Arrowsmith (1931)

Ronald Coleman and Helen Hayes
Ronald Coleman and Helen Hayes

'Arrowsmith' is a dramatic movie made in 1931 by John Ford, and starring Ronald Colman, Helen Hayes and Myrna Loy. It is based on the 1925 novel of the same name by Sinclair Lewis, which won the 1926 Pullitzer Prize (which was declined by Lewis.)

The film was a financial and critical success. It was nominated for four Academy Awards, Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Art Direction and Best Cinematography although it won none.


Ronald Coleman plays Martin Arrowsmith, who at the start of the film is a young medical student with high ideals, who falls in love with and marries nurse Leora, played by Helen Hayes. Arrowsmith is invited to go to a Caribbean Island to test a serum for bubonic plague which he has developed. Leora goes with him. Arrowsmith is tested medically by the trip and also personally when he meets the beautiful New Yorker, Joyce Lanyon, played by Myrna Loy.


'Arrowsmith' is one of three John Ford films which considered the role of the doctor in society. The others are ' Doctor Bull' in 1933, and 'The Prisoner of Shark Island'. In 1936. Producer, Sam Goldwyn insisted that Ford should not drink during the shoot, causing Ford to drop a number of scenes without explanation in order to shorten the filming time and increase his drinking time.

The film contains a number of "messages" declaimed by the actors, typical of Depression-era films. The values of self-sacrifice, integrity and nobility are emphasised by Ford.

Main Cast

Ronald Colman … Dr Martin Arrowsmith
Helen Hayes … Leora Arrowsmith
Richard Bennett … Gustav Sondelius
A.E. Anson … Professor Max Gottlieb
Clarence Brooks … Oliver Marchand
Alec B. Francis … Twyford
Bert Roach … Bert Tozer
Myrna Loy … Mrs Joyce Lanyon
Russell Hopton … Terry Wickett
David Landau … State Veterinarian
Lumsden Hare … Governor Sir Robert Fairland
Ward Bond … (uncredited) Cop in the delivery scene


Director ... John Ford
Producer ... Sam Goldwyn
Studio ... Samuel Goldwyn Productions
Screenplay ... Sidney Howard
Cinematography ... Ray June
Music ... Alfred Newman
Format ... B & W
Distribution Company ... United Artists
Running time ... 108 minutes
Release Date ... 26 December, 1931

Arrowsmith Academy Awards

No Wins:
Four Unsuccessful Nominations:
Best Picture ... Samuel Goldwyn Productions
Best Art Direction ... Richard Day
Best Cinematography ...Ray June