People Will Talk (1951)
Movie Grade B
McCarthyism Connection Grade C+
Dr. Noah Praetorius is different than the other doctors and he is very popular. Professor Rodney Elwell, a McCarthy-like figure, knows that someone who is different must be hiding something and leads an attack on him.
People will Talk is a movie by writer/director Joseph L. Mankiewicz who is defending personal freedom.
Cary Grant plays Dr. Noah Praetorius, a respected and popular physician/professor whose reputation is questioned by a jealous colleague, Professor Rodney Elwell (Hume Cronyn), a McCarthy-like figure, who resents Praetorious' popularity and charm and plots to discredit him by spreading lies and innuendo. Elwell forces a faculty inquest into Noah's shady background. Praetorious takes it all in stride, completely self-confident at what shapes up to be a witch hunt.
Ewell's attempts to discredit Praetorius focus on his relationship with Shunderson, a quiet, kind-hearted man who never seems to leave Noah's side.
One critic said :
People Will Talk is always associated with the character assassination of the blacklist, but there's very little linkage. Key blacklistees were victimized because they had unpopular past and present affiliations that could be exploited by ideological hysteria-mongers. Hundreds, perhaps thousands more were victimized indirectly, never knowing exactly why or by whose action they lost their jobs.
Praetorious hasn't anything in common with either group. His only 'flaw' is a cartoonishly strange backstory with no political dimension, and nothing more. You'd think his methods would be investigated by a medical board, not a stupid clod like Elwell. Furthermore, Praetorius is never fazed by Elwell or his accusations, and goes through his inquisition in complete bliss and confidence. His only opponent is one fairly weak individual who fails to turn the law or the college administration or the faculty against him. Blacklist victims, in contrast, faced the uncomprehending vigilantism of an entire country stirred up to root out Commie villains. What is People Will Talk supposed to be about? Is it late advice for how the Hollywood Ten should have acted before the HUAC? Would charm and a big smile have defeated Joe McCarthy?