No one is THAT self-sacrificing and perfect...
3 May 2010
Warning: Spoilers
The film begins with a scene that really annoyed me because it seemed so utterly ridiculous. Two sisters are working as nurses in a hospital--conscientious nurse Carole Lombard and her more self-centered sister, Anne Shirley. Due entirely to Shirley's incompetence, a young boy dies under her care. However, Lombard takes responsibility for this! While I supposed this made for an exciting dramatic scene, it just made no sense. Can any sibling be THAT self-sacrificing AND endanger patients by covering for an incompetent nurse?! It just made Lombard seem like an idiot--and I simply hated her character because of this.

Due to this death, Lombard isn't able to get a prime job and must settle for a crap-tastic job working 12 hours a day, 6-1/2 days a week at an overwhelmed hospital. But, being so incredibly self-sacrificing and perfect, Lombard accepts this with no complaints and blossoms in this harsh setting--and seems sort of like a combination of Snow White and Gandhi. The simple fact is that the writers made this character too perfect--and one-dimensional in the process.

Next, you see a nurse from the original hospital looking for a job at the hospital in which Lombard now works. This nurse is terribly written and is also quite one-dimensional--simply a talkative jerk. Just as she's in the process of telling Lombard's boss about Lombard's past 'mistake', the bus they are on has an accident--preventing this gossip from ruining Lombard's reputation! This sort of scene can only happen in a film--a poorly written one (despite the novel on which this film was based being penned by the respected A.J. Cronin). I am not sure how much of this is Cronin's fault--perhaps the screenwriter (Fred Guiol) should receive the blame instead. In fact, considering that Cronin was responsible for some excellent films such as "Keys to the Kingdom" and "The Citadel", it would seem more likely that liberties were taken with his story with "Vigil in the Night".

Now that you assume that the long-suffering Lombard has somehow dodged a bullet, wait. It seems that a rich patient is indebted to her but eventually he responds by sexually harassing her. When the man's wife discovers this, instead of bashing the good-for-nothing husband over the head, she forces the hospital to fire Lombard--even though she did nothing wrong! And, being a wonderful martyr in this film, she leaves without any commotion--just accepting the latest indignity like a saint. There's more like this as the film continues, but by this point I had enough. I simply couldn't stand this film any more--it only gets worse with such silly histrionics as Shirley's silly death.

Bad writing and one of the most hilariously badly written characters made this film a major chore to watch. It's a shame, as Miss Lombard was a very talented actress. But, given such sappy bilge, there wasn't much she or anyone could have done with this script. The same, by the way, could be said for the exceptional director, George Stevens. He was better than this--but with this material, you can't make a very good film.
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