The strange-but-true story about a fake cure for erectile dysfunction that was made into the 2008 Pope Brock book, “Charlatan: American’s Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam,” will now be made into a movie.
The story behind the movie
Hollywood superstar Matt Damon will produce and star as con man John R. Brinkley, a doctor who hocked a fake treatment for erectile dysfunction in the early 1900s. The “cure” involved surgically implanting goat testicles into men with erectile dysfunction in order to supposedly give him the ability to get and maintain erections.
In 1920, Brinkley began promoting the “cure” for erectile dysfunction, using a newspaper ad to display a photo of “Billy,” the “First Goat-Gland Baby.” It was only by chance that the wife of his first goat gland transplantation baby gave birth.
He soon went from claiming that the surgery cured erectile dysfunction to claiming it cured a wide variety of male ailments.
Brinkley did a direct mail blitz to promote his erectile dysfunction “cure” and hired an advertising rep to further push publicity. He quickly became very rich and was considered a national celebrity.
All the publicity caught the eye of the American Medical Association, which became very suspicious of the so-called cure for erectile dysfunction. The organization sent an undercover agent to Brinkley’s clinic, and immediately confirmed their suspicions. Brinkley was eventually taken down by a doctor named Morris Fishbein, who dedicated his life to exposing medical frauds.
After several deaths occurred from the surgeries, Brinkley was taken to court for malpractice, wrongful death and fraud. The stress led him to die sick and nearly broke.
According to Variety, K Period Media’s Kimberly Steward, who worked with Damon on the Oscar-winning drama “Manchester by the Sea,” will co-produce “Charlatan.”
Brock’s book was also the inspiration for the 2016 Sundance Film Festival documentary, “NUTS!”