While the basic facts presented about Sister Kenny are accurate, by all accounts the story of her "great love," Kevin Connors, was fictitious. Given all she had to go through to get her work taken seriously, it seems silly that Hollywood felt, that as a woman, she had to give up a man in order for her sacrifice to be truly important. But, putting that aside, this is a sensitive and well-acted enactment of work that possibly helped in the efforts to wipe out polio.
Whatever Happened to Polio? and this New York Times article on polio treatment. An FYI - both Alan Alda and Martin Sheen, who contracted polio as children, credit the Kenny Method as the reason they can walk today.
Rosalind Russel is magnificent as Kenny, a role that was a labor of love for her. She became friends with Sister Kenny because of her work with The League for Crippled Children. Russell's youngster, Lance, was unable to walk, and on a visit to Russell's home, Kenny noted a spastic muscle. Lance was admitted to the Kenny Institute in Minneapolis, and left able to walk (TCM article). Sister Kenny was pleased at Rosalind Russell's involvement in the film, and Russell was eager to tell her story. Though the film did not do well financially, it did earn Russell an Oscar nomination (she lost to Olivia de Havilland in To Each His Own). Russell would say of Kenny: " If she hadn't gone stamping through the world, stirring people up, we'd have been a whole lot longer getting the Salk vaccine" (Naomi Rogers. Polio Wars: Sister Kenny and the Golden Age of American Medicine, 2013). One more thing to note: Elizabeth Kenny was not a member of a religious order. In the UK and in Australia, "Sister" is a title given to a nurse manager. It's a term that may disappear, according to this article in The Telegraph.
IMDB). Years later, when Ms. Corby appeared as Grandma Walton on The Waltons, the Kenny Method is used to treat Olivia Walton (Michael Learned) in the first season episode "An Easter Story".
If there is one downside to the film, it is the fact that there are really no grey areas - Elizabeth Kenny is "good" and right, the most of doctors, like Brack are "bad" and wrong. But as this biography of Elizabeth Kenny points out, two years after she established her first clinic in Townsville, more Kenny clinics opened in Brisbane. While the more conservative medical community did not support her, there were physicians who did, and much earlier than we are led to believe in the film. That "deliberate manufacture of emotional blacks and whites" is the main criticism of this New York Times review.
But, to our minds, what the Times saw as a major failing, we see as a quibble. As the story of a notable woman, who dedicated her life to a cause she saw as important, we found this an excellent and moving film. It makes you want to learn more about Sister Kenny and about the cause she was espousing. As time has progressed, her therapeutic methods became the norm; thankfully, in the U.S., her clinics are no longer needed for the treatment of polio victims. Today, the Kenny Clinic still exists, as the Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute, treating people with injuries and disabilities.
We'll leave you with a scene from the film, in which Sister Kenny faces down Dr. Brack.