Dr. Socrates (1935)

A small-town doctor gets roped into helping a notorious bank robber.


William Dieterle

“Some people are not sensitive to pain. Particularly the moronic species.”

Author: utgard14 from USA
7 August 2014

Paul Muni plays a small town doctor who becomes mixed up with a wounded criminal (Barton MacLane) and falls for a pretty hitchhiker (Ann Dvorak). A fine WB crime drama that moves with a crisp pace. Mustachioed Paul Muni reunites with his Scarface costar Ann Dvorak. Muni is excellent in one of his more subdued roles. Dvorak is lovely and gives an effortless performance. As different as Muni was from other Hollywood actors at the time, Dvorak was just as different from the other actresses. She rarely goes for the theatrical or hysterical. Her performances are usually much more grounded than, say, Bette Davis, who never saw a rafter she didn’t reach for. The standout of the movie is Barton MacLane, shouting and swaggering his way through every scene. It’s a real treat to watch. As usual, the stable of WB supporting players are superb. Remade as King of the Underworld with Kay Francis and Humphrey Bogart, whose first wife Mayo Methot appears here as MacLane’s moll.


Paul Muni

No Criminal Business Near The Hideout

Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
11 October 2009

As a film Dr. Socrates is significant in the career of Paul Muni because it is the first time he worked with William Dieterle who directed all of his biographical films at Warner Brothers for which he became best known for. They must have liked working together because Muni would not have had him as a director again, he had that kind of clout and was that demanding of his bosses at Warner Brothers.

The film itself is a minor drama with Muni playing the role of a kindly doctor who has settled in an obscure small town to forget the death of his sweetheart. As the town already has a doctor in Robert Barrat, there are some in the town who don’t really take to Muni. But enough do so he gets by.

Although no one knows it the town is also the center of a vicious gang of robbers, headed by a John Dillinger like hoodlum played in swaggering style by Barton MacLane. The gang’s hideout is at Olin Howland’s farm, MacLane and the rest are from the area. He’s public enemy number one in the parlance of the day.


One day MacLane is wounded in a bank holdup and he and the gang stop in at Muni and force him at gunpoint to patch him up. MacLane likes his work and now thinks he can intimidate the soft spoken Muni into being their regular physician.

Although Ann Dvorak had to be introduced somehow as a love interest, the script’s biggest fault is the fact that she’s wounded in a bank robbery at the hometown. She’s a hitchhiker, but a lot believe she was in with the gang. Cardinal rule in real life and films, you absolutely don’t do any criminal business in or near your sanctuary.

Usually people don’t steal the show from Paul Muni, but in this case the swaggering, bullying Barton MacLane may have given the best performance of his career. MacLane was a menacing guy in films with that rasping voice of his and it was never put to better advantage than in Dr. Socrates.


Barton MacLane
Three years later the basic plot of Dr. Socrates was used again for King Of The Underworld where Kay Francis is a female doctor and Humphrey Bogart the gangster.

Dr. Socrates is a minor effort from Paul Muni, but still an enjoyable film. His next film was The Story Of Louis Pasteur, directed by William Dieterle that would set Muni’s Hollywood image for all time.

Author: sol from Brooklyn NY USA
26 September 2006
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

(There are Spoilers) Having lost his nerve as a brilliant surgeon after surviving a car crash back in Chicago, that killed his fiancé Sylvia, Dr. Lee. Cardwell aka Dr. Socrates, Paul Muni, moved from the big city of Chicago to little Big Bend Ind to reopen his practice. Lee not interested in money never takes cash from his patients but only IOU’s which, from watching the movie, are never repaid. Just making ends meet Lee has difficulty paying his bills but somehow has no problem maintaining a big house as well as a full-time maid Ma Granson, Helen Howell. Things are about to change and that has to do with Lee’s taking his oath as a doctor seriously to the point of not only helping those who need his services with or without health insurance, as we’ve already seen, but even those on the lamb from the law like bank robber Red Bastian, Barton MacLane.

The Bastian gang picking up Jo Gray, Ann Dvorak, hitch-hiking to California end up in a shoot-out in Big Bend where both Bastian and Jo end up wounded. Lee taking Jo to his home to be treated for her wounds is accused with Jo of aiding the Bastian Mob. Since Jo is suspected, by being with the gangster at the time of her getting shot, to be Bastian’s gun moll and getaway driver.

Lee refusing to release Jo to a vigilante mob until she’s fully recovered from her wounds later get’s involved with Bastian himself as he, and a number of his fellow hoodlums, break into his place demanding treatment for his gun shot wounds. Bastian grateful for what Lee did for him gives him a C-Note, 100 dollar bill, for his troubles. That bill will later have the FBI and local police trace it back to the Bastine bank robbery thus implicating Lee, as well as the already suspected Jo, as a suspect and member of the Red Bastian gang.


Ann Dvorak Ann Dvorak

With all this going on and Lee about to be taken into custody it’s found out that Red had his hoods raid his home and kidnap Jo whom Bastian has take a strong liking for. Getting the FBI and police to go along with him Lee goes to Bastian’s hideout, where he was earlier taken by Bastine’s mob, and devises a plan to not only get Red Bastian to release Jo but also give himself, and his gang, up; by being tricked into facing something that’s far worse then any police bullets or a life behind bars.

As he’s treating Red Bastian’s wound Lee taking his temperature see’s that it’s normal, 98.6, but tell the shocked gangster that it’s 103. Lee tells a shocked Bastain that not only does he but his entire gang, together with Lee & Jo, have contracted typhoid from the well water that they’ve been drinking. Vaccinating Bastian and most of his gang Lee instead of a typhoid vaccine shoots them up with dope causing the mobsters to conk out before the FBI, who told Lee that they would start moving in on Bastian’s hideout in less then an hour, make their move.


Lee’s actions still didn’t prevent a wild shoot-out outside in the Bastian hideout. Since the hoodlums there weren’t and couldn’t all be vaccinated by him but it prevented an even bigger shoot-out and massacre inside where most of the Bastian mob was. All of this didn’t give the film the feel-good ending that you would have expected. Bastian staggering from the influence of the dope tries to make his last stand but is so groggy that he could barley stand on his two feet. Instead of shooting it out with the Feds, and going out in a blaze of glory, Bastian falls down a fight of stairs landing right on his head and into a pair of handcuffs instead.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s