“The Professor And The Madman” (2019) Movie On “Amazon”: A ‘B-‘ For Effort, A ‘D’ For Veracity.
Official Trailer on YouTube.
OK, I will admit upfront that I am not your typical audience for this movie — which is about how the classic ‘Oxford English Dictionary‘ came to be created.. For a start, one of the settings in this movie is my old school, Mill Hill (in London). Moreover, I have read THE book (by Simon Winchester on which the movie is based), know additional bits about the history of the Dictionary and furthermore adore ‘THE OXFORD’ and what it stands for. So, I was not going to be an easy customer to please — though I desperately wanted the movie to WOW I. Alas, it did NOT.
For a start, it misrepresented the history involving Mill Hill and the scene they show involving Mill Hill does NOT show anything close to what Mill Hill looks like! And that was how the movie started. So, I was not impressed. It would NOT have been difficult to have shot the scene at Mill Hill since the buildings, from the time, are still there. Plus, they show Dr. Murray’s son playing field hockey. Yes, we played hockey at Mill Hill but the school is more of a rugby and cricket school. So, that was part irritating. Then the movie gets the dates and facts WRONG! The Murrays did not move to Oxford as soon as he became Editor. The first five-years of the Dictionary were at Mill Hill. So, the movie misrepresents that.
Yes, it is NOT an easy story to tell and the ‘Madman’ (viz. Dr. William Chester Minor (who cuts off his penis)) was not as central as the movie makes him out to be. Yes, he contributed, much — but so did thousands of others. It is the typical conflict between a good book and a movie that tries to tells its story. In this case, as it happens so often, the movie falls short.
My recommendation: skip the movie, read the book!