Love to drift back into pre code dramas of all types from the “Dangerous Horrors” of THE MASK OF FU MANCHU (1933) to the Warren William pictures so this trip into the hospital world of EMERGENCY CALL(1933) was looked forward to. Lets step into the waiting area, grab a hard wooden bench for seat and enjoy.
The aspect that these films bring is that they are so delightfully subversive in the medical world following in the “white shoes” of MEN IN WHITE (1934) with young Clark Gable to Barbara Stanwyck’s bow in NIGHT NURSE (1931). These picture became a genre unto themselves as the DR KILDAIRE and DOCTOR GILLESPIE series later BEN CASEY plus many others. EMERGENCY CALL (1933) Directed by Edward L. Cahn for RKO studios combines the world of romance with crime. I suggest that the romantic elements were to keep the women interested while the Crime was for the males interested in the two fisted action.
Bill Boyd plays the role of Dr. Joe Bradley who is about to marry into the family of the man who runs the hospital. Bradley wants to prove himself yet is rather naive sort of fellow even forgetting his kit on his first emergency call with Steve (William Gargan) . Bradley even goes the wrong way in the building when he arrives as he learns from Steve in a rather cruel by today’s standards way that all patients at this time’ are at the top of the stairs and weight three hundred pounds”.
Gargan in the role of Steve is good counterpoint in the action between Bill Boyd’s style as he wisecracks his way by being street wise and familiar with the other lowly medical people. The thirties featured snappy dialogue between men and woman and this is not exception at Steve set up a romance between himself and Mabel (Wynne Gibson). There is fun words exchanged when Steve calls Mabel by the name of Wiennie which she dislikes and asked the matron not to call her that. The matron dresses down Steve who should be spending more time on his work and less with the flirting. Good moment when Steve says ‘hey I only want to marry the girl”. The matron turns to leave and you can see a funny smile on her face.
These light moments work well as the story turns up the crime elements as the hospital becomes a haven for “ambulance chasers” and ” insurance scammers” run by the underworld in the person of (Not FANTASY ISLAND.) Mr Rourke (Edwin Maxwell). The racketeers set up accidents with there own people by tossing themselves in front of vehicles to collect damages. One such person Sammie (George E Stone) is recognized by Steve as he is being brought in and is harassed by him resulting in Sammie leaving the hospital much to the surprise of the head administrator who fires Steve and Mabel on the spot. They are both reinstated and which when the romance between Steve and Mabel blossoms into being asked and accepting of a date.
Good moments in the style of thirties romance however the story takes a dark turn with scandals and cover up at the highest level of the hospital. Punch ups, murder and death for an unexpected reason blend into the moralistic ending
Bill Boyd who is actually billed ahead of all the cast had a huge career before this picture which was made just before his career took off ina role he would be identified with that being the two fisted pure action hero HOPALONG CASSIDY in 1935. Boyd would go onto play “Cassidy” in sixty six films and short lived Television series Boyd does well in the role playing it low key and righteously naive later in the action sequences his fists fly against the villains. Elevators go up as the fights get multi leveled even rescuing his buddy Steve who is knifed from behind.
Wynne Gibson had the blonde precode look about her very similar to Miriam Hopkins in face structure and body type who had many famous roles in pre code times such as (With William Gargan) THE STORY OF TEMPLE DRAKE (1933) and DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (1931) with Fredric March. Wynne plays the comedy well in EMERGENCY CALL (1933) plus shift well as the story changes to dark overtones and tragedy. The character of Mabel makes a interesting if not self righteous journey at the end of the film but that was the style for the time. It is nice touch that the name “Wiennie” which she does want to be called in the film is similar to her real first name.
Disturbing moment in this film occur when Steve continually calls Mabel ‘My little Wiennie” on the date culminating him him holding here close and slapping her three times saying the name making Mabel cry. Steve then says ‘Now that”s settled’ and the date continues without incident. This was not as bad as the moment with Joan Blondell in SMARTY(1934) which is filled with references of women loving to be hit by men even the point of ‘Liking it”. Two sided comment of the state of relationships and the way Hollywood saw the institution of marriage which had to be upheld at all times yet allow for violence in the name of preservation.
The rest of the cast rounds out well from the contract player at RKO with villians being tough a large physically and meek when they have to be. Paul Fix who had large and distinguished career in Westerns, Crime pictures and later even as “Dr. Piper” who was the precursor to “Dr.McCoy” in the second original Television pilot of STAR TREK has a brief role as Dr. Mason.
EMERGENCY CALL (1933) paces well into it running time sixty five minutes. It features early screenplay credit for Joseph L. Mankiewicz who went on to do a few other good things in Hollywood. For some reason it is hard to find picture which can happen as well all know yet it gives one a chance to see Bill Boyd before he became William Boyd and began riding horse on those dusty trails.