Life Imitates Art: A Behind the Scenes Discussion of the Total Artificial Heart and Threshold (1981)

Dr. Bud Frazier Presents the movie Threshold (1981) at the Historic Brown Auditorium Theatre

On September 15, Dr. Bud Frazier opened Season 15 of Movies Houstonians Love at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston (MFAH).

At the Sunday night screening, Dr. Frazier shared his unique connection with the production of the film Threshold (1981)In the movie, Donald Sutherland plays a celebrated heart surgeon who supports the research of an offbeat scientist played by Jeff Goldblum, who is pioneering the invention of an artificial human heart. 

According to Dr. Frazier, the fascinating story behind the ongoing development of the total artificial heart today — nearly four decades after the film was released — is a case where “Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life,” as Oscar Wilde opined in his 1889 essay.

When the movie first released, newspapers reported that it was based directly on Dr. Denton A. Cooley’s career since he was the first doctor to use an artificial heart in a patient whose heart was unrepairable on the operating table. After the film, author and Texas Monthly editor Mimi Swartz moderated a lively discussion about the inspiration for the film and several fascinating themes that parallel the research and development efforts by surgeons and engineers in Houston to build a practical total artificial heart.

Watch the recorded discussion with Dr. Bud Frazier, Threshold producer Michael Burns and Threshold film director Richard Pearce, Dr. Billy Cohn, and surprise guest Daniel Timms, the brilliant engineer behind a promising total artificial heart in development and testing today. 

Visit Movies Houstonians Love Event Photo Album

About Movies Houstonians Love
The Museum of Fine Arts Houston (MFAHannual film series invites notable Houstonians to present a favorite film. An initiative of the MFAH film committee, Movies Houstonians Love introduces new audiences to the year-round film programming offered in the Museum’s Brown Auditorium Theater. Over the years, presenters have included luminaries such as ballet stars, musicians former First Ladies, sports stars, fashion designers, restauranteurs, filmmakers, radio hosts and every Houston mayor since its launch.

About Texas Heart Institute
The Texas Heart Institute (THI), founded by world-renowned cardiovascular surgeon Dr. Denton A. Cooley in 1962, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing the devastating toll of cardiovascular disease through innovative and progressive programs in research, education and improved patient care. More information about THI (@Texas_Heart).