Synopsis by Hal Erickson
After producing, writing and directing one hit film after another, Preston Sturges finally misfired with the biopic The Great Moment. Sturges was always fascinated with the saga of W.T.G. Morton, the 19th century Boston dentist who, after inventing the first truly effective anesthesia, was forced to give up his proprietary interest in the invention and ended up dying in poverty and obscurity. Joel McCrea stars as Morton, a young oral surgeon determined to find a painless method for exracting teeth-which he does, virtually by accident. Betty Field costars as Morton's faithful spouse Elizabeth, while Sturges regular William Demarest offers a gem of a performance as Morton's best friend-guinea pig Eben Frost (his persistence upon recalling his first meeting with Morton -- "I was in excru-ci-ating pain"-is one of the film's highlights). Completed in 1942, The Great Moment was taken out of Sturges' hands and heavily re-edited and re-arranged by the Paramount executives: as a result, the story is confusing and downright incomprehensible at times (the film's present ending, for example, originally occured in the middle of the film). The result was varying runtimes for the film of 80, 83, 87, and 90 minutes. An enormous box-office flop in 1944, the film proved to be the beginning of the end for Sturges, who was never able to completely recover from its failure.
anesthesia, dentist, discovery, experiment, inventor