Janet Haley (Barbara Stanwyck) is visiting the Mountview General Hospital to be treated for a burn. Dr. Kildare (Joel McCrea), an intern at the hospital, is assigned to treat her. The two cross paths again at a bar, where Janet is trying to get information from Dan Innes (Stanley Ridges) about her missing daughter.
Innes asks for $1,000 in order to give Janet any information. A parolee working a dangerous, low-wage job, she doesn’t have the money to pay him.
That same night, mob boss Hanlon (Lloyd Nolan) stumbles into the bar with a knife wound. Dr. Kildare performs a back-room operation with Janet’s help and saves the man’s life. A friendship begins to grow between Janet and Dr. Kildare; could he help her find her daughter?
Alfred Santell directs 1937’s Internes Can’t Take Money, the first film to be adapted from Max Brand’s “Dr. Kildare” stories.
A blend of medical drama and gangster film, Internes Can’t Take Money is very serious in tone, with plenty of tension. This tone is complemented by a grim mood built by Depression-era woes like Janet’s financial troubles, the dangerous low-wage jobs worked by Janet and the hospital’s other patients, and the rise of organized crime.
The cinematography is very noir-ish at times, a prime example being the stairwell confrontation scene at the boarding house where Janet lives about thirty minutes into the film. This also serves to build upon the film’s sense of drama.
The film features many solid performances. McCrea is easy to buy in his principled doctor character, and I love Lloyd Nolan as the tough but good-hearted crime boss. The two actually make a fun pair on-screen, and their team-up to save the day at the end of the film had me wishing there was a Nolan/McCrea buddy crime comedy in existence.
And then, of course, there’s Stanwyck. The character of Janet is a young, working woman, struggling to provide for herself after the death of her husband. She’s also an ex-con, having been unfairly punished for her association with her deceased husband, though she knew nothing of his crimes until the end of his life. And adding a touch of sentimentality to the film, she’s searching for her daughter, who was taken by her husband when they split up. Though not quite as powerful as her motherly role in Stella Dallas, Stanwyck’s performance is very good here, and she of course has wonderful chemistry with Joel McCrea.
Not one of the best of Stanwyck’s filmography, Internes Can’t Take Money is still a good watch with some very nice mood-building, particularly worthwhile for fans of the Stanwyck/McCrea pairing.