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In a fantastically art-deco hospital, young Dr. Kildare treats and falls for impoverished Janet Healy, widow of a bank robber, who's been in prison and can't find her baby. Later she helps Kildare sew up gangster Hanlon in a tavern back room. Kildare pursues Janet and enlists Hanlon to help her; the gangster's solution, not surprisingly, is violent. Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
B plot + A production = Dr. Kildare with atmosphere
An exceptionally flavorful rendering of the Depression atmosphere: a world of the poor laboring in sweatshop jobs, petty hoods hanging out in smoky bars, backroom bookie joints, pushcart vendors and bus terminals and orphanages. While the plot is no more ambitious than the typical B movie of the time, the high production values, name cast, and imaginative direction from Alfred Santell all boost the quality.
At the center of the plot, Barbara Stanwyck spends much of the film in desperation mode, exhausted from searching for her lost child, beaten down by two years in jail, forced to hire stool pigeons, forced to stay alert.
Joel McCrea makes the ideal American hero for the 30's: not only a doctor, but tall, blond, honest, sincere, manly, and progressive. At one point, he has to perform an operation on a bar room table, improvising with violin strings, an ice pick, and a bottle of rum! But this is not MGM's Dr. Kildare. He has no warm relationship with a kindly old mentor; instead, the chief doctor is an authority figure upholding the rules, dismissing Lee Bowman for unauthorized experimentation. The script also pumps up sympathy for interns as underpaid workers who get only $10 a month.
As a gangster, the always fascinating Stanley Ridges conveys the calm of a man secure in his power, whose eye movements size up his adversaries and whose silences reveal more menace than mere words. Watch the sexual innuendo he finds in his "I didn't always like popcorn" speech.
Santell uses extreme close-ups and moves the camera often, aided by gleaming lighting from Theodore Sparkuhl, plus some knock-out sets, including a sparkling white Art Deco clinic and an elaborately detailed New York Irish bar. Watch how economically Santell works to show the awakening of mutual attraction between Stanwyck and McCrea in their first scene together. Also lifting the picture out of its formula origins is the headlong pace Santell maintains to the climax, an urgency lost in the blander MGM series.
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