Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Night Nurse (1931)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Night Nurse (1931)

In this notorious Warner Bros. pre-Code melodrama from director William Wellman, its emphasis was on the themes of drug usage and alcoholism, neglectful mothering and child abuse, medical establishment malpractice and corruption, and violence against women:

  • the film's startling opening scene: the driver's POV of an ambulance (with siren) careening and racing through streets to the city's hospital with a car-crash patient wheeled in with a broken skull
  • the salacious and sexually adventurous activities of the two "night" nurses who were roommates in training: Lora Hart (Barbara Stanwyck) and sassy, wise-cracking blonde friend B. Maloney (Joan Blondell), and the film's use of every imaginable excuse to have the two actress-stars frequently and liberally undressing down to their silky, lacy underwear: (1) in a hospital scene, Lora was urged by B. Maloney to try on her nursing uniform in the open, and she replied: "I guess everybody around here has seen more than I've got"; then, in her bra and slip, she was spied upon by a horny male intern Eagan (Edward Nugent) who entered the room: "Oh, don't be embarrassed, you can't show me a thing. I just came from the delivery room"; and (2) the two stripped when sneaking into their dorm room late at night, (3) and then undressed a third time when working
Heroines Undressing Multiple Times
Lora in Bra and Slip
Lora and B. Maloney Stripping
in Dorm Room
Lora in Bra
More Undressing
  • the film's story: the discovery by courageous live-in private nurse Lora that there was a dastardly abusive plot (a slow-poison scheme) to kill two deliberately-malnourished, anemic children Desney and Nanny Ritchey (Betty Jane Graham and Marcia Mae Jones) by their unfit, widowed, alcoholic socialite 5th Avenue mother Mrs. Ritchey (Charlotte Merriam), in order to acquire their trust fund inheritance; the evil plan had been orchestrated by the mean and evil family chauffeur Nick (Clark Gable)
  • the scene of Lora being sexually assaulted by a drunken guest named Mack (Walter McGrail) in the same room where she was tending to an inebriated and passed-out Mrs. Ritchey; she was rescued from molestation by Nick (wearing a gaudy silk robe with a dragon pattern on the back) who entered the room and punched out the man, but then when she insisted on calling for a doctor, Lora was also punched unconscious by the brutish Nick; later, she was urged and bribed (with $100 by Mrs. Ritchey) to keep quiet, as well as by the family's conniving, drug-addicted physician Dr. Milton Ranger (Ralf Harolde) (with obvious tics) who was in cahoots with Nick
  • Lora's harsh words to the drunken, always-partying, irresponsible, self-proclaimed proud 'dipsomaniac' Mrs. Ritchey: "You're a cruel, inhuman mother...You're a rotten parasite, that's what you are. Don't blame it on the booze, it's you! Why do poor little children have to be born to women like you?!...You're going up in that nursery with me if I have to drag you by the hair of your head!" - and then swung at soused Mack and sent him to the floor when he tried to interfere
Lora's Reprimand of Irresponsible
Lush Mother Mrs. Ritchey (and Mack)
  • Lora also stood up to and confronted the nasty Nick when she learned from the housekeeper Mrs Maxwell (Blanche Friderici) that he was working with Dr. Ranger to eliminate the two kids to acquire control of the trust fund: "In your case, I'm talkin' about murder...If this baby dies, you're in with Ranger...How long did you think you could get away with this, you fool? Do you think just because you can strong-arm a couple of women, you have the brains to put over a racket like this? I had your number the minute I stepped into the house, and what's more, I reported my suspicions on the outside...You want those kids to die...because you want what their father left 'em. That's why you keep the mother all hopped up and full of booze all the time. One of these days, you'll take her out and marry her and grab the children's trust fund. That's what you're after, but you're not gonna get away with it!"
  • by the conclusion, the plot was foiled and the children were saved when the hospital's kindly chief of staff Dr. Arthur Bell (Charles Winninger) attempted to intervene at the house, and provided Nanny with an emergency blood transfusion (assisted by Lora), even though Nick tried to prevent the procedure by knocking him to the floor; Lora's "My Pal" Mortie (Ben Lyon), a bootlegger that Lora had befriended earlier in the film, stopped Nick from any further involvement and led him away (with a concealed gun)
  • in the film's unusual ending, Lora happily accompanied criminal "My Pal" in his convertible; he urged her to shift the gears - full of phallic sexual innuendo: "When I say shift, shift"; he hinted that he had sent Nick to the morgue: "Ya know, I just been thinkin', maybe Nick won't be arrested...Well, I ain't seen him around since last night... I happened to be talkin' to a couple of guys last night...only I happened to mention that I didn't like Nick so good"
  • there was a book-ending view of an ambulance rushing to bring a corpse to the morgue, where one of the attendants mentioned that the victim was "taken for a ride" - and "he was wearing a chauffeur's uniform"

Ambulance in Opening Scene

Lora Hart (Barbara Stanwyck) Applying For Nurse Job From Head Nurse

Lora Meeting Nurse Trainee Roommate B. Maloney

Lora with Two Young Ritchey Patients

Lora Assaulted by Drunken Guest Mack

"I'm Nick, the chauffeur!"

Lora to Nick: "I'm talkin' about murder!"

Nick Trying to Prevent Dr. Bell From Performing a Blood Transfusion on Nanny

The Bootlegger Leading Nick Out (With Concealed Gun)

Riding Off with Bootlegger - Shifting His Gears!

Ambulance Attendant: "He was wearing a chauffeur's uniform"


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