This was part of a DVD collection I picked up called Forbidden Hollywood. This is a great series because it shows movies that were released before the Hayes code was put in to effect as the early ratings system in 1934. Movies around that time had rougher subject matter and showed a lot more skin then they do now. The ones from this era reminds me of the films of the seventies. Filmmakers were a bit more risky and took more chances. Yes we have a few of those filmmakers now, but not as many as before.
Night Nurse 1931
Cast: Barbara Stanwyck, Clark Gable, Joan Blondell
Writers: Oliver H.P. Garrett, Charles Kenyon(Screenplay) Grace Perkins(Novel)
Director: William A. Wellman
Lora Hart(Barbara Stanwyck) is a new nurse who discovers a bit of malpractice when she notices two children are being kept malnourished. When she tries to confess these crimes to a higher office. No one will belive her tale because Dr. Ranger(Ralf Harolde) has higher credentials and is more respected than her. She ends up making an unlikely partnership with a small time bootlegger named Mortie (Ben Lydon) and together they try to help the two children.
While the production code was in effect. Studios could not show criminals in a positive light. They either had to be killed or severely punished. Showing criminals helping people was a huge no no back in those days. Respected professions such as doctors and policemen could not be seen as anything less than positive either. “Night Nurse” took big risks and showed a world where these sort of derelicts had better morals than the so call fine upstanding citizens of that community. It was a huge risk for filmmakers to present these sort of stories, and I’m sure if this got released today. There would be someone claiming that it looks down on doctors and is a tool to promote socialism. The part that is considered more tame now then it was is when you see both female nurses in their lingerie. Back then I’m sure people had an uproar when you showed someone’s leg. I wonder if anything can surprise or shock us now.
Having only seen Barbara Stanwyck in “Double Indemnity“. I was familiar with her playing the femme fatale, but in this one she is seductress, the damsel, and the hero. She even fights back with some of the goons and I don’t recall earlier movies that had female characters do that. Clark Gable who is best known for playing Rhett Butler in “Gone with the Wind” does a complete 180 and plays the hated villan,Nick. This character is completely despicable and just like a lot of good villains. He is fun to watch. That role was originally going to be played by James Cagney, but he got stuck doing “Public Enemy” instead. I often wondered if their careers would have taken different paths and if the movies we like would be forever changed. The scenes with both Gable and Stanwyck are good and found it a bit surprising they haven’t worked much together since then.
At just over an hour-long. “Night Nurse” is fun little picture that helped introduce the idea that the bad guys can sometimes do good things.