Vigil in the Night (1940)
“There is nothing so good as a good nurse, and nothing so bad as a bad one.”
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
Her first act of selflessness, which sets the story in motion, is accepting responsibility for a negligent death caused by her immature younger sister (Anne Shirley):
who carelessly abandons the bedside of a terminally ill boy at just the wrong moment. Leaving her sister behind to finish her nursing certification, Lombard quickly moves on to a grueling position at a hospital in London, where a potential romance with a handsome surgeon (Aherne) is hinted at but never develops:
Instead, Lombard’s Nurse Lee stalwartly deals with crisis after crisis, never losing her head, and always fighting for “what’s right” against stony head nurses and sleazy benefactors. She may be plucky and honorable, but the truth is she’s terribly uninteresting as a character; we long for Lombard to break into manic screwball mode, even for just a moment! The primary redeeming feature of this predictable weeper is Robert De Grasse’s luminous cinematography.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
One thought on “Vigil in the Night (1940)”
Yeah, skip it!
Totally earnest and totally dull, ‘Vigil…’ is almost entirely accompanied by a treacly violin.
Director Stevens managed a few memorable films but too often elsewhere he tended to over-direct. As he does here.
Not that the issues in the film aren’t urgent… Still, the whole thing is undone by sentimentality. You’ll be watching your watch, if you don’t give up altogether.
That said – there’s one very layered performance here by Ethel Griffies as ‘Matron’. (FFs may spot her due to her memorable performance in Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’.) Hers is a turn to treasure, esp. early on when she lays down the law for incoming nurses, then smiles as she says she hopes the incoming will be happy with, among other things, the nearly impossible rules of her hospital.
Lombard is a wonderful actress, but it’s true that she has almost nothing to work with here.