|Original title||Night nurse|
|Country of production||United States|
|Director||William A. Wellman|
|script||Oliver HP Garrett|
|music||Leo F. Forbstein|
|cut||Edward M. McDermott|
Night Nurse is a 1931 American film directed by William A. Wellman and starring Barbara Stanwyck . The film is a classic example of so-called pre-code films that were distributed before the Production Code came into force .
Lora Hart is a young student nurse who is completing her training in a hospital that is under the strict regime of a hard-hearted head nurse. Their motto is Rules are to be followed and Lora and her best friend Betty have a lot to do during their night shifts. One night Lora met an alcohol smuggler who came to the emergency room shot and was very impressed by her. After her exam, Lora found a position in a respected family, where she was supposed to take care of two small children of an alcoholic woman who were already known to her from hospitalization. Lora soon notices that the woman is neglecting the two girls and that they are severely malnourished. The woman lives sexually dependent on Nick, the chauffeur. Nick plans to starve the two children and then marry the woman and gain the children's rich inheritance. At the last minute, Lora manages to save the girls from starvation together with her acquaintance and a hospital doctor she knows and to put Nick down.
Night Nurse is a typical example of the films that Warner Brothers brought out during the Great Depression. Under the aegis of Darryl F. Zanuck , who was promoted to head of production at the studio in 1929, a whole cycle of films was created that expressed the discontent, fear and despair of many Americans during the Depression. The strips were produced on a low budget and within a few days of shooting and were often based on current scandals or grievances within society. The pace of the narration was rapid, full of time-lapse assemblies or fades, and the actions mostly took place in an urban setting. The unsentimental stories were about workers, taxi drivers, shop assistants, journalists and gangsters who have to fight their daily struggle for survival. At the same time, the studio went to the limits of what the censor allowed in describing sex and violence. In this respect, Night Nurse is a good example of how lax the studios dealt with the requirements of the censorship authorities. The code prohibited nudity and suggestive clothing. In the first half of the film, which described the training and the tough working conditions of the sisters, director William A. Wellman manages to show the two actresses Barbara Stanwyck and Joan Blondell in underwear all the time. The two constantly get dressed and changed and keep their dialogues in transparent silk underwear. What the girls pay for the expensive corsetry remains in the dark. During one of these scenes an assistant doctor comes by, admires the two women and calls out:
- You can't show me a thing; I just came from the maternity ward.
The consumption of alcohol could not be glorified and motherhood could not be belittled. Later, when Stanwyck takes care of the two girls, their cynical mother replies to Stanwyck's accusations that too much alcohol is unhealthy:
- I'm a dipsomaniac - and I like it!
According to the requirements of the censorship authorities, gangsters were not allowed to be portrayed as positive people. The alcohol smuggler, whom Stanwyck met at the beginning and who later helps her, is portrayed as a likeable, helpful young man who even steals milk for Stanwyck in a grocery store for her wards. Violence against women was forbidden. In a scene in which Lora reproaches Nick and wants to call the police, Nick brutally knocks the young woman unconscious. At the same time there are some scenes with extremely morbid humor. For example, an assistant doctor puts a skeleton in bed for girls who want to go to sleep and wear nothing more than their underwear.
Literature on the subject of pre-code films
- Mark A. Viera: Sin in Soft Focus: Pre-Code Hollywood, ISBN 978-0-8109-4475-6
- Mick LaSalle: Complicated Women: Sex and Power in Pre-Code Hollywood - ISBN 978-0-312-28431-2
- Thomas Doherty: Pre-Code Hollywood. ISBN 978-0-231-11095-2
- Lea Jacobs: The Wages of Sin: Censorship and the Fallen Woman Film, 1928–1942 - ISBN 978-0-520-20790-5