Hospital drama doesn't seem to be going anywhere until it's revealed that a terrible car crash from the beginning of the film didn't actually kill Sylvia Benton's husband. Even worse, it drove him insane! This leaves Sylvia, who's resumed her nursing career, unable to find happiness by marrying a doctor. She can choose neither the charming young hot shot, nor the mature head surgeon, because it's 1934 and the law prevents Sylvia from divorcing her husband, variously described as "mad," "a mental case," and "a nut."
Bebe Daniels plays Sylvia, a role that Kay Francis somehow escaped; Lyle Talbot is the hotshot young doctor; John Halliday the kindly old pro; Gordon Westcott, in a small part, the afflicted husband.
Registered Nurse was directed by Robert Florey (Murders in the Rue Morgue) and sandwiched between Warren William guilty pleasures Bedside and Smarty. I assume Florey must have really known how to bring his films in on time and under budget, otherwise it's amazing that he worked so long and so steady. "B" director worked on a lot of bombs with occasional goodies tucked between like Outcast (1937), Meet Boston Blackie (1941), and The Beast with Five Fingers (1946).
The best feature of Registered Nurse is the deep cast of supporting and character actors. Some of them, like Minna Gombell, Mayo Methot, and Renee Whitney as Daniels' fellow nurses, are allowed to do much more than usual. Key supporting roles for wrestling promoter Sidney Toler and madam Irene Franklin, patients after beating the tar out of one another. Smaller parts for faces and favorites like hospital staff Beulah Bondi, Vince Barnett, and Virginia Sale, beat cop Edward Gargan, and Louise Beavers as a hysterical patient.
Tor Johnson, later of Ed Wood fame, plays one of two wrestlers, somehow getting his Sonnevich moniker by the censors—say it to yourself, add an Eastern European accent if it helps. Still, I'm not sure that chuckle was worth the extended comic brawl he has with his ring partner in Toler's hospital room.
Vince Barnett gets to sing a song and then rattle off the most unexpected line of the movie when serving drinks to Beulah Bondi and Virginia Sale. He has them drinking "Pink Suspenders," but offers them a "Bosom Caresser," so-called because it warms you all the way down.
Edward Gargan character, as Minna Gombell's love interest, seems like filler until used as lesson never to put off till tomorrow what you can do today. Getting married that is.
Lyle Talbot is pretty smarmy here. I spent most of the hour wondering whether I was supposed to like him or not. Not a very exciting role for John Halliday, who feels more like a father-figure than a romantic interest. He could have been interesting had he had opportunity to get Westcott on the operating table and do the wrong thing for the sake of Daniels. But Westcott doesn't get that far.
Bebe Daniels is okay, though lays it on real thick a couple of times before her husband's mental condition is revealed: whenever Halliday or the other medicos mention insanity she freezes up and stares far off into the distance, leaving everyone to wonder whether she's the one who should be committed. You pull for Sylvia, sure, but I didn't like her nearly as much as her patients did.
Horror fans looking for technique from Florey aren't going to find much beyond a few menacing shots of Toler's character, a roughneck who can't help falling for Sylvia like everyone else.
An argument for looser divorce restrictions in a movie idealizing marriage.
From Warner Bros.-First National.
My IMDb rating: 5/10.