Doctors of John Ford: a compendium of science, ethics, humanistic heroism and idealism
Author(s)José Luis LÓPEZ FERNÁNDEZ
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AbstractBiomedical science has been present in cinema since its origins. With the beginning of micro and macrocinematography, scientists could resort to the telephoto lens, the microscope, and the endoscope to record various phenomena such as the biological functioning of the organs of a human being, as well as accelerating or slowing a number of processes that otherwise would have turn out extremely complex to analyze. Since then, medicine has populated the screens for over a century of cinema, exhibiting characters with idiosyncrasies of very different nature: From the adoption of a purely scientific perspective opposed to faith designs (Dreyer or Tourneur) to those ‘doctors of terror’ that aspired, as stated in Clarke’s third law, to discover the limits of the possible by daring to explore the impossible (Frankenstein, Moreau, Mabuse or Caligari). In this article, we comparatively analyze the peculiarities of those physicians that have played a central role in John Ford’s work: Doctor Arrowsmith (1931), Doctor Bull (1933) and The prisoner of Shark Island (1936), among which their sense of deontologic ethics as well as their noticeable humanism are considered outstanding. We finally report on other minor roles that have also provided Ford’s cinema with doctors.