Topics » Health   Feb. 22, 2012

Are Oscars Nominees' Health Plots Accurate or Malpractice?

'The Artist'

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Photo: The Weinstein Company

'The Artist''The Descendants''Extremely Loud''War Horse''Midnight in Paris''Jane Eyre''The Help''A Cat in Paris''Hugo''The Iron Lady'

'The Artist'

Dr. Howard Markel assesses the accuracy of the health themes explored in some of the 2012 Oscar nominees.

In "The Artist," Markel says: "We find a decidedly accurate case of carbon monoxide poisoning. George Valentin, the down-on-his-heels film icon, is bereft and broke. With the coming of 'talkies,' no studio will hire him. Drunk and depressed in his squalid apartment, an enraged Valentin burns his films.

"In the 1920s, film stock was composed of nitrate cellulose, which is highly flammable and smoky when exposed to fire. The fire rages, smoke fills the room and George passes out, less from burns than from inhaling carbon monoxide produced by the burning film. The victim typically becomes lightheaded, confused and eventually passes out. With large doses, one simply asphyxiates. In true Hollywood fashion, his faithful dog escapes, hails a policeman and George is saved in the nick of time, so that he can proceed to the film's happy ending."

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Photo Essay