25 January 2018 | rhoda-9
More advanced than one might think, and very entertaining
Though I was keen to watch this movie because of the terrific cast, I expected to find its presentation of psychiatric medicine dated and naive. While this is at times true (Claudette Colbert's treatment seems to be simply talking to the patients like a kindly elder sister), Private Worlds also makes several observations that are relevant today, including the then-daring one (for the general audience) that we all live in a private world, and that the difference between sanity and insanity may be only a matter of degree.
The doctors in the smaller roles are far more plausible than Colbert, Charles Boyer, and Joel McCrea, who simply behave in accordance with their well-established screen personalities. But they are never so movie-starrish as to be unbelievable. The script cleverly uses the harshness of Boyer, the new head of the hospital, to forceful dramatic effect; while most of his diktats make us regard him dubiously or unfavourably, at the climax of the picture he is very harsh in a way that is clearly right, and much more insightful than we had thought. (Female viewers are helped in this favourable opinion by Boyer's looking extremely youthful and absolutely gorgeous.)
Two touches show a disregard for credibility that would never pass today. No one is surprised that, in addition to being a psychiatrist, Boyer is qualified to perform major surgery, and is very good at it. And when a dying patient mumbles in Arabic, the staff say what a pity it is that no one there understands him. For heaven's sake, you think, why don't they get a translator? How long has the poor man been there?
These are more than compensated for, however, by the outburst from the crabby old matron, who complains--that too many patients are being cured and sent home! How can the hospital keep going, she asks, if it isn't full of sick people?