Night Nurse (1931)
Release Date: August 8,1931
Directed by: William Wellman
Available on DVD in The Forbidden Hollywood Collection Vol. 2
A quintessential pre-code, the film centers around Laura Hart (Stanwyck) as she struggles to keep her ideals while getting through nursing school. After she graduates, she is assigned to be a night nurse to two little girls suffering from malnutrition and anemia. Gable does not appear until halfway through the film and only appears for a few minutes, as one-dimensional character Nick, the evil brute of a chauffeur. Laura becomes suspicious of the doctor treating the children and of Nick. Nick throws her around, bullies her and the children say they are scared of him. Laura soon comes to the realization that Nick and the doctor are in it together–to starve the children to death and keep their mother a drunk so they can get their hands on the family’s fortune.
Watch the trailer:
Photoplay magazine, August 1931:
A representative from another studio announced after the preview of this: “Several states will bar it. they won’t have any more gangsters.” All we’ve got to say is: we feel sorry for them. The states will be the losers. You don’t get entertainment like this very often.
And it isn’t Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Blondell, Ben Lyon or Clark Gable. It’s the combination of them all, plus a fine story, splendid direction, humor, novelty–oh, what’s the use! Drag out your pet adjectives, go see this and use ’em.
Yes, Ben Lyon’s a bootlegger who knows a couple of fellows who get rid of other bootleggers. Which means “gangster,” we suppose, even though he only has them bump off real villians. Barbara’s a nurse who’s out to clean up unethical practices of unethical physicians. You can’t help but feel bootleggers are preferable to doctors who help kill tiny children for money.
There’s the hospital ward, the true leveler of humanity, which evokes many a chuckler. There’s the ambulance room which gives a glimpse into the pathos and the humor of emergency treatements–and a too-short glimpse of a clever young interne played by that funny boy, Eddie Nugent. And there’s a whole lot more worth seeing!
Movie Classic magazine, September 1931:
Here is a picture to keep you on the edge of your seat from the first scene to the fade-out. Here is something new. Here is the tense drama of life and death, set in a natural stage–a huge hospital. The chief character is a nurse, trapped in a net of intrigue on her first private case–and so cleverly is the picture put together that you seem to see events through her eyes. Barbara Stanwyck carves a niche for herself among the movie great in the role of the nurse. Ben Lyon is the hero–a good-natured bootlegger. And just for good measure, Clark Gable–who is beginning to rouse women as Valentino once did–is the “heavy” of the piece. What if it does have a tendency to be melodramatic? It also has suspence and some intense acting. Don’t you dare miss it!
“Never mind that. Get busy with her; give her a stomach wash!” first line
“I’ll break your neck!”
“Aw, shut up!”
“Hey, just what’s the idea behind that crack?”
“You’re speaking right out, ain’t you?”
“I’d run along if I was you.” last line
Behind the Scenes:
Wellman’s only direction to Gable for the character was, “He’s a loathsome brute.”
In one of the scenes where Gable beats Stanwyck, he got a bit carried away and accidently bruised her face. She was crying hysterically but he had thought she was acting.