Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Friday, June 6, 2008


MARY STEVENS M.D. (1933). Director: Lloyd Bacon.

Mary Stevens (Kay Francis, pictured) and Don Andrews (Lyle Talbot) are life-long friends who both become doctors and set up practice together. Mary has long been carrying a torch for Don, but he marries a wealthy gal for career reasons and makes quite a few dumb and immoral mistakes. Smart women, foolish choices -- Mary still hankers for him and winds up pregnant. The scene in this pre-code film when she joyfully announces that she's carrying his baby would have certainly had a different, "sinful" tone in later years; this matter-of-fact approach is absolutely refreshing. But there are more trials and tribulations for our Mary, including cases of infantile paralysis when she's returning from Europe. This is a very entertaining, snappy comedy-drama with an interesting heroine who lives by her own rules. Francis is good in the role, although she's not quite up to the more challenging and tragic sequences. Talbot gives one of his better performances. Glenda Farrell nearly steals the picture as Mary's delightful friend and nurse-assistant, also named Glenda. Instead of Farrell's more typically brash and obnoxious portrayals which she used when she played reporters, in this she's much more likable and appealing. Thelma Todd appears briefly as Don's wife, and Una O'Connor is more subdued for a change as a mother worrying over her very sick daughters on shipboard. Too fast-paced to give you time to think about its flaws or improbabilities.

Verdict: Dig in! ***.

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