Dr. Frederick Banting in Film

Take a look at how the discoverer of insulin is portrayed on the silver screen.



While many researchers have toiled to discover breakthroughs in Type 1 diabetes care, none are more celebrated than Dr. Frederick Banting, the man credited with discovering insulin. Any good medical discovery deserves the Hollywood treatment, and there have been a few efforts to capture Dr. Banting’s life on screen. Here are a few we’ve uncovered. Click on the pictures to see the video clips:

The Quest (1959)

The_Quest_300pxThis short film looks like it was designed for viewing in school. It’s an extremely earnest take on Dr. Banting’s work, and the acting is overwrought. Montreal actor Leo Ciceri plays Dr. Banting as an intelligent visionary who works in difficult conditions, and he does a great job mimicking the man we see in the photos. Dr. Banting’s disbelieving colleague, Dr. John Macleod, ends up looking like a pompous ass, while Banting’s assistant, Charlie Best, looks and acts like Jimmy Olsen from Superman mythology.

Glory Enough for All (1988)

Glory_Enough_For_All_300pxIf you’d rather have your Dr. Frederick Banting not be so saintly, catch passages of this two-part Masterpiece Theatre miniseries on Youtube. No great discovery was without struggle and self-doubt, and the Banting portrayed by R.H. Thomson in this dramatization has both in spades. If you watch the clip we’ve provided, you see Dr. Banting take Charlie Best to task for sloppy lab conditions, and he even challenges the hapless Best to a fistfight. The story helps dramatize the need for insulin by examining the terror of an insulin-less world through the eyes of a girl with diabetes, Elizabeth Hughes.

Above and Beyond (2006)

Above_and_Beyond_300pxMany think Dr. Banting’s adventures ended with the discovery of insulin, but his death while serving in WWII says otherwise. Dr. Banting is not the star of Above and Beyond, a CBC 4-part miniseries about a mission to ferry planes from Canada to England, but he does have a central role. He was on route to help a colleague test the physiological effects of a new flight suit when his plane went down, and he later died from his wounds. Banting may have a small role, but he brings the relative star power to this production, as he is portrayed by 90210 alum Jason Priestly. You can order this series online through Amazon, but you can check out a short clip here (Banting’s the one in the hat and spectacles in the plane). You might need to turn up the volume, however, as there are sound issues on this site.

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Craig Idlebrook is a past editor for Insulin Nation, Type 2 Nation, and Información Sobre Diabetes. He is now the community engagement and content manager for T1D Exchange.