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

Thursday, August 30, 2012


NIGHT NURSE (1931). Director: William A. Wellman.

"For a beginner, you're not doin' so bad."

Lora Hart (Barbara Stanwyck) wants to be a nurse more than anything, but after initial discouragement is accepted as a probationer in a hospital. Upon graduation, she is assigned to be a nurse to two little girls with serious health issues, as well as a seriously alcoholic and uncaring mother (Charlotte Merriam) -- "I'm a dipsomaniac and I'm proud of it!" she screams. Worse still is the sinister doctor in charge (Ralf Harolde), who seems to be conspiring with, of all people, the chauffeur, Nick (Clark Gable in a small but vital role). A strong, forthright and entirely admirable person, Lora goes to the head of the hospital, Dr. Bell (Charles Winninger), but discovers that "ethics" prevent him from interfering despite the danger to the children. Stanwyck gives another impressive performance as Lora, and has some terrific scenes when, concerned about the little girls, confronts both doctors and especially the deplorable mother, going so far as to knock the woman to the ground! Joan Blondell is her customary good self as another saucy nurse, Gable is swell, and there are good supporting performances from Winninger, Merriam, Harolde, Blanche Frederici as a housekeeper, Vera Lewis as the mostly grim superintendent of nurses, and Ben Lyon as the bootlegger and romantic interest, Mortie. [One can't help but wonder why Lora doesn't just pack up those kids and take them to the nearest emergency room instead of giving one of them a milk bath!]

Verdict: A little absurd but entertaining. ***.

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