Sunday, August 24, 2008
The Night Nurse (1931)
The Night Nurse might be the quintessential pre-code film. It was made at Warner Brothers a studio that in the early thirties had the reputation of being the poor cynical younger brother of MGM, and not quite so down and out as Columbia. It's got sex, violence, a worldly wise view of morality and Barbara Stanwyck and Clark Gable before they became screen legends. It was also directed by the great William Wellman (Wings, The Public Enemy) who keeps thing everything hopping at a lively pace and gives us some camera acrobatics, in the form of an Ambulance eye view of the city streets. Barbara Stanwyck plays Laura Hart, a young idealistic nurse who tries to play by the rules. Her best friend, the more worldy Maloney, (Joan Blondell), rolls her eyes through her Florence Nightengale pledge and does her best to keep Laura out of grasp of the interns who regard the stable of nurses at a teaching hospital as their private property. One night in the emergency room, Laura patches up a bootlegger (Ben Lyon) with a gunshot wound and "forgets" to the proper paperwork. Taking this risk she earns his undying gratitude and love, a connection which will continually save her bacon as she gets mixed up in a murder scheme to rob two little heiresses and their mother. Clark Gable plays Nick, the Chauffer, and chief villain. Gable is threatening force, looking a tad like a Nazi in his shiny boots and chauffer's jodpurs. He's wastes no time in roughing up Laura when she threatens to expose his scheme. I'm glad didn't wind up playing villains in films, but it's interesting to see that he could do that job just as well as the lovable rogue who floutes the rules and saves day.