1 May 2019 Susannah

The Professor and the Madman

Mel Gibson & Sean Penn in 'The Professor and the Madman' (2019), Fastnet Films

Did you read Simon Winchester’s fabulous 1998 book The Surgeon of Crowthorne about James Murray who worked on the Oxford English Dictionary and was assisted with over 10,000 entries from Dr W.C. Minor, an ex US army surgeon who was locked up in a lunatic asylum? It is an extraordinary story and a really good read, if you haven’t read it.

A film has been made about the two men and the dictionary – The Professor and the Madman, due out in May (in the USA, and hopefully not long afterwards in Australia) and starring Mel Gibson as Murray and Sean Penn as Minor. I look forward to it! Simon Winchester has also written The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary (2003) which I enjoyed even more than his previous book.

Have you read The Surgeon of Crowthorne? Will you see this movie? Tell me your thoughts by leaving a comment.

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Featured image credit- Mel Gibson & Sean Penn in ‘The Professor and the Madman’ (2019), Fastnet Films, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5932728/
Body image credit- The Professor and the Madman (2019) movie poster, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5932728/

Comments (14)

  1. A splendid book, I reckon – and I’m looking to the film. I’m a little sorry though it will appear under its US title rather than ‘The Surgeon of Crowthorne’. I’ve taken a quizzical interest in changing titles ever since I learnt that Neville Shute’s evocative ‘A Town like Alice’ was transformed into the rather bland ‘The Legacy’ for the US market. (And worse, the 1956 film became ‘Rape of Malaya’.} But what’s in a name? Would ‘Sense and Sensibility’ have scored better with Jane’s original name ‘Elinor and Marianne’? Would ‘Pride and Prejudice’ have attracted fewer readers as ‘First Impressions’? I’m afraid I’m clueless.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I agree – it probably doesn’t really matter, but I do think they should stick to the original titles. Adam Nicolson’s fabulous book ‘Power and Glory’ got changed to ‘God’s Secretaries’ for the USA version. My own book ‘Happily Ever After’ was called ‘celebrating Pride and Prejudice’ in the USA. Titles are important, but of course we can never know if they’d have attracted less attention if they’d had another name. F. Scott Fitzgerald was going to call The Great Gatsby ‘Trimalchio’ which is nowhere near as good a title.
      Let’s hope the film of ‘The Surgeon of Crowthorne’ is a good one.

  2. I loved the book when I first read it fifteen years ago and read it again recently.
    I look forward to the movie.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Let’s hope the film makers do justice to the book!

  3. Penny Morris

    I haven’t seen the movie but certainly enjoyed the book and the idea of compiling new words and their meanings. How meanings and usage has changed over time is also a really interesting subject.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Dictionaries and their history is a fascinating subject. I hope the new film also goes into words and doesn’t just cover the action.

  4. Yvonne

    Yes, I read the book and found it fascinating. Seems a long time ago now that I read it, so a trip to the movies will definitely be planned to refresh my memory and also to find out how they are going to turn the book into a movie.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Let’s hope the film does justice to the wonderful book.

  5. Patricia Farrar

    I loved The Surgeon of Crowthorne and gave it to a friend as a present (always a good sign!) who loved it as much. Can’t wait to see the film.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I also loved it. Let’s hope the film doesn’t let the book down.

  6. Robbie

    Great book,pity it’s not Sean C & Ewan McGregor starring!

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Yes, they would be more appealing in the roles.

  7. A terrific read. Found it hard to believe it was true! My brother, who writes dictionaries, also enjoyed it v much.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Yes, wasn’t it a good book. I hope the new film does it justice.

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