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Life Story (film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Life Story
The Race for the Double Helix.jpg
VHS cover art using the alternate U.S. title
Based onThe Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA
by James Watson
Written byWilliam Nicholson
Directed byMick Jackson
StarringJeff Goldblum
Tim Pigott-Smith
Music byPeter Howell
Original languageEnglish
ProducerMick Jackson
CinematographyAndrew Dunn
EditorsRobin Brightwell
Jim Latham
Running time107 minutes
Production companiesA+E Networks
Horizon Films
DistributorStudio Hamburg Enterprises
Picture formatColor
Audio formatMono
Original releaseSeptember 14, 1987 (1987-09-14)

Life Story (known as The Race for the Double Helix in the United States) is a 1987 television historical drama which depicts the progress toward, and the competition for, the discovery of the structure of DNA in the early 1950s.

The film was directed by Mick Jackson for the BBC's Horizon science series, and stars Jeff Goldblum, Tim Pigott-Smith, Juliet Stevenson, and Alan Howard.

It won several awards in the UK and U.S., including the 1988 BAFTA TV Award as the Best Single Drama.


The film tells the story of the rivalries of the two teams of scientists attempting to discover the structure of DNA. Francis Crick and James D. Watson at Cambridge University and Maurice Wilkins and Rosalind Franklin at King's College London. These two teams are also in competition with other scientists in the UK, and with international scientists such as the American Linus Pauling.

The film manages to convey the loneliness and competitiveness of scientific research but also educates the viewer as to how the structure of DNA was discovered. In particular, it explores the tension between the patient, dedicated laboratory work of Franklin and the sometimes uninformed intuitive leaps of Watson and Crick, all played against a background of institutional turf wars, personality conflicts, and sexism.

In the film Watson jokes, plugging the path of intuition: "Blessed are they who believed before there was any evidence." The film also shows why Watson and Crick made their discovery, overtaking their competitors in part by reasoning from genetic function to predict chemical structure, thus helping to establish the then still-nascent field of molecular biology.



The film script was written by William Nicholson, based on James Watson's 1968 memoir The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA. It was produced and directed by Mick Jackson for Horizon, the long-running British documentary television series on BBC Two that covers science and philosophy. The film was produced by the BBC in association with the American A&E network

Original music was composed for the film by Peter Howell of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. The main music theme is the Le Grand Choral by Georges Delerue, first used in the 1973 French film Day for Night directed by Truffaut.

Detailed 1950s-style molecular models were recreated for the film.


In his book What Mad Pursuit, Francis Crick wrote that there were a few inaccuracies, such as portraying Watson as too manic and as always chewing gum, but wrote that overall "it tells a good story at a good pace so that people from all walks of life can enjoy it and absorb some of its lessons. All in all, Life Story must be considered a success. In other hands it could easily have been nothing quite as good."[1]

Video recordings

The film has had a number of VHS and DVD releases, but most have been exclusively for institutional educational use and are held by the libraries of colleges and universities. A VHS in PAL format, with the title Life Story, was produced for the educational market.[2][3] A shortened 90-minute VHS in NTSC format was produced in 1993 by EDDE Entertainment under the title The Race for the Double Helix.[4] In the 2000s, Films for the Humanities & Sciences produced a full-length DVD exclusively for the institutional and educational market, under the title Double Helix.[5][6][7]


  1. ^ What Mad Pursuit: A Personal View of Scientific Discovery by Francis Crick, Penguin, 1990, ISBN 0-14-011973-6
  2. ^ "Life story". 26 January 1987 – via Open WorldCat.
  3. ^ "Life story [videorecording] / by William Nicholson ; a BBC-TV production in association with the Arts and Entertainment Network ; produced and directed by Mick Jackson. - Version details - Trove".
  4. ^ "The Race for the double helix". EDDE Entertainment. 26 January 1993.
  5. ^ "Double Helix". Films Media Group.
  6. ^ "28 Science The Hist".
  7. ^ Formats and Editions of Life story : [double helix] []. OCLC 766069408.

External links

This page was last edited on 31 October 2020, at 22:20
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