Andrea Kalin's "Partners of the Heart," which premieres tonight at 6:30 at the Museum of Tolerance in L.A., explores an extraordinary professional relationship between cardiac surgical pioneers Albert Blalock and Vivien Thomas that cuts to the paradoxes, absurdities, cruelties and injustices of segregated America.
At the same time, Kalin's film celebrates the resilience of the human spirit in a profoundly moving fashion, and shows what a resolute individual can accomplish within rigid social constraints.
FOR THE RECORD
Los Angeles Times Saturday May 11, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 A2 Desk 2 inches; 47 words Type of Material: Correction
Movie review-The first name of Dr. Alfred Blalock, one of the subjects of the documentary 'Partners of the Heart,' was stated incorrectly in the Screening Room column in Thursday's Calendar Weekend. In the same article, Blalock's colleague, Dr. Helen Taussig, was incorrectly described as a pediatric surgeon. She was a pediatrician.
The result is an eloquent, well-researched work narrated by Morgan Freeman. It features many notable interviewees and a smooth blending of archival materials with understated, re-created sequences directed by Bill Duke.
In 1929, 19-year-old Thomas, a young man from Nashville's African American middle class, was looking forward to college and medical school when his savings earned in carpentry were wiped out in the stock market crash. The best Thomas could do was to land a job as a janitor in a Vanderbilt University research laboratory, where he caught the attention of Dr. Blalock, scion of a renowned Georgia plantation and business family. Thomas soon became Blalock's research assistant, and accompanied the doctor to Johns Hopkins University in 1941.
A colleague, pediatric surgeon Dr. Helen Taussig, suggested a way in which Blalock might operate on the obstructed hearts of "blue babies." It fell to Thomas to conduct a series of successful experiments on animals and also design and fabricate the surgical instruments.
When Blalock was ready to perform the first surgery in 1944, he relied on Thomas to guide him through the process. It was a success, and Thomas would remain at Blalock's side for the next 20 years, during which time Blalock and Hopkins became world-renowned.
Meanwhile, Thomas was unable to sit at the same table at lunch with Blalock, and had to observe the doctor's 60th birthday gala in a hotel ballroom from a back room.
Blalock, a Southern traditionalist, died at 65, just as the civil rights movement was gathering force; Thomas lived to 85, long enough to be formally recognized by Johns Hopkins and his colleagues. But Dr. Levi Watkins of the university's medical school says Thomas is still "the most untalked about, unappreciated, unknown giant in the African American community. What he helped facilitate impacted people all over the world." (310) 772-2529.
The American Cinematheque's "A Matter of Life and Death: The Films of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger" concludes tonight at 7 with one of the team's masterpieces, "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp" (1943), which offers the old-fashioned satisfaction of fully rounded central characters who evolve over an adult lifetime.
The movie spans 1902 to 1943 in the life of a kindly, aristocratic career officer (a superb Roger Livesey), a symbol of British fair play who finds himself obsolete with the outbreak of World War II.
This handsome Technicolor production, restored by the British Film Institute to its original 163 minutes, is subtle and paradoxical: Its makers regret their hero's naivete while respecting his innate decency, and they anticipate the ruthlessness of the postwar world.
Anton Walbrook is Livesey's urbane German friend and rival; Deborah Kerr plays all the key women in both their lives. "Colonel Blimp" will be followed by the mystical "Gone to Earth" (1950). Screens at the Egyptian in Hollywood; (323) 466-FILM.
Veteran German producer Regina Ziegler commissioned both new and established filmmakers to contribute to "Erotic Tales," a series that was broadcast on German TV. The Laemmle Theaters will present a selection in six separate programs. Program I screens at the Sunset 5 on Friday and Saturday at midnight, and at 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday..
Bob Rafelson's "Wet" is a sly and sexy tale in which the stunning Davida (Cynda Williams of "One False Move") enters a luxury bathroom fixtures store just as it is closing. Quickly, she and Bruce (Arliss Howard), the store manager are alone, and she picks out a bathtub for purchase but insists on trying it out first.... Melvin Van Peebles' "Vroom, Vroom, Vroom" stars Robert Barboza as a luckless farm boy whose kindness to an older woman is rewarded with a very special bicycle.
Best of all is Eoin Moore's steamy "Why Don't We Do It in the Road?" The witty, fully developed vignette looks at the relationship of pretty postmodern artist Zarah (Isabelle Stoffel) and her lover, Anton (Erdal Yildiz), a dance band bassist, and how it's affected when Zarah wins a choice commission to create an assemblage for Berlin's spectacularly rebuilt Potsdamer Platz. Anton becomes jealous of the time the commission is taking--until he recalls how Zarah likes to carry on romantically in high-risk places.