Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Tonight's Movie: Registered Nurse (1934)

We first meet Sylvia Benton (Bebe Daniels) being humiliated at a Connecticut country club by her drunken lout of a husband (Gordon Westcott). After a violent end to their relationship, Sylvia moves to New York, where she applies at a hospital to resume her profession as a REGISTERED NURSE.

REGISTERED NURSE is 63 minutes of pre-Code melodrama, released just a couple months before the Production Code took effect in July 1934. Hospitals seem to be right up there with department stores as favorite pre-Code settings, and the film depicts a calvalcade of emergency cases, fights, surgeries, and shocking deaths, all handled by the chain-smoking doctors and nurses on duty.

The hospital is also a hotbed of romance, and Sylvia is courted by two doctors, playboy Greg (Lyle Talbot) and much-older Dr. Hedwig (John Halliday).

Despite all this action, it's not an especially good film. Daniels is sympathetic and it's watchable enough, but the constant romantic machinations of the nurses -- who would put the team on GREY'S ANATOMY to shame -- and the string of obnoxious patients just aren't that interesting. And when I saw who Sylvia ended up with in the final scene, I could only exclaim, as they would say on GREY'S, "Seriously?!"

The film's chief fascination from the modern viewpoint might be the massive amount of smoking going on inside the hospital -- a running joke is characters lighting a match on a "No Smoking" sign -- with nary a care for the state of their lungs or the presence of oxygen tanks.

The film is also of some value as an example of the hard-edged Warner Bros. style. Otherwise, well, at least it's a quick movie!

The supporting cast includes Minna Gombell, Sidney Toler, Edward Gargan, Beulah Bondi, Mayo Methot, and Louise Beavers.

Does anyone else think there is a resemblance between Bebe Daniels and Bebe Neuwirth? I find that interesting since they share a fairly unusual first name.

REGISTERED NURSE was directed by Robert Florey.

This film can be seen on Turner Classic Movies. It has a typically racy pre-Code trailer, advertising "Every scene is a shock" and "It will run your temperature up to 105," capped with a final card from "The Management" exclaiming "This picture is NOT for people with weak hearts." I'm afraid it's not quite as exciting as advertised!

Update: This movie is now available on DVD from the Warner Archive.


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