Doctor Monica (1934)

Monica Bradon (Kay Francis) seems to have it all. She’s happily married to John (Warren William), a writer. She has a wonderful job as a physician, where she loves her work and is well-known in her field.

(Image via Cinema and Chocolate)

(Image via Cinema and Chocolate)

But everything is not what it seems; Monica may be happy, but her life is not perfect. Her husband, it turns out, is having an affair with their mutual friend Mary (Jean Muir).

When John heads to Europe to get inspiration for his writing, Monica doesn’t go with him. She can’t leave her work, and besides, she plans on seeing a doctor while she’s gone to get help with the trouble she’s had conceiving a child. John, meanwhile, breaks it off with Mary, partly out of guilt and partly due to the fact that they’ll soon be separated by an ocean.

Things get complicated when Monica learns that Mary is pregnant. She doesn’t know that John is the father, so she agrees to help Mary and provide her with medical care… but Mary’s secret can’t stay hidden forever.

Doctor Monica was directed by William Keighley and written for the screen by Charles Kenyon. I caught this film on WatchTCM and paired it with Bedside for a quick, medical double feature. Bedside, like Doctor Monica, was released in 1934, and also stars the pair of Warren William and Jean Muir. I reviewed that one yesterday.

Doctor Monica is a pretty predictable film, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad one. In fact, I liked this film quite a bit — much more than the other feature of my double.

The performances, for one, are very good. Kay Francis and Jean Muir have such an interesting, evolving dynamic throughout the film. Francis’ titular character of Monica is truly a wonderful one — intelligent, caring, devoted to both her work and the people she loves. When she discovers that Mary is pregnant, rather than shunning her friend or delivering a berating lecture, she is supportive and helpful.

(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

In this way, the film is somewhat progressive in its handling of the issues of infidelity, infertility, and illegitimate children. Sure, there are a few hints of traditional values — the career woman being cheated on by her husband, the career woman wanting nothing more than to start a family of her own, the “other woman” facing consequences from her relationship. However, for the most part, the film’s issues are handled with more sensitivity than I expected, and without too much over-the-top melodrama or pushy morals.

Had the film been released a few weeks or months later, it would have been a completely different story; Doctor Monica hit the big screen just before the production code went into effect. In fact, it was cut so close that the PCA tried to get the film removed from theaters! I’m glad it got that last-minute “pre-code” release, for it has a lot to offer. The score: 3.5/5

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6 thoughts on “Doctor Monica (1934)

    • I base my scores on two things: whether I would re-watch the film, and whether I liked it enough that I would buy it for my collection. If I give a film 3/5, I would re-watch it but probably wouldn’t buy it. Doctor Monica is one that I would watch again and would consider buying if I came across a cheap copy, but would not buy at full price. It’s kind of an odd system. I’m actually thinking of changing it to a simpler “Not recommended/Recommended/Highly recommended,” since I’ve had several questions about it lately haha.

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      • Understood. Even the Rec/Not Rec/Highly Rec system has flaws. I find myself hedging and clarifying, eg “Recommended for lovers of film history or fans of the director” or “Not recommended unless you read the film as camp.” I guess no system is flawless. I suppose we could make a post explaining our system and then link it in every review!

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        • Yeah, I have a page with my rating system linked in the top menu bar but it has had maybe 30 visits in the almost five-year existence of my blog, haha. Perhaps it would help to link it at the end of each review, where it would be more visible. I don’t mind explaining myself now and then in the comments, though, so a change might be more trouble than necessary.

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