Vigil in the Night (1940) Poster

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Great movie to discuss nursing pre-antibiotics
gimmiepugs4 December 2005
I use this film to discuss nursing history. It is pre-antibiotics, so there has to be good nursing care and sterile technique for folks to survive. Plus this movie has it all - terribly sick children, a hokey doctor-nurse romance, and several dramatic scenes you don't get these days, like a bus wreck! The scene in the operating room is pretty interesting too - it makes one realize that an appendectomy was once a life threatening procedure. Overall, it is always fun to have students watch it and learn from growth of the profession and the science. It is so sad that Carole Lombard died so young - she had the potential to be a magnificent dramatic actress. Peg Farrar
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Thoroughly absorbing
rupie20 October 1999
It is indeed surprising to see Carol Lombard in a serious dramatic role, and it shows us the range of her talents. We thus mourn her early demise all the more deeply.

Maltin is correct in that good acting and direction here save a potentially sentimental script from descending into bathos. In fact, the explosiveley dramatic start undergirds the whole story and gives it an impetus that keeps us involved throughout. The movie wears its age well, and is well worth seeing.
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Great Classic
whpratt130 October 2008
Enjoyed reading A.J.Cronin's books and this film was a big favorite with people in the 1940's and will continue to be for many generations to come. Carol Lombard, (Anne Lee) was type cast as a pretty actress who was well known for her roles in comedy and this film showed the film industry she was capable of being a great dramatic actress which she was in this film. This film portrays the conditions which nurses had to do years ago in England and it is a rather sad film but a very down to earth one. Anne Lee takes the blame for her sister Lucy Lee, (Anne Shirley) for causing a young boy to die because of negligence of her duties. These sisters were both studying to become nurses and Anne already had her certificate to practice. Anne has a very rough life in this story and for some reason she always manages to stand by her sister no matter what trouble she gets into. This is a must see enjoyable Classic Film.
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nurse helps doctor overcome medical prejudice
buzzdaly18 June 2002
poignant story about ignorance among medical professionals...Carole Lombard is excellent as a conscientious nurse who teams with a local doctor to overcome medical incompetence and prejudice. Her sister, who is also a nurse means well, but complicates matters...Lombard's comedic skills certainly didn't hurt her portrayal, and gave more than the usual depth to a role that could have been one-dimensional...the music is evocative, and it makes the scenes in the children's ward of the hospital especially poignant. The finale, tho corny and reflective of Hollywood mores of that era, is uplifting. Despite a bitter-sweet resolution, it leaves us with an offer of hope for the future.
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Hammer fans take note: this is one of Peter Cushing's early roles
Tbeer24 December 2004
Warning: Spoilers
To all fans of British horror actor Peter Cushing....this was one of the handful of movies he made while working in Hollywood in the late thirties to very early forties. When WWII broke out he returned to England as many British did in Hollywood during this period. Durring his brief stay here he worked with an impressive assemble of talent. for example:

James Wale,Louis Hayward,Carol Lombard,Laurel and Hardy,George Stevens, Miles Mander,Tim Holt,Cary Grant!,Mae Clarke,Patric Knowles and Albert Decker just to name a few.

In 'Vigil" Cushing plays a supporting role of a hapless small town loser who is in love with Carol Lombard, but its an unrequited love for Carol has thoughts only of her sister's nursing career, and later of handsome Dr Brian Aherene. She turns the whiny Joe Shand (CUSHING) down in a pretty condescending manner, when he proposes marriage to her after she takes the rap for her sister's (Anne Shirley) malpractice death of a Small child who's welfare she had been trusted with. Shirley is seen stuffing her face with tea and crumpets as we cross cut to the child choking to death on his own phlem! Then instead of trying to make some attempt at resuscitating the child she panics and runs out of the hospital to look for her big sister in the nurses dorm to help her beat the rap.

Director George Stevens keeps the movie from falling into a melodramatic soap opera which it would have in less skilled hands. The film is a bit dated, but actually keeps you interested throughout. Its an RKO release so it turns up once in a while on Turner classic movies channel, and is well worth catching or taping if you are a collector of Cushing's films. It should also be of passing interest to fans of director George Stevens and fans of nurse films. RECOMMENDED.
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simply spellbinding
buzzimariac78223 October 2010
I was totally mesmerized by the performance of Carole Lombard and Brian Aherne. She was definitely Academy Award material for this movie. The undercurrent of their secret love for one another is very sexually tense. He is taken with her from the very beginning. This movie makes you long for the old time nurses who wore caps and who were so compassionate. You also long for the old time Doctors who were dedicated and not always looking at their watches to make sure you haven't taken more than a Medicare Minute, or that it's getting close to 5pm.

It is definitely spellbinding. Carole handles herself in such a professional manner and and manages to keep her cool in such demanding settings. She plays a good Samaritan for her sister and puts her own career into jeopardy by taking the blame for her student nurse immature sister. She evokes sentiment in women to do what one has to do and not complain about it.For this reason the story in inspirational. It's got nothing of materialism in it, or agendas that aren't uplifting. You feel good about life after watching this wonderful, don't miss, movie. Please make this available to Schools of Nursing.

The Title Vigil in the Night promotes wonderment, because all kinds of things can happen in the night hours. Thanks, MB
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"There's no cease fire in our war"
bkoganbing11 August 2014
Carole Lombard apparently took some advice from husband Clark Gable about Vigil In the Night. Just as Gable never even attempted a British accent in Mutiny On the Bounty, Lombard eschewed an accent as did Anne Shirley in Vigil In the Night. The rest of the cast is from Hollywood's British colony in this adaption of an A.J. Cronin novel.

Just as that other Cronin work The Citadel is dedicated to the doctors, this one is a shout out to the under-appreciated nurses. Lombard and her sister Shirley are nurses, Lombard a veteran and Shirley just getting started.

When a young diphtheria patient is lost to Shirley's inattention, Lombard takes the rap for her and the film is about Lombard trying to get back to the top of her profession. There's a bit of guilt in Lombard as she feels she may have pressured Shirley to following the same profession. Along the way Lombard meets Brian Aherne who is a similarly dedicated doctor.

They also have to deal with millionaire rake Julien Mitchell who is the head of the hospital board with the power to help and who won't do it, saying they have to economize. He even cites the war as an excuse. As Lombard so graphically points out there's no truce or cease fire in their war against disease.

It's hard to believe that the madcap Carole Lombard of My Man Godfrey is the same stoic nurse in Vigil In the Night. But carry off the role she does. In this film her acting is all in the eyes.

Not as well known as the film adaptions of other A.J. Cronin work like The Keys Of The Kingdom and Hatter's Castle, and The Citadel. But Vigil In The Night can hold its own with any of the other three.
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Carole Lombard Takes a Dramatic Turn in Vigil in the Night
savanna-21 December 1999
Fine performances by Carole Lombard and Anne Shirley, as sisters who persue demanding nursing careers. Film is bolstered by the stoic yet compassionate doctor played by leading man, Brian Aherne. Carole Lombard fans, used to her in comedic roles, are in for a treat as this role show cases Ms. Lombards versatility as an actress.
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Saving Lives and Looking Good Doing It
utgard148 June 2014
Dedicated and conscientious nurse Anne Lee (Carole Lombard) and her younger sister Lucy (Anne Shirley) are both nurses at the same hospital. When a little boy dies due to Lucy's negligence, Anne takes the blame and is promptly fired. She manages to find work at another hospital, where she quickly earns the respect of her superiors and also finds love with a doctor (Brian Aherne). But she must endure many more problems, including an amorous hospital benefactor and a nurse from her previous post who knows all about why she was discharged.

Fine showcase for Lombard's dramatic talents, which are often overlooked because she was such a great comedienne. The cast backing her up helps keep this from descending into hokum, which it easily could have. Brian Aherne is great, as is beautiful Anne Shirley. Brenda Forbes lightens things up as a comic relief nurse. Early role for Peter Cushing. It's really an exceptional film. The kind we're probably too cynical to make anymore. Lombard fans will eat it up. Nurses should like it, as well, since it's ultimately all about admiration for their profession.
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Carole Lombard and Peter Cushing
kevinolzak5 May 2014
1940's "Vigil in the Night" was a dramatic departure for comedic actress Carole Lombard, in a serious performance that never descends into cliché. Anne Lee (Lombard) is a conscientious nurse dedicated to duty, yet accepts blame for the death of a little boy who perished while her derelict younger sister Lucy (Anne Shirley) was off making tea. Joe Shand (Peter Cushing) is in love with Anne, who refuses his marriage proposal, and finds employment at another hospital, where she hopes her sister will eventually join her once she earns her certificate. Instead, Lucy impulsively marries Joe and moves to London, where they have a falling out, Lucy again finding trouble while Anne loyally stands by her. Brian Aherne is fine as a doctor who falls for Anne, and special mention must go to Ethel Griffies' eccentric performance as head matron. This was only Peter Cushing's third feature, and while his six minutes on screen are on par with the other films he made in those two years in Hollywood, he shares the screen with Lombard in all four, and earned some critical notice as well, one reviewer even comparing him to Spencer Tracy.
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A salute to the nurses
dbdumonteil26 March 2012
Carole Lombard ,who at the time sadly had only two more years to live ,shines in her part of a devoted nurse,who gives it all;the first part of the movie is a bit boring,but halfway through it hits its stride ,grabs you and does not leave you till the last pictures ,which avoid the traditional mushy happy end:a nurse's work is never done.

Because "vigil in the night" is primarily,essentially ,a tribute to the nurses in England,a tribute to their admirable work,to their courage when they cure infectious patients ,to their war which is never over:for a measly salary (a nurse says) and only half a day off (at best!);today the nurses condition has improved,but their work is not yet given the credit they deserve ,so "vigil" is still relevant in 2012.The scene of the artificial respiration (by Lucy)has got something of Frank Borzage .Most of all ,in the last scenes,George Stevens makes us feel the camaraderie,the solidarity between the nurses.
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No one is THAT self-sacrificing and perfect...
MartinHafer3 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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A good drama, but Carole, I want to laugh!
Patrick-968 October 1999
My only problem with this film is that any actress of the day could have carried this off. Carole Lombard was truly the queen of comedy. No one could touch her. So although she is very good in this dramatic turn, I always wish she had just stuck to the fun stuff. Especially since her career was not all that long.
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A noble bore
marcslope12 May 2015
A.J. Cronin's frustration and anger with the medical profession had translated to the screen so well with "The Citadel," and while some of those themes reverberate in this treatment of another novel of his, it's hardly its cinematic equal. George Stevens, better known at this point for comedies and musicals, heaps nobility upon nobility in this cloying tale of a devoted British nurse (Carole Lombard, sans British accent) and her far less devoted nurse sister (Anne Shirley) and their frustrations and challenges in several hospitals, including hypocritical rich patrons, lack of funds, unsympathetic bureaucracy, and smallpox. It opens with the death of an innocent child, no less, and Stevens thrusts the camera right up in the lad's face, the better to make us weep. It continues with similar emotional manipulation--adorable innocent kids suffering, dark hospital corridors, sneering colleagues. Carole's good--when wasn't she?--and Anne's pretty good, too, and Peter Cushing, as her unfortunate spouse, is quite good. A romance between Carole and impossibly noble doctor Brian Aherne is so stifled as to barely be there, and the slurpy music keeps telling us how to feel every damn minute. Some very nice cinematography, and I'll watch Carole in anything, but as an indictment of medical hypocrisies, it's slow and obvious.
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Best Nurse Movie Ever!
dadynasty23 February 2004
Warning: Spoilers
I am not exactly sure why I watched the entirety of this movie or why I am commenting on it now. I believe I must though. Carole Lombard is okay in this movie, but, unfortunately, not very funny. *SPOILER*(though I strongly advise against watching this movie unless one is an avid nurse fan) Anne Shirley's death scene as the sister is probably the worst dying scene I have ever seen, with her cough and turn of the head to simulate dying. I mean even myself or Keanu Reeves could have done better. George Stevens showed why would he would become an Oscar-winning director with some very good shots. Brian Aherne does his best Robert Donat imitation as the good doctor. I give it a 3 out of 10. Lombard should have stuck to comedy, because her dramatic movie is almost laughable.
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Nursing Carole Lombard
wes-connors4 September 2011
Beautiful nurse Carole Lombard (as Anne Lee) covers for her likewise employed sister Anne Shirley (as Lucy Lee) when the latter's negligence causes the death of a child. This melodrama suffers from the onset because we do not have a clear understanding of these two nurses; especially why does Ms. Lombard suddenly cover for Ms. Shirley who almost immediately admits she's an awful nurse. Nobody mentions Lombard's apparent disdain for the clearly stated "no cosmetics" rule given at her London job. However, it is interesting to follow the sisters' tragedies, and they are made more believable by having flaws. Director George Stevens helps, as do male admirers Brian Aherne and Peter Cushing.

***** Vigil in the Night (2/5/40) George Stevens ~ Carole Lombard, Anne Shirley, Brian Aherne, Peter Cushing
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