Yellow Jack is a 1938 film released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer based on the 1934 play Yellow Jack. 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).
The 1934 play co-starred James Stewart and Sam Levene. 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.)
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