Number 1 with a Bullet

“Dr. Ehrlich’s Magic Bullet” tells the real life story of a German-Jewish scientist who discovered cures for several diseases by having chemicals shot into the body (hence the term, “magic bullets”). This was the final film shown on T.C.M in January for its month-long ‘Science in the Movies’ theme. Even without seeing the others, I’m fairly certain that they saved the best for last. “Dr. Ehrlich’s Magic Bullet” is uplifting, involving, sensitive, insightful, and educational. I felt inspired by the title character’s honesty, gentleness, passion, and generosity in the face of so many challenges and heartbreaks. By the end of the picture, I was in awe of this man’s work and his dedication to it. I think the beauty and power of what he did is best articulated by the quote that appears on screen as the film’s final shot. While many movie quotes have made me smile or feel contemplaitive, this was one of the few that made me cry.

“Dr. Ehrlich’s Magic Bullet” is also meaningful to me because of its contribution to my journey as an Edward G. Robinson fan. I’ve learned that Robinson was more proud of his role in this movie than any other in his career. I can understand why. This is the 25th Robinson film I’ve seen and I believe Dr. Ehrlich is his best performance. I’m disgusted by the fact that he was not even nominated for an Oscar in 1941. I’ve seen most of the lead actor performances nominated that year. There’s no doubt in my mind that Robinson was just as worthy of recognition as the others.

The performance is not very flashy or original. It’s not the most entertaining one in Robinson’s career or my favourite (my choice for both is in “The Whole Town’s Talking”, and probably always will be). The reason I think Ehrlich is Robinson’s best performance is because more than any other I’ve seen, it made me periodically forget I was watching Edward G. Robinson. He accomplishes that effect with the help of a beard that hides his distinctive appearance and a speaking voice that’s in a more subdued tone than usual for him. Another reason I like this movie is because of what temporary T.C.M. host Sean Carroll (a theoretical physicist) revealed about its origin. According to him, producer Hal Wallis was compelled to make sure the movie got made after he heard Adolf Hitler say
“A scientific discovery by a Jew is worthless”.
In other words, the whole movie is a big “Fuck You” to Hitler!
I can’t think of many better reasons to make a movie.


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