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The Movie

poster of Preston Sturges' movie The Great Moment

The Great Moment
83 minutes
United States (1944)
directed by Preston Sturges
Joel McCrea, Betty Field, Harry Carey, William Demarest,
Louis Jean Heydt, Franklin Pangbourn, Grady Sutton

The birth of surgical anaesthesia has never been adequately treated on film. The Great Moment, directed by Preston Sturges, received some early mixed reviews. So Paramount insisted that the movie should be recut - to become more of a comedy. Given the conventions of cinematic taste and decency, even the director's uncut original could do little to evoke the sheer horror of surgery in the pre-anaesthetic era, or the moral urgency of doing something about it. The film was not a box-office success.

Medical historians note that The Great Moment also presents a rather more flattering portrait of etherization pioneer William Morton than his recent biographers would credit.


The Patent
"The Letheon"
William Morton
Utopian Surgery
Ether Inhaler (1867)
Refs and Further Reading
Anaesthesia and Anaesthetics
Preston Sturges' movie "The Great Moment"