17 January 2010 | sdave7596
Barbara Stanwyck in pre-code drama
"Night Nurse" released in 1931, in the depths of the Great Depression, was the kind of film Warner Brothers cranked out at that time. Barbara Stanwyck plays Lora Hart, a woman down on her luck who applies to become a nurse. She does so, with success. The initial part of the film takes us into the inner workings of a hospital -- circa 1931. Stanwyck is befriended by a fellow nurse, played by Joan Blondell, who provides much comic relief throughout the film. Stanwyck's first assignment is to take care of two sick children of a wealthy mother. Soon she begins to realize there is a sinister plot to starve the children so various people can profit from the children's trust fund. The children's mother is a serious alcoholic and seems to completely ignore her children, leaving them in the care of nurses and a housekeeper. A young Clark Gable has an eerie and threatening presence playing a chauffeur, who apparently is in league with the alcoholic mother and the children's sleazy doctor. Brought into the mix of all these characters is a charming bootlegger (prohibition was still the law of the land) played by Ben Lyon. He falls for Stanwyck after she patches him up from a bullet wound and doesn't report it as required. The film is clearly "pre-code" meaning the code was down in ink but largely ignored by studios until enforcement in 1934. There are some scenes of Blondell and Stanwyck dressing and undressing, and we see them in their undergarments several times! Liquor flows freely, despite prohibition and there are several scenes of various drunken party-goers. One drunken man tries to assault Stanwyck. There is some fairly graphic violence by 1931 movie standards. There is also some funny, snappy dialogue from Stanwyck and Blondell. My favorite line is when Stanwyck, after wrestling with the drunken, neglectful mother, looks down at her passed out on the floor and says "You mother..." I won't give away the ending, as it is a bit bizarre, but this is an entertaining film. See it just for Stanwyck. She gives a spirited and tough performance.