DR MONICA (1934)


STARDUST AND SHADOWS has a great affection for  Pre-code dramas as most watchers of these style of pictures have. Classic pre-code period being from 1925 to 1934 produced so deliciously seditious works before  the Hays code came into effect.  DR. MONICA made back in 1934 was  at the end of this cycle has two of the  very best actors in the person of Kay Francis and Warren William.

DR. MONICA: Directed by Warner Brothers work horses William Keighley and  an  uncredited  William Dieterle with an  adapted script by Charles Kenyon who also wrote other  pre-code films  such as OFFICE WIFE (1930) and  PARTY HUSBAND (1931). Kenyon who was apparently good at adapting plays to the  screen  (DR. MONICA was originally a polish stage play) also scripted the  debatable misfire of   the  Warner Brothers  version of A MIDSUMMER NIGHTS  DREAM (1934) with likes of James  Cagney and Mickey Rooney spouting Shakespeare dialogue in a forest in an  attempt to bring “Prestige” to the studio.  William Dieterle  was also in the  Directors  chair  for that picture. Watch it  at  your peril.

The  story is direct and simple  of that  of a  female Obstetrician played  by Kay Francis in the  title role  which of course was limited by 1930’s standards  of  female occupations delivers a child of a patient even as she knows it was was fathered by her husband played  by Warren William in an affair.

Kay Francis literally glides through the opening party scenes with assurance even to the point of adding a  little  “finger waggle” business  to an off screen acquaintance.  Dr Monica Braden is played as being totally devoted to her  husband and  selfless in here medical work often doing long hours.   Warren William who plays  John Braden is a  best selling  globe  trotting author working on a book for  his publisher.   Little does the audience  know of  the  peccadillo   that Warren  William who does  dastardly subtly   well  in both  body language  and  speech pattern until  the  audience meets Mary Hathaway played  by Jean Muir.

Hathaway is  at party at the  Braden residence when she collapses after being asked to play the piano.  Good  Dr. Monica begins to offer her add and  thus  starts the  unraveling of the mystery all in 60 plus minutes.

You can watch Kay Francis change Dr Monica as  she becomes cold  yet  still offers aid  due to her  oath as a physician for  Hathaway.  The  controversy which made this  so censurable to the audience  at the time was that Dr Monica rejects helping Hathaway  and  the  child painting  the Medical world in a bad light. She is  set straight by a literal ‘slap in the face ” by Verree Teasdale  playing  Anna  Littlefield who reminds her of  her  duty.   Dr Monica even demands  that the  child be  “kept out of her  sight” which was unsettling for the 1930’s institution  of Motherhood. The other irony is  that Dr Monica Braden was a  child by her  husband and expresses  it to him.   There is much going on in this picture as  you have a female doctor which was unheard or limited as 1930’s occupations gave females the  choice of  home maker, secretary or  store clerk.  To  top it off we have a  woman rejecting the  act of being a Mother when the  child is  at first abhorred.

The  ending which puts everything right by Hollywood standard was some what  dramatic   yet it  fit the times.   Through it  all you get flawless performance  from Kay Francis (Brilliant  wardrobe as usual) Warren  William,  Jean Muir, Veree Teasdale, and the others in the small effective cast.  Barbara Stanwyck was to be the Dr. Monica as her star was  rising yet  Kay Francis  does the role justice  as  she had  already played  a female  physician  in MARY STEVEN  M.D (1934) also for  Warner Brothers.

DR. MONICA is  an excellent example of  pre-code women’s  view in the  cinema at that  time.  This of course all changed with the coming of  the  code which made the  screenwriters less direct yet still  risque.  DR MONICA (1934) runs just over 60 mins and is  well worth a look if not just for the acting of  the entire cast.

 

 

 

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