last 25 years of his life in Switzerland, where he frequented the company of Audrey Hepburn, Charles Chaplin and Laurence Olivier. He died in the Swiss town of Montreux on 6 January, 19813.

Celebrated as an author and with a PhD in the humanities, in his work, formally adorned by a considerable descriptive and observational capacity, he mixed passions, medical situations and social criticism. Among them, Hatter’s Castle (1931), Three Loves (1932), Grand Canary (1933), Kaleidoscope in “K” (1933), The Stars Look Down (1935), Country Doctor (1935), The Citadel (1937) - which is thought to be responsible for promoting a change in the Public Health System in the United Kingdom after the Second World War -, Vigil in the Night (1939), Jupiter Laughs (a comedy in three acts, 1940), The Keys of the Kingdom (1941), Adventures of a Black Bag (1943 - revised in 1969 - ), The Green Years (1944), Shannon’s Way (1948) – a sequel to the preceding one -, The Spanish Gardener (1950), The Valorous Years (1950), Adventures in Two Worlds (autobiographical, 1952), Beyond This Place (1953), Crusader’s Tomb (1956), The Northern Light (1958), The Cronin Omnibus (1958), The innkeeper's wife (1958), The Native Doctor (or An Apple in Eden) (1959), The Judas Tree (1961), A Song of Sixpence (1964) and its sequel: A Pocketful of Rye (1969), (1966), The Minstrel Boy (or Desmonde) (1975), Lady with Carnations (1976), Gracie Lindsay (1978), and Doctor Finlay of Tannochbrae (1978). In addition, between 1939 and 1966, he made around 25 periodical contributions to Reader’s Digest3.


From literature to film

His novels adapted for films4 are referred to in table 1

Table 1 Cinematographic adaptations of AJ Cronin’s work

English title

Spanish title

Year

Director

Screenplay

Main characters

Other data

Once to Every Woman

(adaptation of "Kaleidoscope in K")

Not released in Spain

1934

Lambert Hillyer

Jo Swerling

Ralph Bellamy,

Fay Wray,

Walter Connolly,,

Mary Carlisle

United States

Columbia Pictures

Drama

Black and white

70 minutes

Grand Canary

Not released in Spain

1934

Irving Cummings

Ernest Pascal

Warner Baxter,

Madge Evans,

Marjorie Rambeau,

Zita Johann

United States

Fox Film Corp.

Drama

Black and white

78 minutes

The Citadel

La Ciudadela

1938

King Vidor

Ian Dalrymple,

Frank Wead,

Elizabeth Hill

Robert Donat,

Rosalind Russell,

Ralph Richardson,

Rex Harrison

United States

MGM

Drama

Black and white

110 minutes

4 Oscar nominations

The Stars Look Down

Las estrellas miran hacia abajo/ La avalancha

1940

Carol Reed

A. Coppel,

JB Williams

Michael Redgrave,

Margaret Lockwood,

Emlyn Williams,

Nancy Price

GB

Grafton Films

Drama

Black and white

110 minutes

Vigil in the Night

Noche de Angustia

1940

George Stevens

Fred Guiol,

PJ Wolfson,

Rowland Leigh

Carole Lombard

Brian Aherne,

Anne Shirley,

Julien Mitchell

United States

RKO Radio Pictures

Drama

Black and white

96/102 minutes

Shining Victory

(adaptation of "Jupiter Laughs")

Not released in Spain

1941

Irving Rapper

Howard Koch,

Anne Froelich

James Stephenson,

Geraldine Fitzgerald,

Donald Crisp,

Bette Davis

United States

Warner Bros

First National Pictures Inc.

Drama

Black and white

80 minutes

Hatter’s Castle

El castillo del odio

1942

Lance Comfort

Paul Merzbach,

Rudolph Bernauer,

Rodney Ackland

Robert Newton,

Deborah Kerr,

James Mason,

Emlyn Williams

GB

Paramount British Pictures

Drama

Black and white

102 minutes

The Keys of the Kingdom

Las llaves del reino

1944

John M Stahl

Nunnally Johnson,

Joseph L Mankiewicz

Gregory Peck,

Tomas Mitchell,

Vincent Prince,

Rose Stradner

United States

20th Century Fox

Drama

Black and white

137 minutes

4 Oscar nominations

The Green Years

Los Verdes Años

1946

Victor Saville

Robert Ardrey,

Sonya Levien

Charles Coburn,

Tom Drake,

Beverly Tyler,

Hume Cronyn

United States

MGM

Drama

Black and white

127 minutes

2 Oscar nominations

Ich suche dich

(adaptation of "Jupiter Laughs")

Seguiré tu camino

1956

O.W. Fischer

O.W. Fischer

Claus Hardt,

Gerhard Menzel,

Martin Morlock

O.W. Fischer

Anouk Aimée,

Nadja Tiller,

Otto Brüggemann

Germany

Aura

Drama

Black and white

95 minutes

The Spanish Gardener

El jardinero español

1957

Philip Leacock

Lesley Storm,

John Bryan

Dirk Bogarde,

Jon Whiteley,

Michael Hordern,

Cyril Cusack

GB

The Rank Organisation

Drama

88/97 minutes

Beyond This Place

(Más allá del silencio)

El secreto de ushaw 52

1959

Jack Cardiff

Kenneth Hyde,

Ken Taylor

Van Johnson,

Vera Miles,

Emlyn Williams,

Bernard Lee

GB

Georgefield Productions

Mystery

Black and white

90 minutes

Kalapani

(adaptation of "Beyond this Place")

Not released in Spain

1958

Raj Khosla

G.R. Kamat,

Bhappi Sonie,

Anand Pal

Dev Anand,

Madhubala,

Nalini Jaywant,

Agha

India

Navketan films

Detective story

Musical

Romantic

Black and white

164 minutes

Pula Rangadu

(adaptation of "Beyond this Place")

Not released in Spain

1967

Adurthi Subba Rao

Venkata Ramana,

Mullapoodi,

Ranganayakamma Muppala

Akkineni Nageshwara Rao,

Jamuna

Vijaya Nirmala,

Chittor V. Nagaiah

India

Annapoorna Pictures

Drama

Black and white

¿? minutes

Tere Mere Sapne

(adaptation of "The Citadel")

Not released in Spain

1971

Vijay Anand

Vijay Anand,

Kaushal Bharati

Dev Anand,

Mumtaz,

Mahesh Kaul,

Vijay Anand

India

Kamat Foto Flash

Lekhraj & Co.

Drama

Musical

Colour

175 minutes

Mausam

(adaptation of "The Judas Tree")

Not released in Spain

1975

Sampooran Singh Gulzar

Bhushan Banmali,

Kamleshwar,

Sampooran Singh Gulzar

Sharmila Tagore,

Sanjeev Kumar,

Om Shivpuri,

Agha

India

Sunandini Pictures

Musical

Romantic

Colour

156 minutes

Tooi Ashita

(adaptation of "Beyond this Place")

1979

Tatsumi Kumashiro

Masaru Baba

Tomokazu Miura,

Ayumi Ishida,

Junko Miyashita,

Tomisaburo Wakayama

Japan

Toho Film (Eiga) Co. Ltd.

Drama

Colour

95 minutes

Billy Elliot

(adaptation of "The Stars Look Down")

Billy Elliot: (Quiero bailar)

2000

Stephen Daldry

Lee Hall

Jamie Bell,

Jean Heywood,

Julie Walters,

Gary Lewis

GB

BBC

Drama

Colour

111 minutes

Table 2 shows the TV adaptations of Cronin’s works4.

Table 2 TV adaptations of AJ Cronin’s work

Original title

Year

Director

Screenplay

Main characters

Other data

Escape from Fear

[Episode from the series "Climax!" (1954)]

1955

Allen Reisner

Bernard Girard

William Lundigan,

Tristram Coffin,

Mari Blanchard,

Howard Duff,

United States

CBS

1 episode

Drama

Black and white

Beyond this Place

[Episode from the series "The DuPont Show of the Month" (1957)]

1957

Sidney Lumet

Vance Bourjaily

Farley Granger,

Peggy Ann Garner,

Torin Thatcher,

Max Adrian

United States

CBS

1 episode

Drama

Comedy

90 minutes

Black and white

"Nicholas"

(Series which adapts "The Spanish Gardener")

1958

Júlio Gouveia

AJ Cronin

Ricardinho,

Roberto de Cleto,

Rafael Golombeck

Brazil

TV Tupi

Black and white

The Citadel

(Film)

1960

Not recorded

Dale Waserman

Ann Blyth,

Lloyd Bochner,

James Donald,

Hugh Griffith

United States

ABC Television

Drama

Black and white

"The Citadel"

(Nine-episode series)

1960

John Frankau

Kenneth Hyde

Eric Lander,

Zena Walker,

Jack May,

Noel Harrison

GB

Associated -Rediffusion TV

Drama

30 minutes

Black and white

"Dr. Finlay's Casebook"

(8-season, 191-episode series)

1962-1971

Several directors

Several scriptwriters

Bill Simpson,

Andrew Cruickshank,

Barbara Mullen

GB

BBC

50 minutes

The Ordeal of Dr. Shannon

[Episode from the series "The DuPont Show of the Week" (1961)]

(Adaptation of "Shannon’s Way")

1962

Joan Kemp- Welch

Robert Stewart

Alan Casley,

Madeleine Christie,

Finlay Currie,

Archie Duncan

United States

Comedy

Drama

Musical

The Ordeal of Dr. Shannon

[Episode from the series "ITV Television Playhouse" (1955)]

(Adaptation of "Shannon’s Way")

1963

Joan Kemp- Welch

Robert Stewart

Alan Casley,

Madeleine Christie,

Finlay Currie,

Archie Duncan

United States

Drama

"Memorandum van een dokter"

(6-episode series)

(Based on Dr Finlay)

1963-1965

Peter Holland

Several scriptwriters

Bram van der Vlugt,

Rob Geraerds

Holland

La Cittadella

(Miniseries)

1964

Anton Giulio Majano

Anton Giulio Majano

Alberto Lupo,

Anna Maria Guarnieri,

Fosco Giachetti,

Eleonora Rossi Drago

Italy

RAI

Black and white

Novi asistent

(Film)

1964

Mirjana Samardzic

AJ Cronin

Dejan Dubajic,

Ljiljana Jovanovic,

Nikola Simic,

Milan Srdoc

Yugoslavia

Black and white

"O Jardineiro Espanhol"

(Series)

1967

Fábio Sabag

Tatiana Belinsky

Ednei Giovenazzi,

Osmano Cardoso,

João José Pompeo

Brazil

TV Tupi

"… e le stelle stanno a guardare"

(Miniseries)

(Adaptation of "The Stars Look Down")

1971

Anton Giulio Majano

Anton Giulio Majano

Orso Maria Guerrini,

Andrea Checchi,

Giancarlo Giannini

Italy

RAI

Black and white

"The Stars Look Down"

(13-episode series)

1974

Roland Joffé y Alan Grint

Alan Plater

Ian Hastings,

Basil Dignam,

Alun Armstrong,

Avril Elgar

GB

Granada Television

Drama

60 minutes/episode

"Les Années d'illusion"

(6-episode miniseries)

(Adaptation of "The Valorous Years")

1977

Pierre Matteuzi

Christine Carrel

Yves Brainville,

Josephine Chaplin,

Michèle Amoudruz

France

Switzerland

TF1

Télévision Suisse-Romande

52 minutes/episode

"The Citadel"

(10-episodios series)

1983

Peter Jefferies,

Mike Vardy

Don Shaw

Ben Cross,

Clare Higgins,

Gareth Thomas,

Niall Buggy

GB

BBC

Drama

Colour

50 minutes/episode

"Doctor Finlay"

(27-episode series)

1993-1996

Several directores

Several authors

David Rintoul,

Annette Crosbie,

Ian Bannen

Scottish Television

Enterprises

Drama

Colour

60 minutes/episode

"La Cittadella"

(4-episode miniseries)

2003

Fabrizio Costa

Salvatore Basile

Massimo Ghini,

Barbora Bobulová,

Franco Castellano,

Juraj Rasla

De Angelis Group,…

Drama

Colour

50 minutes/episode

Perhaps the rising generations will remember AJ Cronin for his novel Country Doctor in which he introduced the character of the Scottish doctor Finlay, who was the basis of successful TV series for the BBC from 1962 to 1971, as well as of others for Scottish television produced by Scottish Television and PBS. Dr Finlay also appeared in a radio series in the 70s, which derived in later adaptations much closer in time: 2001 and 2002.


Coda

Discredited as a novelist by certain literary critics, the work of Archibald Joseph Cronin has nevertheless made a noticeable impact both on students or would-be students of medicine, and on film and television. These words are intended as a modest tribute to one whom, with controversial repercussion, managed to inspire as a writer-doctor and who was at the same time the author of works on which the screenplays of unforgettable films were based.


Acknowledgements

The Editors would like to thank the translation team of the Languages Service of the University of Salamanca for their collaboration in the English version of this Journal.


References

  1. Wikipedia Contributors. List of Physicians. Physicians famous as writers [on-line encyclopedia]. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. [update 2009 Mar 10; cited 2009 Mar 15 ] . [about 8 screens]. Available from: link
  2. Stone J: Medicine and the arts. Theor Med. 1985:6 (3): 309-325.
  3. Salwak D. A. J. Cronin. Boston: Twayne Publishers; 1985.
  4. A.J. Cronin (1998) [database on the Internet]. The Internet Movie Database. [cited 2008 Sep 30]. Available from: link