6 January 2002 | zetes
No, it's not a great film, but it's better than you may have heard
The Great Moment, as I'm sure you know, is not a typical Preston Sturges movie. It is a historical drama with a few comic moments, all of which are clunky (although a couple of the stranger ones are so bizarre they're entertaining in a way, especially when Morton tries to knock out his dog with ether). The film might actually have been quite great if the comedy were subtracted completely. Yeah, I know, we're talking Sturges here. But Sturges was a great dramatic director, too. See The Great McGinty if you don't believe me - the comedy there is less than in many of his other films, and the drama is more pronounced. Most often, Sturges was a master of mixing both dramatic and comedic moments. All of his films were like that. The Great Moment has an excellent story at its core. A dentist - he was in medical school, but he ran out of money and had to earn his living as a dentist - wants to find a way to knock out his patients before he pulls teeth. He does so with ether. He also has aspirations to introduce the use of ether into the medical profession. These intentions are noble, but his patent hasn't come through and he feels the guilt of every painful operation. You see, the AMA will not allow doctors to use Letheon (his name for it) unless they know exactly what it is. But as soon as he tells, everyone will know, and his discovery will go unrecognized.
The film actually has a very good structure. It begins in medias res, with Morton (Joel McCrea, who is very good in the film) being advised on how to proceed legally to attain a patent. In taking these steps, he ruins his career and reputation. The rest of the film is the buildup to the loss of his secret. The final scene is very powerful. 7/10.
One other small reason you should see this: Franklin Pangborn has the funniest facial hair in this film! Grady Sutton also has a really funny scene.