Noah Praetorius (Cary Grant) is a physician who cares for patients as human beings and not just bodies. His unorthodox methods are being challenged by Dr. Elwell (Hume Cronyn), who wishes to discredit Praetorius by exposing the secrets of his past. While Elwell investigates, Praetorius cares for a pregnant, unwed student (Jeanne Crain), who on learning of her condition, tries to commit suicide.

In order to give her hope, Praetorius tells the student that he was mistaken about her pregnancy and eventually marries her. In the conclusion, Praetorius reveals to a committee his secret life, which includes the historical questionable necessity of procuring his own cadaver for anatomy study, and wins the day.


There are many features that make People Will Talk worth discussing with medical students. The medical paternalism (evident in the variety of ways Praetorius deceives patients) reveals a type of medical practice that most students will find morally troublesome; these acts of paternalism are presented in the film as simply an aspect of Praetorius's humanity.

Praetorius also transgresses many standard moral beliefs concerning the dating of patients and physicians as well as that of students and professors, but it is difficult to determine how the filmmakers wish their audience to judge these events. An important aspect of this film is in the manner it portrays Praetorius as a medical reformer, challenging the technologically-oriented, inhuman treatment of patients.

At the beginning of the film, Praetorius is seen lecturing eager medical students at an anatomy lab that the cadaver is not a "human being." The audience also watches as Praetorius goes on his rounds informing the health care professionals at his clinic that patients come first before money and hospital routines. In such scenes, the film represents a classic instance of the genre of the lone compassionate physician against an uncaring institution.


Based on the play, "Dr. Praetorius" by Curt Goetz.

Primary Source

Twentieth Century Fox, 1979