Yeah, says me. In a big way, sister.
Night Nurse is one of the more bizarre films I’ve ever seen. Barbara Stanwyck plays a young woman plunged into a world of charming bootleggers, cold-hearted child murderers, dipsomaniac socialites and, last but not least, abusive chauffeurs when she takes a job as a night nurse at a hospital. It’s a wacky, wacky movie; it just kind of meanders around for a good half its running time and then finally takes off when Stanwyck takes a job caring for two sick children that are, as she will find out, being slowly starved to death in order to get their trust fund. Joan Blondell is on hand as Stanwyck’s sidekick and she’s a pleasure as always. And a word for Ralf Harolde who appears in only two scenes, but nearly steals the entire show; he plays an obviously cocaine addicted doctor, forever twitching, blinking spastically and rubbing his nose. It’s nigh onto hilarious. But the real treasure here is Clark Gable in a star-making and terrifying performance as Nick, the chauffeur, but also apparently quite a bit more since we see him strolling around in a robe and casually watching the lady of the house undress. He’s grim and vicious; his first scene is a real wowser that climaxes with a beautifully choreographed shot of him punching Stanwyck right in the face. Ben Lyon isn’t very good as the love interest for Stanwyck, a decent guy that also happens to be a bootlegger, unfortunately. But it’s just so strange. Some people may find the meandering story of interest, but the film ultimately achieves a level of camp that makes many of its scenes laughable instead of compelling, which is hard to square with the moments that do work, like the confrontations between the resolute Stanwyck and the vicious Gable. Some people revere it as a gonzo example of pre-Code filmmaking at its wildest; I consider it a film that’s just too silly and stupid to really enjoy. There are flashes of good stuff here, but mainly it’s just a silly, unsuccessful movie. 2 stars.
tl;dr – Clark Gable is great in a supporting role as a vicious criminal, but this bizarre, campy and highly ridiculous movie about a night nurse’s bizarre experiences has very little to recommend it. 2 stars.