The citadel

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German title The citadel
Original title The Citadel
Country of production Great Britain
original language English
Publishing year 1938
length 110 minutes
Director King Vidor
script Ian Dalrymple
Frank Wead
Elizabeth Hill
production Victor Saville
music Louis Levy
camera Harry Stradling Sr.
cut Charles Frend

The Citadel is initially the title of a novel by the Scottish doctor and writer Archibald Joseph Cronin from 1937. This served as the template for the British film of the same name by the director King Vidor from 1938, which was made by the US film studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer ( MGM) was produced in the UK.

Novel plot

In Cronin's novel The Citadel , the idealistic young doctor Andrew Manson, with autobiographical features, reveals the weaknesses of the British health system at the time. On each of his four stages he gets into new confrontations and entanglements. On the one hand, there are the hierarchies and networks of doctors who are keen to increase their income; At the end of the novel, after painful experiences, Manson tries to implement the author's message and to set up a group practice in a small town according to strictly ethical rules with his friends Denny and Hope: The three specialists treat the patients cooperatively and combine their work with scientific research.

1. When he was first employed as an assistant doctor to the sick and incapacitated Dr. Page in Blaenelly, Welsh, he has to treat the patients alone when they are poorly paid, while Page's wife invests the main income in securities. His colleague Philip Denny, an assistant doctor at another practice, has discovered that the ailing main sewer is to blame for the many typhoid diseases, the dirt of which seeps into the deeper wells and contaminates the drinking water with bacilli. For reasons of cost, the responsible medical officer Griffiths repeatedly delayed the renovation and the two doctors finally force the authorities to build a new one through a subversive action: by blasting the old sewer at night.

2. The next station, employment as an assistant doctor at the miners' relief organization in neighboring Aberalaw, gives him financial independence and he can marry the teacher Christine Barlow. In Aberalaw the chief physician Llewellyn leads the regiment: He has filled all medical leadership positions in the city. For his overall supervision, he demands that the doctors subordinate to him give 1/5. of their income. When Manson tries to persuade his colleagues Urquhart, Medley and Oxborrow to jointly terminate the agreement, he cannot prevail, because they feel dependent on the chief physician and want to hand over their difficult cases to him as before. He has further trouble with some patients in his district, who, as usual with his predecessor, expect him to take unfounded sick leave and, when he does not grant them, switch to another doctor. His treatment methods also meet with criticism. When district nurse Lloyd treated a burn with oil and wrapped the worker's arm in old bandages, he prescribed an antiseptic bandage. The nurse is offended and takes revenge by speaking badly of him to her patients. Since many miners, v. a. in asbestos pits, suffering from tuberculosis, he researches the causes through series of measurements and animal experiments. But he encounters resistance. His opponents take the opportunity to destroy his laboratory and his records and thus drive him out of the city.

3. Manson's dissertation on dust inhalation attracted a lot of attention with the Coal and Metalliferous Mines Fatigue Board in London and was offered a job to do further research. But in the bureaucratic operation, other tasks, the standardization of bandages, are assigned to him. His colleague Hope explains to him the ineffectiveness of the institute with the theoretical squabble of the conference participants and the regulations that hinder any initiative of the researchers. Manson had similar experiences and resigned himself to resign.

4. Manson finds a small practice in Paddington, apparently neglected by his predecessor. Since only a few patients come to him at the beginning, he lets himself be seduced by his old college friend Freddie Hampton and his new acquaintances Charles Ivory and Paul Freedman into making wealth quickly by networking with them and with wealthy women from upper society who suffer from a lack of attention and care. They treat them with ineffective, expensive drugs such as Cremo products that allegedly increase resistance or injection cures against hay fever. They also recommend unnecessary surgeries. These possibilities expand when Manson becomes a semi-official doctor for the luxury fashion store Laurier and is able to retain many private patients. With this group of customers, his standard of living rises quickly. Christine painfully notices his commercialization, but he rejects her criticism, goes to society without her and has a brief affair with his wealthy sponsor Mrs. Frances Lawrence.

His private (death of his wife who remained true to their common ideals in a traffic accident) and professional crash begins with a failed hernia operation, which he handed over to the overwhelmed Ivory. If the death of the patient Harry Vidler affects him morally, on the other hand the healing of a patient, the daughter Mary of his friend Con Boland, leads to an indictment before the General Medical Council . His medical license is to be withdrawn. The reason for this is his collaboration with the American tuberculosis specialist Richard Stillman, who does not have a medical degree and uses a pneumothorax treatment that is controversial in England . Despite his defense speech, in which he criticized the British health system based on his experience, he was allowed to continue working as a doctor and tried to realize his dream (the citadel is the symbol of his vision) of a better medical system.

Comparison with the film plot

As usual with novel adaptations, actions were compressed or left out. The cast list with other names (e.g., Dr. Lawford, Mrs. Orlando, Charles Every, Lady Raebank, Ben Chenkin) indicates this. Above all, the ending was changed and adapted to the public's taste: Manson's faithful wife Christine does not die, but his friend Philip Denny (instead of the episode character Harry Vidler) becomes the victim of an unsuccessful operation.


“A film adaptation of the partly autobiographical novel by AJ Cronin, which points to the connection between medical professional ethos and the influence of the environment. The film contrasts this interaction at the wards of a medical practice with mine workers and high society, where the doctor is professionally corrupted. Obsolete in the time-critical submission, but still valid in the core of the occupational problem. The realistic directional style has a rather distant effect due to the time lag. "

“A powerfully gripping film that deserves attention and interest mainly because of its sensitive and precise description of the environment in the coal field. Recommended for ages 16+. "

- Protestant film observer (review No. 211/1966)

The film was from the New York Times on the all time list of 1000's best films set.


The film received four Academy Award nominations, but came out empty-handed at the 1939 Academy Awards . The film was nominated in the categories of Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director and Best Screenplay.

Other prizes: National Board of Review Award / Best Film and New York Film Critics Circle Award / Best Film


In 1984 the material was also filmed in the form of a ten-part US-British television series.


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