War Nurse (1930)
Obviously a very early film whose director is still getting used to directing sound pictures using worded placards liberally throughout. The first third of the film sets the stage: women from all walks of life in the United States of America decide to help with the war in France by volunteering as nurses. Very quickly thereafter and in France the women must adjust to their new harsher realities by turning an old stable into a hospital. Some rather sexist stereotypes are used at this point the women are shown to be afraid of: spiders & mice the sounds of war and the sight of blood. Then various trials and tribulations are shown including the lack of sleep the amount of work and the avoidance of “pawing” soldiers & doctors during which Robert Montgomery’s officer character is introduced. He and his pilot friends are naturally womanizing fatalists with a woman at every airstrip. The second third of the film involves Montgomery’s pursuit of nurse “Babs” (June Walker) with a subplot of Montgomery’s pal (Robert Ames) pursuing a nurse played by Anita Page whose introduction into the hospital was as a “fashion plate” that was initially the butt of the other nurses’ jokes before she mixes in. Helen Jerome Eddy plays “Kansas” a nurse more interested in art than men; Zasu Pitts plays another nurse that is her friend providing some mild comic relief. Hedda Hopper is very convincing as the matron of the women in charge of the hospital. The courtships continue Montgomery “wins” Babs only for her to become disillusioned by his attitude and spurning him. Page is “won” and becomes convinced that spending the night with her pilot meant he wanted to marry her but finds out later that he is already married and begins a downward spiral.
*** SPOILERS ***
The third part of the film has the most wartime special effects as the women are taken to help at the front to assist. One by one they are killed off Page returning from another scandal in France (she’s pregnant!) in time to deliver her baby and be killed herself. When the war ends with actual newsreel footage being shown Montgomery returns late (he’d been a prisoner in Germany for an extended period) to find “Babs” marry her and adopt Page’s son.