Monday, August 25, 2008

Barbara Stanwyck Double Feature: Night Nurse (William Wellman, 1931) B/You Belong to Me (Wesley Ruggles, 1941) C+

Night Nurse and You Belong to Me are two very different types of films from two completely different time periods but have one common link: Barbara Stanwyck. Night Nurse is the better of the two and is actually one of the better Pre-Code films I have due to the fact that it has more going for it than raciness (like good acting and a decent, involving storyline). Stanwyck starts training as a nurse and one night she befriends a shot bootlegger who she doesn't write a mandatory report on. After she completes her training, she starts working at a household with two sick children, a drunken alcoholic mother, a crooked doctor and a scheming chauffeur. She uncovers a dirty secret and its up to her to prevent the death of the children. Night Nurse isn't perfect-- the beginning is filled with a little too much superfluous scenes that didn't add anything-- but it's undeniably sexy and quite a fun, racy time. You Belong to Me has the makings of a good romantic comedy-- a silly Henry Fonda performance, an unconventional (for the time) look at gender roles-- but is ultimate marred by the standards of the time. The only way Barbara Stanwyck believes that her marriage will work is that if she gives up her doctor practice, all of her dreams and goals and stays at home to take care of her needy, jealous husband (Fonda). It's a shame that You Belong To Me (kinda) comes to this conclusions, because, up to this point, Stanwyck had been such a beacon of independence and girl power in a way I hadn't seen in a film since the Pre-Code days.

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