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Mary Miles Minter plays a beautiful, aristocratic Irish nurse, whose
relatives disapprove of her career choice. When not taking care of
at the local hospital she is romping around on her parents' estate on her
horse, and lecturing her maid on the pitfalls of falling in love with the
Young Nurse Marjorie is chosen to be the recovery nurse for a popular Labor Leader in the British Parliament, played by Clyde Fillmore. Clyde's character John has an eye operation to correct a squint. Before being anesthetized he sees a hideous nurse who looks like a transvestite staring down at him. He asks his doctor: "Is that my nurse?" and when the answer is affirmative John shudders and turns away.
After the operation John's eyes are bandaged for several days, and he can't see that the hospital has switched nurses on him: the transvestite nurse has been replaced with beautiful Nurse Marjorie. She quickly realizes his misunderstanding, and with her Irish sense of humor intact, teases John and intentionally does not reveal her identity. When the bandages are removed John sees this lovely vision in the mirror and decides immediately that his recuperation time should be prolonged, so he fakes more illness to be able to stay in the hospital to be near Marjorie.
All ends happily, despite an attack on John's life by a mad gunman, and the film proceeds with comic and romantic touches which are very entertaining. The class system in the UK is also depicted in this film, but the moral of the story is that true love can transcend pre-conceived notions about someone's rank and status in society. "I've been cured of my moral squint," says the happy politician at the conclusion of the film. (Lots of politicians around today with the same squint!)
Director William Desmond Taylor portrayed Mary Miles Minter in this film as a pure vision of loveliness. It was obvious he must have had strong feelings for her at the time.
Although essentially a light romantic comedy, this William Desmond
Taylor feature starring Mary Miles Minter is also a commentary on the
class system in the UK, and the discrimination that results from such a
Mary plays her role as the aristocratic daughter of a Duke (Marjorie) with charm and a comedic flair. Against her parents wishes, she decides to be a recovery nurse in a nursing home where wealthy clients recuperate. It's perfectly commendable for the daughters of aristocracy to nurse the poor, but not "stockbrokers" as the Duchess of Donegal notes.
One of Mary's patients is a Labor Leader in Parliament whose had eye surgery to correct a squint, and he thinks that Marjorie is the homely nurse that he last saw before going under the gas. Before the bandages are removed, he can't bear to have Marjorie touch him. Marjorie decides to teach him a lesson about discriminating about looks and class, and in the majority of the movie uses subterfuge to test John's feelings for her and see if he's the kind of man she can grow to love.
There are many charming aspects to this movie, not the least of which is the clever dialog and the way Taylor lovingly photographs Mary. There's not the slightest doubt that he liked her and their collaboration was an enjoyable one for both of them. This is the only movie that they made together that still survives and more than exemplifies what was a happy working relationship before tragedy overcame them both in real life.
Is love blind? Well occasionally, but in this case, it just may have a "moral squint" as well! See this charming movie if you can.
'Nurse Marjorie' was adapted by director William Desmond Taylor's
regular scenarist Julia Crawford Ivers from a 1906 play by Israel
Zangwill, and no attempt appears to have been made to update the
material to reflect the seismic social changes that the intervening
fourteen years had wrought in Britain.
Britain by 1920 was in a state of immense social unrest. Many feared (while others were hoping) that a revolution like the one that had recently seen the Tsar of Russia violently overthrown was imminent here. There was also violence convulsing Ireland, the country of origin of Taylor himself and of his lead character Lady Marjorie Killonan, daughter of the Duke of Donegal (her dialogue throughout is written in brogue). Her ghastly English mother is eager to marry her off to a Tory politician, Lord Douglas Fitztrevor; but Lady Marjorie isn't having any. Instead she does her bit by working incognito at a nursing home in Middlesex, where Fitztrevor's political opposite number, the crusading Labour MP for Westhampton, John Danbury, is recuperating after cosmetic surgery on his eyes.
Considering the guy is supposed to be a socialist, his quite extraordinary boorishness towards Marjorie simply because he thinks she's the plain-looking nurse he saw before his bandages went on is particularly egregious; and Marjorie - at least at first - has no illusions about the shallowness of his attraction towards her when they eventually come off. We are told that the country is on the brink of major industrial unrest, yet "the People's John" (played appropriately charmlessly by Clyde Fillmore) is instead more interested in getting into the petticoats of his pretty nurse than back to work; and he proceeds to neglect both his parliamentary duties and the wellbeing of his country while wasting the staff's valuable time for most of the film's duration. (Nearly a hundred years later, alas, some things plainly still haven't changed much at Westminster.)
Danbury is shown reading 'The Daily Telegraph' rather than 'The Manchester Guardian', and is soon revealed to be a snob to boot, although he eventually declares himself prepared to wed a daughter of the people - provided she's hot enough. On learning that she's actually Lady Killonan his thoughts at long last return to the political vocation he's being so cavalierly disregarding for most of the film; and the means by which they are eventually reconciled is so melodramatic it smacks of desperation on someone's part.
'Nurse Marjorie' is sadly the only surviving film of William Desmond Taylor's starring his charming young protégé, Mary Miles Minter, whose career ended abruptly in scandal when Taylor was murdered two years later, probably by Minter's mother. (A still of Minter from this film is used to illustrate the scandal in Griffith & Mayer's 'The Movies'.) The English setting is convincingly evoked and the film is as graceful, good looking, good humoured and well acted as Taylor's other surviving films from this period. Would that the same could be said of its hero!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It's hard to believe Mary Miles Minter posed any threat to Mary
Pickford's crown!! - maybe Paramount thought Minter a backup when
Pickford became a founder of United Artists although by 1920 they were
beginning to realise that Minter just didn't have Pickford's appeal.
She also didn't have the older star's strength of character and was
quite content to churn out her saccharine features "sugary to the last
drop" as one director commented. With William Desmond Taylor she had a
director who, along with scriptwriter Julia Crawford Ivers, was a cut
above her usual fare which were just programmers. But Mary developed an
obsessive crush on Taylor and it was then that her mother stepped in
and saw to it that he was taken off her films. Fortunately "Nurse
Marjorie" was one they made together.
The political and union unrest in the background didn't interfere with the romance, just made it a bit more interesting. The Duke and Duchess of Donegall have never faced such a crisis - their young daughter Marjorie has decided to follow her heart and nurse!!! It was all very well when she was nursing the poor but now "she'll be bathing the feet of stock brokers"!! Marjorie is sent to Oakdale Nursing Home where she wins the heart of little Dick, a poor little rich kid whose only friend is a Trust!! Not so with up and coming politician John Danbury, a champion of the poor who has gone into hospital to have a squint corrected. The last nurse he sees before the operation is an old horror - he thinks it is Mary and shudders at her touch!! Mary finds out through his father and is dismayed that he could put so much emphasis on looks - obviously the way is set for him to learn a lesson.
Of course when the bandages are off for John it is love at first sight and he plans to recover slowly. He becomes jealous of "Number 19"(Dick), especially when requests come in, such as he can't get to sleep unless Marjorie holds his hand etc and Marjorie doesn't put John wise!! But with John in hospital his party is going through unrest with strikes and protests at various factories - he proclaims he still isn't fit enough to leave, his father thinks Nurse Marjorie has him in her clutches, his mother wonders "why do nurses have to be so pretty"!!
After that hurdle, another stumble, somehow he gets the idea that Marjorie's parents are not of his station - he thinks she has clawed her way up from the gutter!! She plays along by sending for her old nurse, Biddy, now the proprietor of a fish emporium, to impersonate her mother!! And for a Labor M.P. John's a bit of a snob! Home again and he can't concentrate on his work, seeing Marjorie's face in every painting and ornament. He arranges to meet her at the fish emporium, hoping to win over her "mother"!!
This is a lovely romance, helped considerably by the little bits of business inserted by Taylor. Lydia Yeamans Titus is fantastic as Marjorie's stand-in mother - her scene when she's introducing John to the "family" - "I've never had to raise a hand to my boys, except in self defense" is hilarious!!
A great film - You'll see why so many people fell in love with her and why so many still love her today. The film is in good shape for its age. William Desmond Taylor obviously loved her.... Makes you want to meet and talk with anyone who ever had the pleasure of knowing Mary.
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