Sunday, May 4, 2008


NIGHT NURSE (1931, directed by William A. Wellman) is a wacky pre-code melodrama about a very determined young lady named Lora Hart (played by a very young Barbara Stanwyck) who wanders in off the street into a hospital and asks for a job. An bitchy old nurse named "Miss Dillon" (I'll call her "Dildo") tells her to take hike. As luck would have it, Lora literally bumps into the hospital's chief of staff, Dr. Bell in a revolving door and he takes a shine to her, after he picks up the entire contents of her purse, he orders Dildo to hire her. Dildo assigns Lora to share a room with perky Miss Maloney (Joan Blondell), who first helps her undress and try on a nurse's uniform. The two quickly become best friends...and possibly more. Maloney seems to like spending time getting Hart into her underwear, and when some prankish interns hide a skeleton in Lora's bed, she readily climbs into Maloney's and snuggles up to her. After Dildo punishes the girls with assigning them to the night shift, Lora treats a bootlegger for a gunshot wound and he charms her into not reporting it to the police. He thanks her by sending her a bottle of rye to help her get through her final nursing exam. I guess if this was made toady, he would be a crack dealer.
After passing her training, Lora is quickly hired to look after two sick rich kids, at the mansion of their drunken mother, Mrs. Ritchie. Hmmm..wonder if her first name is Nicole? When a drunken house guest tries to rape her, a sexy chauffeur (Clark Gable) comes to her rescue. Clark then demands that she pumps Mrs. Ritchie's stomach, when Lora refuses -he punches Lora out cold! Huh???

Lora soon discovers that the sick kid's doctor, Dr. Ranger has been neglecting the children, in fact they are being slowly starved to death! Hmmm, Nicole this 1931 or 2008?

Lora then quits her job and reports the negligent doc to Dr. Bell. Bell tells Lora to return to the house to play Nancy Drew. Dr. Ranger agrees to take her back. Meanwhile, the little girl has grown sicker and weaker - why doesn't Lora just feed the damn kids??? Mrs. Ritchie could get a shit about her kids, so Lora turns to Mortie the bootlegger to help her save the child. Lora get Mortie to buy milk (he's not sure where they sell it - so he goes to a Kosher deli) to bathe the girl in. The housekeeper, who I'll call Hazel, gets drunk and tells Lora that she suspects that the chauffer and Dr. Ranger are in cahoots - and their plan is to kill the kids so they can get to their trust fund money! Mrs. Drinkie, um Mrs. Ritchie wants to marry the chauffeur, so this should be easy. Mortie convinces Dr. Bell to step in and help, but when he tries to get the girl to the hospital, the chauffeur punches him! Bad Clark Gable, bad!

Luckily Lora has the same blood type as the little girl, so an emergency transfusion saves the day! Yay! So, Mortie the bootlegger tells Lara he took care of the chauffeur, who arrives shortly at the hospital morgue.

The end. This movie was pretty crazy. It's certainly a curiosity just to see how the world of doctors, nurses and hospitals were perceived over 75 years ago. Also, to see how women were portrayed in pre-code films. Having also recently seen THREE ON A MATCH and FEMALE - it's easy to see where shows like SEX & THE CITY and UGLY BETTY have their roots. Of course, the morals and situations have changed, but the basic premise of "career girls" can be traced back to films of this era. I give NIGHT NURSE 6 "Huhs?" - if only it was more like the campy four-issue 1970s Marvel Comic of the same name.

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