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Kay Francis was at the pinnacle of her popularity in 1933, the year she starred in Mary Stevens, M.D. and four other Warner Bros. films. Recognized as the movies's outstanding clotheshorse and a favorite of fan magazines, she would soon be named as the studio's highest-paid female star. Taking time out from her usual languishing in satins and furs, Francis plays a pediatrician in Mary Stevens,M.D. (1933), a spicy pre-Code drama. After becoming professionally successful despite prejudices of the day against female doctors, Dr. Stevens has an illicit affair and travels to Europe to give birth in secret. She faces both professional and personal crises on the trip home, when her nursing of sick babies in steerage leads to her own baby becoming gravely ill.
The scene in which Dr. Stevens regains her purpose in life is quite startling. Called to the rescue when her janitor's small son swallows a safety pin, she saves the day by removing a hairpin and poking it down the child's throat to remove the offending object. "Wonder what a man would have done with this," the character muses. "What, indeed?" asks Jeanine Basinger in her book A Woman's View. "Without hairpins - without fashion - he would have been lost."
By the end of the 1930s, Francis had lost her fan base and her prestige at Warner Bros., where a less glamorous but more volatile actress named Bette Davis began getting all the plum parts and studio attention. Finishing out her Warners contract in ignominious B-movies, Francis did nothing to salvage her once-glorious career. "I can't wait to leave Hollywood," she said in an interview. "I want to get fat, I want to do nothing. I want to sit on my back porch in a rocker and not even think."
Producer: Hal B. Wallis
Director: Lloyd Bacon
Art Direction: Esdras Hartley
Costume Design: Orry-Kelly
Screenplay: Rian James, Robert Lord (from a novel by Virginia Kellogg)
Cinematography: Sidney Hickox
Editing: Ray Curtiss
Music: Leo F. Forbstein, Bernhard Kaun
Cast: Kay Francis (Mary Stevens), Lyle Talbot (Don Andrews), Glenda Farrell (Glenda Carroll), Thelma Todd (Lois Rising), Una O'Connor (Arnell Simmons).BW-72m.
by Roger Fristoe