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Yellow Jack

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Yellow Jack
Directed byGeorge B. Seitz
Written bySidney Howard (play)
Paul de Kruif (play collaborator)
Edward Chodorov (screenplay)
Based onYellow Jack by Sidney Howard and Paul de Kruif
Produced byJack Cummings
StarringRobert Montgomery
Virginia Bruce
Lewis Stone
Sam Levene
Andy Devine
Henry Hull
Charles Coburn
Buddy Ebsen
CinematographyLester White
Edited byBlanche Sewell
Music byWilliam Axt
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • May 27, 1938 (1938-05-27)
Running time
83 minutes
CountryUnited States

Yellow Jack is a 1938 film released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer based on the 1934 play Yellow Jack.[1] Both were co-written by Sidney Howard and Paul de Kruif (the former a Pulitzer- and Oscar-winning playwright and screenwriter; the latter a well-known microbiologist and author).[2]

Produced and directed by the legendary Guthrie McClintic, the original Broadway play co-starred James Stewart and Sam Levene and opened at the Martin Beck Theatre, March 6, 1934. [3]Stewart's performance as Sergeant John O'Hara in the Broadway production of Yellow Jack attracted the attention of Hollywood along with a MGM contract. Unfortunately when Yellow Jack was filmed, Stewart was unavailable and replaced by Robert Montgomery. Sam Levene was the only member of the original Broadway cast to also appear in the movie.

The plot line follows the events of the well-known "Walter Reed Boards", in which Major Walter Reed of the U.S. Army worked to diagnose and treat yellow fever (called “yellow jack”) in Cuba in 1898–1900. The U.S. Army Medical Corps doctors studied the theory by the Cuban doctor Carlos Finlay that the disease was caused by bites of infected Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, a concept which had been ridiculed. The dramas portrayed the soldiers who volunteered to be human "guinea pigs" by allowing themselves to be bitten and contract the deadly disease, for which no cure was then known. (See History of yellow fever.)[4]



Tribute to volunteers

The movie ends with the following tribute to the real volunteers of the Yellow Jack experiment:

Yellow Jack celebrates what these men did, rather than what they were. That their heroism, however, should not go unrecorded, their true names are here given:

  • Robert P. Cooke
  • Levi E. Folk
  • Warren G. Jernegan
  • John R. Kissenger
  • John J. Moran


The play and screenplay were adapted for television by Celanese Theatre (1952) and Producers' Showcase (1955), in episodes titled Yellow Jack.[6][7]

Radio adaptation

Yellow Jack was presented on Philip Morris Playhouse September 5, 1941.[8]


  1. ^ "Yellow Jack (1938)". BFI.
  2. ^ "Yellow Jack – Broadway Play – Original - IBDB".
  3. ^ The Broadway League. "Yellow Jack – Broadway Play – Original | IBDB". Retrieved 2020-07-11.
  4. ^ "Yellow Jack (1938) - George B. Seitz - Synopsis, Characteristics, Moods, Themes and Related". AllMovie.
  5. ^ "How Jimmy Stewart got to be so good". Washington Post. 16 March 1980.
  6. ^ "CTVA US Anthology - "Celanese Theatre" (ABC)(1951-52)".
  7. ^ Roberts, Jerry (5 June 2009). Encyclopedia of Television Film Directors. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 9780810863781 – via Google Books.
  8. ^ "Johnny Presents". Harrisburg Telegraph. September 5, 1941. p. 19. Retrieved July 21, 2015 – via open access

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Yellow Jack
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