Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Even though doctor movies have been part of Hollywood's output since at least the onset of sound, this one, helped along by the popularity of TV dramas like "Ben Casey," probably started the fad for medical soap operas--both "The Doctors" and "General Hospital" started their TV runs the year after this film came out, and this film itself was spun off into a sequel in '64 and a one-season hour-long TV drama in 1970. The movie follows a group of handsome young male interns (and the nurses they chase) through their first year at New North Hospital; to be fair, there *is* one female intern (Haya Harareet), thrown in almost as an afterthought to provide a feminist viewpoint to antagonize a chauvinist pig doctor. James MacArthur (Dan-O on "Hawaii 5-0") is the quiet, sensitive type who is set up with a nurse (Stefanie Powers) whom all the docs assume is loose because she sports a hickey on her neck, but it turns out that the mark came from a child she was watching in the hospital nursery. She's really a nice girl, but conflict arises when she decides she wants to see the world and he wants to settle down. Nick Adams is a loudmouth joker who is tamed when he falls for a terminally ill patient from a poverty-stricken island in Indonesia. Cliff Robertson strikes up a relationship with a fashion model (Suzy Parker); when she asks him for help to get rid of an unwanted pregnancy (this was back when abortions were illegal), he steals the drugs from the nurses' station, an action which proves disastrous to his career. Michael Callan is a high-strung ball of fire who, despite having a long-time high society girlfriend, begins a flirtation with an older nurse as a way of getting an "in" to study with a doctor he admires.

Much of the narrative takes place between Christmas and New Year's, and a big holiday bash at a nurse's apartment is really the centerpiece of the film; its comic highlight is when a Russian nurse (Carroll Harrison) who is typically demure and inhibited comes alive with a few drinks in her and does a striptease, egged on by all. The main medical sideplot involves an older man dying slowly from a disease which will eventually paralyze him while his mind remains intact. His wife becomes a regular visitor among the interns and his situation is the trigger for a discussion of mercy killing; sure enough, he is eventually found dead of poisoning and the interns who were privy to his case are suspended from consideration for residencies until the case is solved. This causes tensions to run high and gives Callan a showy scene in which he has a public breakdown. Often, the movie has a beach party feel, despite the absence of bikinis or an ocean. The acting is all fine, with Callan and Adams standouts. Telly Savalas is the pig doc who almost causes Harareet to throw in the towel and leave the profession; Buddy Ebsen, John Banner (Sgt. Schultz on "Hogan's Heroes"), and Connie Gilchrist are featured, and in a very small role, you may recognize Mary Grace Canfield, who played Ralph the carpenter in "Green Acres." Watchable, if undeniably a dated period piece by now. [TCM]

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