Sunday, September 13, 2015

Tonight's Movie: The White Angel (1936) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Kay Francis stars as THE WHITE ANGEL (1936), Florence Nightingale, in a well-done Warner Bros. biography which was just released by the Warner Archive.

It's 1850s England, and Florence is being courted by handsome Charles Cooper (Donald Woods). However, Florence disdains the idea of caring for a home and family of her own, feeling she has a greater calling. She travels to Germany for training in nursing, then struggles to be accepted in England as a professional nurse. Ultimately, she wins approval to serve the army in the Crimean War.

Florence and her nurses clean the filthy hospital and revolutionize patient care. She has increasing support, thanks in part to articles by newsman Fuller (Ian Hunter) of the Times, but Dr. Hunt (Donald Crisp), the head of army doctors, tries to thwart Florence's work at every turn. He believes that the care of women and better conditions will make the soldiers soft!

One typically thinks of Kay Francis in glamorous gowns by Orry-Kelly, and while he did indeed design gowns for the opening scenes, for most of the movie Kay is dressed in plain nursing garb. She's surprisingly effective as the successful but increasingly worn down "Lady With the Lamp," who has but one mission in life, aiding the injured. It's her movie all the way, and she's in a majority of the scenes. It's a compelling performance which I enjoyed watching.

The fine supporting cast also includes Henry Daniell, George Curzon, Phoebe Foster, Charles Croker-King, Montagu Love, Halliwell Hobbes, and Billy Mauch.

THE WHITE ANGEL was directed by William Dieterle and filmed in black and white by Tony Gaudio. The screenplay by Mordaunt Shairp is based on various sources, including Longfellow's poem THE LADY WITH THE LAMP. The movie runs 92 well-paced minutes.

Other notable screen versions of Florence Nightingale's story are THE LADY WITH THE LAMP (1951), starring Anna Neagle, and FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE (1985), a TV-movie with Jaclyn Smith which I remember as being quite good.

THE WHITE ANGEL is an excellent print. The Warner Archive disc includes the trailer.

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 from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop.


Blogger KC said...

I had a hard time picking which Francis flicks to write about. They all intrigued me! It looks like I'm going to have to take a look at this one--the one I didn't pick :-)

9:04 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Definitely all interesting titles -- I chose films I'd not seen before. I'd love to know what you think if you get a chance to review this one!

Best wishes,

9:22 AM  

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