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The story represents an idealistic clash between two pathologists, one (Fredric March) the veteran department head whose ideals and perspective have been mellowed and blunted somewhat by years of red tape and day-to-day frustration, the other (Ben Gazzara), his new assistant, young, aggressive, up-to-date and meticulous in his approach to the job. The conflict is dramatically illustrated via two critical cases in which both are pretty intimately involved. Written by
The title of this film, The Young Doctors, is quite misleading. The film focuses on a generational conflict between two doctors in a big city hospital, the older man Fredric March the head of the Pathology Department and a new man, Ben Gazzara, put in charge of the Serology section. There are other doctors in the film, but their parts are merely in support of these two.
March is an older guy who feels a not so gentle nudge from the higher ups who feel maybe it's time he put in his retirement. Like a lot of people in his age bracket, his job is his life and he can't separate where one begins and the other leaves off.
Ben Gazzara's character is borrowed heavily from Robert Mitchum's in Not As a Stranger. He's the young idealistic type with more than a touch of arrogance however. Put Gazzara and March in the same work environment and we have the recipe for a pretty good medical drama.
Medical settings have been almost as good as courtrooms for drama. That's because in both you are dealing with life and death issues. What makes The Young Doctors unique is that this is the only film in my memory that has to deal with the Pathology Lab. Usually medical dramas take place with surgeons or researchers as the protagonists. What I like about The Young Doctors is that it shows another part of the hospital does play a critical role. My mother was in fact a secretary in a Pathology Lab in a hospital and if she were alive now, she'd be the first to applaud this film.
Both March and Gazzara turn out to be very human after all and both make a major blunder each on a given case. Yet they develop a healthy respect for each other as time goes by.
Other performances you will like here is Ina Balin as a student nurse with a major medical condition, Edward Andrews as another pathologist, Dick Clark who's another young doctor whose wife, Phyllis Love, is having a difficult pregnancy, and Aline McMahon, friend and confidante of March. I have a feeling that Florence Eldridge may have been offered the part before McMahon.
One guy here who is outstanding is the ever dependable Eddie Albert who plays a pediatrician. The most harrowing scene in the film is during an operation on Clark's newborn infant to give him a blood transfusion. Watch Albert's performance with minimal dialog during the procedure. As the sweat pours down him you feel right with him the worry and concern he has for his littlest patient barely able to taste life. His skill allows the newborn to have that crack at making his mark in the world.
We've seen medical dramas from Arrowsmith to ER and The Young Doctors takes an honored place among them.
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