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Film / And the Band Played On

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A 1993 Made-for-TV Movie produced by HBO, about a group of epidemiologists investigating the spread of AIDS in the 1980s. Matthew Modine heads an All-Star Cast including Alan Alda, Phil Collins, Richard Gere, Anjelica Huston, Steve Martin, Ian McKellen, and Lily Tomlin.

It explores the multitude of topics that the spread of AIDS brought to the fore: most notably, the gay community and homophobia. It is something of a Tear Jerker. Based on a book of the same name written by Randy Shilts, a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle.

And the Band Played On provides examples of:

  • Adam Westing: Alan Alda as a jerk doctor.
  • Age Lift: The real Bill Kraus died aged 38. While Ian McKellen looks quite good for his age at that time (54) he definitely looks older than Bill Kraus ever was.
  • All Gays are Promiscuous: The airline steward. Almost borders on Depraved Homosexual, were it not for the fact that — according to all accounts — Gaetan Dugas really was as uncaring and promiscuous as he is portrayed to be in this film.
  • Arc Words: "What do we know, What do we suspect, What can we prove?"
    • "Gay Cancer."
  • Armor-Piercing Question: "How many dead hemophiliacs do you need?"
  • Batman Cold Open: The film opens with Don Francis dealing with an Ebola outbreak in The Congo.
  • Body Horror: The New York patient with the Rubik's Cube.
  • Book Ends: The film begins and ends with Don Francis holding the hand of a dying person.
  • Brainy Brunette: Both advocate Selma Dritz and researcher Mary Guinan.
  • Club Kid: Or more accurately, bathhouse kid.
  • Could Say It, But...: Mathilde Krim (the unnamed woman at the press conference) notes that Gallo's virus is almost completely identical to the one the Pasteur Institute isolated. She then goes on to say that it would only possible if they had a sample taken from the same patient, but doesn't say how that would have happened. The book details it, implying that Jacques Leibowitch, a doctor who worked with the scientists early on but was denied a job at the Pasteur Institute (thus having a grudge), brought the sample to Gallo's laboratory.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Some of the French scientists at times.
    "That's all Americans think about—sex, sex, sex."
  • Downer Ending: Truth in Television
  • "Eureka!" Moment: Francis gets a new idea about how the disease works... by watching a game of Pac-Man.
  • Even the Guys Want Him: The steward, naturally.
  • For Doom the Bell Tolls: Some of the appropriately dour and foreboding background music by composer Carter Burwell.
  • Fag Hag: Selma Dritz. Apparently Truth in Television.
  • Film of the Book: Non-fiction book by San Francisco Chronicle journalist Randy Shilts.
  • French Jerk: Inverted by the sensible French scientists at the Pasteur Institute. The American Bob Gallo comes across as far more Jerkassish than them.
    • Plus a Quebecois Jerk example in Gaetan Dugas, the steward. Although this is partly a result of…
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: In recent years, Randy Shilts's editor has admitted that he had encouraged Shilts to turn Gaetan Dugas into a Depraved Homosexual because he felt that the story needed a definitive villain and Dugas was already dead and thus unlikely to sue for defamation of character.
  • Ignored Expert: All of the scientists.
  • Jerkass: Bob Gallo.
  • Lethal Diagnosis: Lots of them.
  • The Medic: All of the scientists, as well.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Homophobic as well.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Ian McKellen approximates an American accent decently well, though it does slip in some of the more emotional moments. He didn't bother approximating the real accent of Bill Kraus, which had a distinctly Midwestern twang. This is probably for the best.
  • Only in It for the Money: The bathhouse owner.
  • The Plague: AIDS.
  • Precision F-Strike: Selma Dritz delivers one.
    Let's cut the crap.
  • Race Lift: Kico is played by Asian American actor B.D. Wong. The real life Kico is Cuban-American.
  • Really Gets Around: Gaetan Dugas, the steward.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Don Francis, in the end, with the transfer to San Francisco. Although some of the other scientists and doctors portrayed in the film as well as the book came out pretty well (Mary Guinan advanced to be assistant director of the CDC; Mervyn Silverman redeemed himself by becoming the longtime president of the American Foundation for AIDS Research) others found themselves on the wrong end of politics (Don Francis, who retired from the CDC in 1992; Marcus Conant, who was forced out of his professorship at the University of California and returned to a strictly private practice in dermatology) and ended up either reassigned, demoted, Kicked Upstairs, or otherwise forced out of their jobs.
  • Science Is Bad: Inverted. The scientists are portrayed the most sympathetically of anyone.
  • Shirtless Scene: The steward.
  • Smoking Is Cool: Also the steward.
  • Straight Gay
  • The Big Board: The "butcher's bill" chalkboard at the CDC listing the number of US AIDS cases and deaths.
  • Tragic AIDS Story
  • Truth in Television: A tragic Real Life example. From the CDC being underfunded to the bitter rivalry between Dr. Gallo and the Pasteur Institute. The whole thing is just Harsher in Hindsight - The Movie. (Making it worse would be Gallo repeating the Soviet propaganda that the CIA created AIDS in the 2010s and claiming responsibility for that.) invoked
  • Typhoid Mary: Gaetan Dugas, the steward.
  • The Virus: What would later be named HIV. The entire movie focuses on its discovery.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue
  • Yaoi Fangirl: Selma Dritz.
  • Your Days Are Numbered: Bill Kraus notices a lesion on his ankle and realizes it is Kaposi's sarcoma.