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Remembering Michael Crichton

November 6th, 2008 by Rebecca Harper Editor

Novelist, screenwriter and director Michael Crichton died of cancer on Tuesday. He was the brains behind the blockbuster hit Jurassic Park, the co-creator of NBC’s hit series ER, and the mastermind behind the classic caper movie The Great Train Robbery, but also a graduate of Harvard Medical School, a researcher at the Salk Institute, and an anthropology tutor at Cambridge University. It only seems natural that much of his work centered on paleontologists and doctors.

As his friend — and Jurassic Park director — Steven Spielberg said, “Michael’s talent out-scaled even his own dinosaurs of Jurassic Park. He was great at blending science with big theatrical concepts, which is what gave credibility to dinosaurs walking the earth. … No one will ever take his place.”

To get a taste of Crichton’s work, Hulu has clips from the dinosaur thrillers Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park III, and the most recent episodes of the hospital drama ER, now in its 15th — and final — season. While Crichton may have only written a few episodes after selling the concept, the medical details, still integral to the show, are surely there because of his involvement.

We also have one of Crichton’s earlier films, The Great Train Robbery, in its entirety. Written and directed by Crichton himself, it’s a fun-loving heist flick starring Sean Connery as the mastermind behind a true-life 1855 train robbery. He’s joined by his safecracker (Donald Sutherland) and a sexy accomplice (Lesley-Anne Down). You can’t help but root for the bad guys in this movie — Connery and Sutherland ensure that — but the movie’s also fun to watch knowing that Connery fell off the moving train while doing his own stunts. Crichton even had a mishap of his own during the filming when his hair caught on fire.

Though some of Crichton’s work was criticized by the scientific community — you can’t clone a dinosaur from DNA found in a mosquito trapped in amber, and his 2004 climate change book State of Fear caused an uproar — even his strongest critics agree that he had a powerful impact on our culture, getting thousands, maybe even millions, more interested in science. That’s a lasting legacy that goes far beyond hit TV shows, movies and books.

Rebecca (),
Editor

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