Monday, July 21, 2014

Tonight's Movie: The Girl in White (1952) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

June Allyson stars as THE GIRL IN WHITE (1952), an interesting new release from the Warner Archive.

THE GIRL IN WHITE is a fact-based story inspired by a memoir by Emily Dunning Barringer, BOWERY TO BELLEVUE: THE STORY OF NEW YORK'S FIRST WOMAN AMBULANCE SURGEON.

Emily Dunning (Allyson) is inspired by Dr. Marie Yeomans (Mildred Dunnock), who tends to Emily's pregnant mother when she collapses. Emily is determined to follow in Dr. Yeomans' footsteps and succeeds in graduating medical school at a time with a woman doctor was a rarity.

Emily must then battle to become the first woman intern at a New York City hospital, and once she lands the position, she must cope with the prejudices of her male colleagues, particularly hospital head Dr. Seth Pawling (Gary Merrill).

Emily also struggles to balance her deep desire for a medical career with her love for fellow doctor Ben Barringer (Arthur Kennedy).

It's interesting to note that this is the Warner Archive's second release of recent weeks about a pioneering woman doctor, following Greer Garson's STRANGE LADY IN TOWN (1955). THE GIRL IN WHITE is an absorbing drama which held my interest for all of its 92 minutes.

One of the things I liked about the movie was its low-key attitude. (Leonard Maltin termed it "humdrum" in a shortsighted review.) There are no huge, earth-shattering medical sequences or sudden revelations; it's simply about people putting their heads down and working hard, then having quiet realizations, whether it's Dr. Pawling admitting the woman doctor has unexpected gifts or Dr. Dunning realizing there is more to her life than medicine. The film thus has a naturalness and believability that it might have lacked had it gone for the big dramatic moments.

June Allyson does a fine job as an intelligent and determined woman who won't let jerks like senior intern Dr. Graham (Gar Moore) stand in the way of her medical career. She succeeds not by battling him but by simply working hard and demonstrating she has what it takes, living out "nothing succeeds like success"! That includes not giving up on a patient when Dr. Graham can't be bothered.

Arthur Kennedy is appealing as the doctor with an interest in research as well as in his lovely colleague. I particularly liked Gary Merrill who makes a potential jerk multi-dimensional; he plays the role with a persuasive authority. Mildred Dunnock is also fine as Dr. Yeomans, a rather frail-looking lady of great inner strength, whose worked helped pave the way for women such as Dr. Dunning.

Herbert Anderson (DENNIS THE MENACE) is one of the interns, with Jesse White (the Maytag Man) a sympathetic ambulance driver. James Arness is particularly notable as one of Dr. Dunning's grateful patients. Look for Ned Glass in a small role as an anatomy professor.

THE GIRL IN WHITE was directed by John Sturges. I've enjoyed numerous films directed by Sturges, a very fine director; he had previously directed June Allyson in RIGHT CROSS (1950).

The movie was shot in black and white by Paul Vogel. The score was by David Raksin.

There are no extras on the DVD. THE GIRL IN WHITE is a well-made, entertaining film which is recommended.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered at the Warner Archive website.

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