The Elephant Man (film)

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The Elephant Man is a 1980 American drama film based on the true story of Joseph Merrick (called John Merrick in the film), a severely deformed man in 19th century London. The film was directed by David Lynch and stars John Hurt, Anthony Hopkins, Anne Bancroft, John Gielgud, Wendy Hiller, Michael Elphick, Hannah Gordon, and Freddie Jones.

The screenplay was adapted by Lynch, Christopher De Vore, and Eric Bergren from the books The Elephant Man and Other Reminiscences (1923) by Sir Frederick Treves and The Elephant Man: A Study in Human Dignity by Ashley Montagu. It was shot in black-and-white.

The Elephant Man was recognized as a critical and commercial success, and received eight Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture in 1981.

Contents

Plot

Frederick Treves (Anthony Hopkins), a surgeon at the London Hospital, discovers John Merrick (John Hurt) in a Victorian freak show in London's East End, where he is managed by the brutish Bytes (Freddie Jones). Merrick is so deformed that he must wear a hood and cape when in public. Bytes further claims that his "exhibit" is an imbecile. Treves is professionally intrigued by Merrick's condition and pays Bytes to bring him to the London Hospital so that he can examine him. He then presents a lecture to his colleagues on Merrick's disability, dispassionately displaying him as a prize physiological curiosity. Treves draws attention to the oversized deformities of Merrick's skull; it is his most obvious disability and (as he was so informed by Bytes) also the most life-threatening, as he is compelled to sleep sitting with his head resting upon his knees, as the weight of his skull would asphyxiate him if he were to ever lie down. On Merrick's return, Bytes beats him so severely that a sympathetic apprentice (Dexter Fletcher) alerts Treves, who attempts to take him back to the hospital. Bytes confronts Treves, accusing him of likewise exploiting Merrick for his own ends, which leads the surgeon to resolve to do what he can to help the unfortunate man.

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