VIGIL IN THE NIGHT (1940). Director: George Stevens.
What A. J. Cronin did for doctors in “The Citadel” he apparently did for the nursing profession in his novel “Vigil in the Night,” of which this is an adaptation. Carol Lombard is fine as a dedicated nurse who covers for her immature sister when the latter's negligence leads to the death of a little boy. That sequence sets the very somber tone for this movie, which follows Lombard on her adventures working for an understaffed facility in London, which is ill-equipped to deal with a smallpox epidemic. If one picks apart the plot and script there are all kinds of things that will give one pause, but the movie works perfectly on an emotional level and will be, for some, a five hankie weeper. George Stevens' direction is adroit, and the supporting cast boasts the likes of Brian Aherne as a doctor, a fine Peter Cushing as Lombard's brother-in-law (and former boyfriend), and especially the always-wonderful Ethel Griffies as the peppery woman who heads the nursing staff. Alfred Newman's sensitive scoring also adds immeasurably to the success of the production (although some may find it too intrusive). TCM shows two endings to the film: one was for audiences in Europe, and one for audiences in the United States, downplaying the war overseas. Ironically, the United States soon became embroiled in the European conflict, and Lombard was killed not much later when her plane was shot down during a war bonds tour.
Verdict: four-hankie weepie with fine acting. ***.