Night Nurse


1h 12m 1931
Night Nurse

Brief Synopsis

A nurse discovers that the children she's caring for are murder targets.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Thriller
Adaptation
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Aug 8, 1931
Premiere Information
New York premiere: 16 Jul 1931
Production Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
The Vitaphone Corp.; Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Night Nurse by Dora Macy (New York, 1930).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 12m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.33 : 1
Film Length
8 reels

Synopsis

Lora Hart is determined to be a nurse even though her lack of a high school diploma stands in her way. She convinces Dr. Bell to recommend her for training, and she is accepted into nursing school. Lora is devoted to her job. One night, while she and fellow student nurse Maloney are working in the emergency room, Lora fixes a gunshot wound for amiable bootlegger Mortie and agrees not to report it to the police as she is required to do. Mortie vows friendship and sends Lora a bottle of rye as a graduation present. After graduation, Lora and Maloney accept a private nursing job, caring for Nanny and Desney Ritchey, children of a wealthy alcoholic. Lora has the night shift, and she becomes convinced that the children are being intentionally starved. She visits their doctor, Dr. Ranger, who denies there is anything wrong. She asks Dr. Bell for advice, and he suggests that she return to the job and fight from the inside. The mother's boyfriend Nick, a gangster posing as a chauffeur, keeps her supplied with alcohol. When Mortie delivers a shipment to the house for a party, Lora tells him her suspicions. Now even the housekeeper is worried about the children and insists that Lora give them a milk bath because that once saved the life of her sister's child. Mortie finds the milk, even though it is late at night, but Nick discovers what they are doing and pours the milk down the drain. The housekeeper tells Lora that Nick and Dr. Ranger are conspiring to starve the children to death in order to gain control of their trust fund. Determined to save them, Lora brings Dr. Bell to the house. He performs a blood transfusion and saves the sickest child, despite Nick's efforts to prevent it. Lora swears out a warrant to save the children, and on the way to the police station, Mortie lets her know that Nick has been "taken care of" by some of his friends.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Thriller
Adaptation
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Aug 8, 1931
Premiere Information
New York premiere: 16 Jul 1931
Production Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
The Vitaphone Corp.; Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Night Nurse by Dora Macy (New York, 1930).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 12m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.33 : 1
Film Length
8 reels

Articles

Night Nurse


Lora Hart (Barbara Stanwyck) is hired by the less than scrupulous Dr. Ranger (Ralf Harolde) to care for the Ritchey children, two little girls suffering from poor health. The girl's mother (Charlotte Merriam) is an alcoholic involved in a self-destructive relationship with Nick, her criminally-inclined chauffeur (Clark Gable, in an early performance minus his trademark mustache). It soon becomes apparent to Lora that the children are being slowly starved to death by the doctor and Nick as part of an insidious plot to gain control of the children's inheritance. Although she surprises her employer by taking an active interest in the little girls' welfare, she also places herself in a dangerous situation.

Often overlooked as a minor feature in the collective careers of Barbara Stanwyck, Clark Gable and director William Wellman, Night Nurse (1931) is actually more engrossing than some of their more highly regarded films. For one thing, the often sordid subject matter is directed with considerable verve; Wellman punches up the film's raciness with a steady stream of double intendre wisecracks, mostly delivered by Stanwyck and fellow compatriot Joan Blondell, as they parade around in various stages of undress. The violence in the film is rather strong for the period as well, with Gable beating Stanwyck to the floor in one scene and then carrying her semi-conscious body off to his bedroom for an off-screen rape. More controversial was the depiction of the film's villains - so callous they could murder children for profit - and the movie's pro-vengeance ending which suggested that the police and the courts were completely ineffective in dealing with certain unlawful situations. Of course, all of this makes Night Nurse one of the more fascinating pre-Code melodramas that Warner Brothers released in the early thirties; It also led to tighter censorship controls over content.

Seen today, Night Nurse is particularly interesting for Barbara Stanwyck's performance as a working class gal who knows how to use her brains as well as her fists. Her tough, seen-it-all attitude comes through memorably in such scenes as the one where she finds Mrs. Ritchey, lying drunk on the floor while her two young daughters are left unattended. Looking down on her with digust, Stanwyck mutters under her breath, "You Mother!"

Night Nurse was the first of five films Stanwyck and Wellman made together and the actress would later state that he was one of her favorite directors. She was also bedazzled by her co-star Clark Gable. In the biography, Starring Miss Barbara Stanwyck by Ella Smith, the actress recalled that she and Joan Blondell grabbed each other's pinkies in awe when they first laid eyes on him: "The instant Clark walked onto the set I knew - we all knew- that here was a striking personality. He commanded attention." Wellman also realized his potential and wrote in his autobiography, A Short Time For Insanity, that in Night Nurse, Gable was "one of the most despicable heavies imaginable, and he did it with such savoir faire that he became a star. The powers-that-be at Warner Brothers liked his performance but decided he was not worth fooling with, not star material: his ears were too big. They forgot to look at his dimples and listen to his voice and see his smile." MGM noticed though and signed him to a long-term contract the same year. By the end of 1931, he had already established himself as one of the studio's top male leads due to his charismatic performances in A Free Soul (opposite Norma Shearer) and Possessed starring Joan Crawford.

Director: William Wellman
Screenplay: Oliver H.P. Garrett, Charles Kenyon, based on the novel by Grace Perkins (aka Dora Macy)
Art Director: Max Parker
Cinematography: Barney "Chick" McGill
Costume Design: Earl Luick
Film Editing: Edward McDermott
Original Music: Leo F. Forbstein
Principal Cast: Barbara Stanwyck (Lora Hart), Ben Lyon (Morlie), Joan Blondell (Maloney), Clark Gable (Nick), Blanche Frederici (Mrs. Maxwell), Charlotte Merriam (Mrs. Ritchey), Charles Winninger (Dr. Arthur Bell), Edward J. Nugent (Eagan).
BW-72m.

by Jeff Stafford
Night Nurse

Night Nurse

Lora Hart (Barbara Stanwyck) is hired by the less than scrupulous Dr. Ranger (Ralf Harolde) to care for the Ritchey children, two little girls suffering from poor health. The girl's mother (Charlotte Merriam) is an alcoholic involved in a self-destructive relationship with Nick, her criminally-inclined chauffeur (Clark Gable, in an early performance minus his trademark mustache). It soon becomes apparent to Lora that the children are being slowly starved to death by the doctor and Nick as part of an insidious plot to gain control of the children's inheritance. Although she surprises her employer by taking an active interest in the little girls' welfare, she also places herself in a dangerous situation. Often overlooked as a minor feature in the collective careers of Barbara Stanwyck, Clark Gable and director William Wellman, Night Nurse (1931) is actually more engrossing than some of their more highly regarded films. For one thing, the often sordid subject matter is directed with considerable verve; Wellman punches up the film's raciness with a steady stream of double intendre wisecracks, mostly delivered by Stanwyck and fellow compatriot Joan Blondell, as they parade around in various stages of undress. The violence in the film is rather strong for the period as well, with Gable beating Stanwyck to the floor in one scene and then carrying her semi-conscious body off to his bedroom for an off-screen rape. More controversial was the depiction of the film's villains - so callous they could murder children for profit - and the movie's pro-vengeance ending which suggested that the police and the courts were completely ineffective in dealing with certain unlawful situations. Of course, all of this makes Night Nurse one of the more fascinating pre-Code melodramas that Warner Brothers released in the early thirties; It also led to tighter censorship controls over content. Seen today, Night Nurse is particularly interesting for Barbara Stanwyck's performance as a working class gal who knows how to use her brains as well as her fists. Her tough, seen-it-all attitude comes through memorably in such scenes as the one where she finds Mrs. Ritchey, lying drunk on the floor while her two young daughters are left unattended. Looking down on her with digust, Stanwyck mutters under her breath, "You Mother!" Night Nurse was the first of five films Stanwyck and Wellman made together and the actress would later state that he was one of her favorite directors. She was also bedazzled by her co-star Clark Gable. In the biography, Starring Miss Barbara Stanwyck by Ella Smith, the actress recalled that she and Joan Blondell grabbed each other's pinkies in awe when they first laid eyes on him: "The instant Clark walked onto the set I knew - we all knew- that here was a striking personality. He commanded attention." Wellman also realized his potential and wrote in his autobiography, A Short Time For Insanity, that in Night Nurse, Gable was "one of the most despicable heavies imaginable, and he did it with such savoir faire that he became a star. The powers-that-be at Warner Brothers liked his performance but decided he was not worth fooling with, not star material: his ears were too big. They forgot to look at his dimples and listen to his voice and see his smile." MGM noticed though and signed him to a long-term contract the same year. By the end of 1931, he had already established himself as one of the studio's top male leads due to his charismatic performances in A Free Soul (opposite Norma Shearer) and Possessed starring Joan Crawford. Director: William Wellman Screenplay: Oliver H.P. Garrett, Charles Kenyon, based on the novel by Grace Perkins (aka Dora Macy) Art Director: Max Parker Cinematography: Barney "Chick" McGill Costume Design: Earl Luick Film Editing: Edward McDermott Original Music: Leo F. Forbstein Principal Cast: Barbara Stanwyck (Lora Hart), Ben Lyon (Morlie), Joan Blondell (Maloney), Clark Gable (Nick), Blanche Frederici (Mrs. Maxwell), Charlotte Merriam (Mrs. Ritchey), Charles Winninger (Dr. Arthur Bell), Edward J. Nugent (Eagan). BW-72m. by Jeff Stafford

Quotes

I'm a dipsomaniac, and I'm proud of it, you mean.
- Mrs. Ritchey
There's only one guy in the world that can do a nurse any good and that's a patient with dough! Just catch one of them with a high fever and a low pulse and make him think you saved his life and you'll be getting somewhere.
- Maloney

Trivia

Notes

Modern sources add the following to the cast: James Bradbury, Jr., Jed Prouty and Willie Fung.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1999

Released in United States Summer August 8, 1931

Released in United States 1999 (Shown in New York City (Film Forum) as part of program "The Joy of Pre-Code: Sex, Booze and Red Hot Jazz, 1930-1933" August 20 - September 14, 1999.)

Released in United States Summer August 8, 1931