Saturday, May 01, 2010

Tonight's Movie: Internes Can't Take Money (1937)

INTERNES CAN'T TAKE MONEY is a crackerjack little movie with Joel McCrea playing the very first screen incarnation of Dr. Kildare. Hard-working intern Dr. Kildare is attracted to a crook's widow (Barbara Stanwyck) who is looking for her missing little girl.

This film is extremely well produced and maintains a quick pace from the very first shot of an ambulance careening through the streets. We first meet Dr. Kildare working in a free hospital clinic; the hospital, incidentally, is an art deco marvel.

One of Kildare's colleagues (Lee Bowman) is dismissed from his internship for breaking rules, which serves to point out to the viewer exactly what Dr. Kildare will later risk when he breaks rules himself, on multiple occasions.

Janet (Stanwyck) meets Dr. Kildare when she comes to the clinic for a burn; she's also suffering from exhaustion and malnourishment. Unbeknownst to Dr. Kildare, Janet has just been released from jail, where she was sent after her bank robber ex-husband died on her doorstep, thus implicating her in his crime.

Janet had actually left her husband when she discovered he was a criminal, but he kidnapped their baby to make sure Janet wouldn't send him to jail. Now all Janet wants in the world is to find her daughter, and the one man who knows where the little girl is is the creepy, popcorn-obsessed mobster Dan Innes (Stanley Ridges).

Some of the plot developments may be improbable, such as Dr. Kildare conducting not one but two career-threatening "off the record" surgeries, but it nonetheless makes for fun entertainment. McCrea is fine as the earnest doctor, and Stanwyck is touching as the desperate young mother.

Lloyd Nolan is tops as Hanlon, another mobster who ends up owing Dr. Kildare a big favor, since "internes can't take money." The way Hanlon pays off is not unexpected, but it's still a delight to watch. Nolan is great fun, whether he's initially hurt by the doctor's refusal to take his money or barking out orders to his troops.

Ridges also makes quite an impression as the mobster who obviously has just one thing on his mind he wants from Janet in return for her child. The screenwriters skirted around code restrictions quite cleverly to make his intentions clear. The film is a great example of less being more; a good script doesn't need to hit viewers between the eyes in order to make a point. It would be nice if modern filmmakers grasped this concept.

Fay Holden, who began her long-running stint as Andy Hardy's mother at MGM later in 1937, is sympathetic as Mother Teresa, the head of an orphanage. I also loved good old Charles Lane as Innes's cranky butler. This was one of 16 films Lane appeared in which were released in 1937. Among his other films that year were the classics IN OLD CHICAGO and NOTHING SACRED.

The cast also includes Irving Bacon, Stanley Macollum, Gaylord Pendleton, and Anthony Nace.

The film was directed with style and energy by Alfred Santell. It runs 78 minutes.

The movie was made by Paramount Studios, based on a character created by Max Brand. The next year Brand's Dr. Kildare set up shop at MGM, with YOUNG DR. KILDARE (1938) being the start of a long-running series. Lew Ayres played the title role. In 1944 Kildare's creator, Max Brand, was killed in Italy while serving as a war correspondent.

INTERNES CAN'T TAKE MONEY was just released on DVD in a beautiful print as part of the Barbara Stanwyck Collection.

It's also had a release on video.

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