As a film Dr. Socrates is significant in the career of Paul Muni because it is the first time he worked with William Dieterle who directed all of his biographical films at Warner Brothers for which he became best known for. They must have liked working together because Muni would not have had him as a director again, he had that kind of clout and was that demanding of his bosses at Warner Brothers.
The film itself is a minor drama with Muni playing the role of a kindly doctor who has settled in an obscure small town to forget the death of his sweetheart. As the town already has a doctor in Robert Barrat, there are some in the town who don't really take to Muni. But enough do so he gets by.
Although no one knows it the town is also the center of a vicious gang of robbers, headed by a John Dillinger like hoodlum played in swaggering style by Barton MacLane. The gang's hideout is at Olin Howland's farm, MacLane and the rest are from the area. He's public enemy number one in the parlance of the day.
One day MacLane is wounded in a bank holdup and he and the gang stop in at Muni and force him at gunpoint to patch him up. MacLane likes his work and now thinks he can intimidate the soft spoken Muni into being their regular physician.
Although Ann Dvorak had to be introduced somehow as a love interest, the script's biggest fault is the fact that she's wounded in a bank robbery at the hometown. She's a hitchhiker, but a lot believe she was in with the gang. Cardinal rule in real life and films, you absolutely don't do any criminal business in or near your sanctuary.
Usually people don't steal the show from Paul Muni, but in this case the swaggering, bullying Barton MacLane may have given the best performance of his career. MacLane was a menacing guy in films with that rasping voice of his and it was never put to better advantage than in Dr. Socrates.
Three years later the basic plot of Dr. Socrates was used again for King Of The Underworld where Kay Francis is a female doctor and Humphrey Bogart the gangster.
Dr. Socrates is a minor effort from Paul Muni, but still an enjoyable film. His next film was The Story Of Louis Pasteur, directed by William Dieterle that would set Muni's Hollywood image for all time.
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