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Something the Lord Made

4.8 out of 5 stars 671 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Something the Lord Made (DVD)

(Drama) Something the Lord Made tells the emotional true story of two men who defied the rules of their time to launch a medical revolution, set against the backdrop of the Jim Crow south. Working in 1940s Baltimore on an unprecedented technique for performing heart surgery on "blue babies," Dr. Alfred Blalock (Alan Rickman) and lab technician Vivien Thomas (Mos Def) form an impressive team. As Blalock and Thomas invent a new field of medicine, saving thousands of lives in the process, social pressures threaten to undermine their collaboration and tear their friendship apart.


Something the Lord Made recounts the relationship between Dr. Alfred Blalock (Alan Rickman) and Vivian Thomas (Mos Def). It begins in 1930s Nashville when imperious cardiac surgeon Blalock hires Thomas, an African American carpenter, as his janitor. When the latter reveals a passion for medicine and facility with surgical instruments, Blalock promotes him to lab tech. Thomas isn't given a raise, works side jobs to make ends meet, and is expected to be grateful. Along the way, he follows Blalock from Vanderbilt to Johns Hopkins, where they save thousands of lives through their pioneering work, but will Thomas ever get any credit? The film provides a satisfying answer to that question. Joseph Sargent (A Lesson Before Dying) directs with subtlety and intelligence, while Rickman and Mos Def are in top form, often underplaying where most actors would do otherwise. Something the Lord Made won the 2004 Emmy for outstanding made-for-TV movie. --Kathleen C. Fennessy

Special Features

Audio commentary with director Joseph Sargent, writer Peter Silverman, executive directors Eric Hetzel and Joseph W. Cort Featurette Making History Slide Show
Making History Slide Show

Product Details

  • Actors: Alan Rickman, Mos Def, Kyra Sedgwick, Gabrielle Union, Merritt Wever
  • Directors: Joseph Sargent
  • Writers: Peter Silverman, Robert Caswell
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround), English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: HBO Studios
  • DVD Release Date: January 16, 2007
  • Run Time: 117 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (671 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00067BCBI
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,510 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Something the Lord Made" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Alan Rickman and Mos Def give superb performances in this wonderfully-written film about the triumph of intelligence and creativity over the effects of racial prejudice.

"Something The Lord Made" is the real-life story of Dr. Alfred Blalock and technician (later Dr.) Vivian Thomas, both of whom pioneered open-heart surgery in America in the mid-twentieth century.

Rickman, as Blalock, gives a flawless, charismatic portrayal of an egotistical surgeon who gains nobility of spirit while he defies (and yet is simultaneously confined by) the customs of his society. Rickman's performance is all the more impressive because he is British, and Blalock was an American from the south; nevertheless, Rickman's southern accent is natural and effortless.

Rickman brings likability and humanity to what could otherwise be an unsympathetic character; and this core humanity gives "Something The Lord Made" a depth not often seen in tales of bigotry within American society. Too often, tales of this sort delineate the bad guys from the good guys in an almost cartoonish fashion, but Rickman's Blalock is both good and bad, reflecting more accurately the reality of the times in which both characters lived.

Mos Def gives a subtle, moving and sympathetic performance as Vivian Thomas, a gifted man who is caught in the trap of prejudice and the expectations of an unenlighted society. The film clearly demonstrates that Thomas is the intellectual peer of Blalock; it is society and circumstance that for years robs Thomas of the practical opportunity to become Blalock's actual peer in terms of status. Def gives us the portrait of a man who chooses patience over reaction; through him, we feel outrage at the denial of the respect due Thomas, time and again.
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For once, they got it right, offering a glimpse into the drama/suspsense of the early days in heart surgery, as well as giving a revealing look at two pioneering figures in the field - one well-known (the white doctor) and the other an unsung hero (his afro-american lab assitant). Neither saccharine or unrealistic, the film offers an unflinching look at both the genius and unbridled ambition of Dr. Blalock while countering it with the steadfast loyalty and dedication of his assistant, Vivien Taylor, destined to live in the doctor's shadow for much of his life. This is one I am adding to my personal collection. It is simply that outstanding.
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I love this movie for two reasons. The first because, I myself had a right sided Blalock-Taussig shunt operation performed on me back in July of 1972, when I was about 16 months old. This allowed me the strength and oxygen needed to stick around until Nov. of 1976, when a complete repair of my tetralogy of Fallot complex was carried out.

Seeing the history and background of this operation hit me, as you may imagine, on a very personal and emotional level. It's also a little humbling to know that, basically, ALL open-heart surgery performed today, saving so many lives, is related to the surgery designed fix the condition; I came into this world with. Thereby, breaking the convention of not messing with the heart.

Thing is, I had thought this movie had a great impact on my emotions, which it did. But, that was nothing compared to watching this movie with my mother. Whenever the focus was on blue babies in particular, she about fell apart. While she was interested in the truths and history portrayed in this film, she was unable to complete watching the film. The names, the symptoms and the babies, just rang to true and real for her to handle.

So, I guess I would caution parents of a child that has had to go through this that, you may want to think twice about watching this movie. I would however, recommend that if said child is old enough to understand, you should buy them a copy of this movie. I think I will help them understand what a wonderful gift they have been given.

The second reason is because, of the historical value of this film. They way people treated each other then was just so... While better today, I still think there is a ways to go.
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5 Comments 62 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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For me the worst bigots are not the ones who carry shotguns and engage in lynchings. Underneath their hatred is a fear born from knowing in the marrow of their bones that they are not as good as the people they are oppressing and that on an equal playing field they will be the ones who end up on the bottom. I am always outraged more by those bigots whose racism is embodied in what they say and how they say it, as well as by the gestures they demand to keep Jim Crow in place despite the evidence of their eyes and the assumption what they see actually gets into their brains. In "Something the Lord Made," there is a moment where a white doctor at the most prestigious hospital in the country makes a point of leaving his office and go into a laboratory just to have a black man fetch food and drink. I look at such a man and wonder what he is thinking, knowing that whatever it is, it is just not right.

Racism is the subtext of "Something the Lord Made," an HBO movie that dramatizes the story first told in the "American Experience" documentary "Partners of the Heart." This is the story of Dr. Alfred Blalock, who pioneered cardiac surgery in 1944 when he and Dr. Helen Taussig developed the Blalock-Taussig technique, a surgical procedure that repaired the faulty blood vessel in the hearts of babies that was causing a lack of oxygen. This fatal birth defect turned babies a light shade of blue, resulting in their being commonly called "blue babies" (Fallot's tetralogy). The story of "Something the Lord Made" is about not only this pioneering medical work, but also the relationship between Blalock and Vivien Thomas, a lab technician. Blalock (Alan Rickman) is white and Thomas is black (Mos Def), which is why racism keeps rearing its head throughout the tale.
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