Saturday, June 6, 2015

Night Nurse (1931)

Young Lorna Hart (Barbara Stanwyck) wants ever so much to be a nurse, but without the proper degree (high school) she isn't qualified. But bumping into a chief surgeon on the way out appears to have solved all that. She is paired by sassy blond Maloney (sassy blond Joan Blondell) who shows her the ropes. At the midpoint of the film, Lorna gets a private gig and the drama begins. She is taking care of two young girls who are ever so sorry they have been such a bother and promise to be good, really they do! They are slowly dying of starvation and the twitchy attending physician and the cruel chauffeur Nick (Clark Gable) seem to like it that way.

Classified pre-code mostly because Stanwyck and Blondell have occasion to undress to reveal their overly complicated undergarments. In one scene they share a bunk for no clear reason, then suddenly shiver inexplicably as if cold. While a bootlegger is a protagonist, this is during the great social experiment, and drunkenness must shown in a definitely negative light. One character exclaims that she's a dipsomaniac and she likes it. Dipsomaniac is an old fashioned word for alcoholic but I suspect filmmakers wanted us to think she was saying nymphomaniac, which also fits.

James Cagney was suddenly a big star so he turned down the role of Nick, allowing nobody Gable to take it. I like the jargon thrown in there in an attempt to make it sound credible, like "Have you tried the Murphy drip?" There are nice elements like the point of view shot from an ambulance at the beginning, and it holds your interest, but otherwise Night Nurse is standard fare for it's time. AMRU 3.
"Says me in a big way, sister"

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