Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Tonight's Movie: Between Two Women (1937)

BETWEEN TWO WOMEN was just what the doctor ordered after a long day's work: a somewhat silly but always highly entertaining hospital soap opera starring the trio of Franchot Tone, Maureen O'Sullivan, and Virginia Bruce.

Watching the movie was also a nice way to mark the centennial of O'Sullivan's birth this week. She was born in Ireland on May 17, 1911. Miss O'Sullivan's fans should be sure to visit the official website Farrow-O'

In BETWEEN TWO WOMEN Tone plays Allan Meighan, an earnest young doctor at General Hospital. Sweet Nurse Claire Donahue (O'Sullivan) pines after Dr. Meighan from afar, but alas, she's married to Tom (Anthony Nace), a drunk who slaps her around.

Dr. Meighan performs an emergency appendectomy on high society girl Patricia Sloan (Bruce), who falls for him. Patricia persuades Dr. Meighan to marry her, despite his warning her about life as the wife of a doctor in training. After marrying Alan in haste, Patricia repents at leisure, quickly tiring of Alan constantly responding to medical calls while she waits in the small but charming little home that fits his salary.

There's drama aplenty, including amputations, a train wreck, a doctor drinking on duty, and one doctor knocking another out cold in the O.R. Good times! These were also the days when a patient could drink champagne in her hospital room, and her physician was only too happy to light up cigarettes.

At one point half of Patricia's face is horribly scarred; it's eventually fixed by miraculous plastic surgery, but before that time she takes to wearing a hat indoors, with a veil covering the bad side of her face. I suspect the hat was designed by Adrian, who created Bruce's gowns.

The story was by writer-director-actor Eric von Stroheim, of all people. It's a bit over the top at times, but it's played with sincerity by the leads. Tone and O'Sullivan are both appealing as the idealistic doctor and nurse who clearly are meant to be together.

Bruce is effective as the woman who is attractive on the outside but not nearly so nice on the inside. Bruce was a regular in hospital dramas of the era, also starring in SOCIETY DOCTOR (1935) and WIFE, DOCTOR AND NURSE (1937), which cover some of the same territory -- nurses pining after doctors, doctors pining after nurses, wives who fear they can't compete with nurses, and so on.

Like most movie hospitals of the '30s, General Hospital has a sassy telephone operator; in this case it's Sally, played by Helen Troy. Janet Beecher plays the rules-quoting Supervisor of Nursing whose strict exterior masks a heart of gold. Charley Grapewin (later Uncle Henry in THE WIZARD OF OZ) plays Dr. Webster, Alan's mentor. Leonard Penn is a rich, amputation-happy doctor who drinks on the job. June Clayworth plays one of Patricia's society friends. Watch closely for Dennis O'Keefe as another of Patricia's circle.

BETWEEN TWO WOMEN was directed by George B. Seitz. It was filmed in black and white by John Seitz, no relation to the director. The film runs 88 minutes.

BETWEEN TWO WOMEN has not had a release on VHS or DVD, but it can be seen on Turner Classic Movies.


Blogger Kevin Deany said...

Darn. I meant to tape this and completely forgot. Oh well, hopefully TCM will run it again.

Didn't know about the von Stroheim connection. Very interesting. Now I wish I had recorded it.

8:00 AM  

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