Dr. Monica (1934)

Directed by William Keighley
William Dieterle
Cinematography Sol Polito

Dr. Monica is a 1934 American pre-Code romantic melodrama film starring Kay Francis, Warren William and Jean Muir. An obstetrician who is unable to have children discovers that the baby she is about to deliver was fathered by her husband.

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Pre-Code Fans Will Want to Watch

21 August 2012 | by Michael_Elliott (Louisville, KY) – See all my reviews

Dr. Monica (1934)

** 1/2 (out of 4)

Decent but somewhat dimwitted melodrama from Warner about a good hearted doctor (Kay Francis) who can’t have children of her own but soon learns that her husband (Warren William) has been sleeping with her best friend (Jean Muir) and has also gotten her pregnant. Quite a story for a film from 1934 but sadly this thing only runs 53-minutes and apparently it had around fifteen-minutes cut out of it either before or during its original release. I’m not certain if the uncut version will ever show up but I was surprised to see how much was left intact from the cheating husband, a non-married pregnant woman and there’s even a quick mention about an abortion.

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I have a hard time really judging this film since so much of it was cut out and perhaps some of the issues I had with it were better served in the uncut version. With that said, the biggest problem I had was how stupid the characters were. I’m not going to give away any of the major plot points but I will say that I found the two female characters to be incredibly silly. This is especially true of the “friend” as I found her so annoying that I couldn’t connect with her story. The wife/doctor was so forgiving that I had a hard time caring for her either. The film does feature three good performances from the leads as all of them fit their roles nicely. The performances certainly help the weak material overcome some of its issues but DR. MONICA doesn’t quite reach the level it should. Still, fans of pre-code films should want to check this one out even in its cut form.

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Censor Joe Breen probably stole two stars off my rating…

5/10
Author: calvinnme from United States
22 August 2012

…by pressuring Warner Brothers to cut this film so badly. He referred to the three main female characters as “a lesbian, a nymphomaniac, and a prostitute”. I find this very confusing. None of the women in this film are wearing trousers (I’m not casting stereotypes here – see The Office Wife for reference), nor are any of the women committed to more than one man – in fact two of them love the same man, and none of them seem to be doing “the deed” for money. I can only imagine that whenever he was confronted with images on film of an unconventional nature, that the top of old Joe’s head came off and he started spouting nonsense. But I digress.

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At a short 53 minutes this is a film about Dr. Monica Braden (Kay Francis), a woman who delivers babies for a living but is physically unable to have her own and desperately wants to, her husband John (Warren William) who has a short affair with an acquaintance (Jean Muir) but ends it when he realizes he really loves Monica, with a healthy dose of friendship thrown in for Monica in the person of Teasdale’s character. Dr. Monica becomes the physician of the girl having her husband’s baby not knowing the situation. Complications ensue.

1934 Kay Francis in Doctor Monica

1934 Kay Francis in Doctor Monica

The cutting on this film is so stark that you can actually see where the abortion would have been discussed. Jean Muir’s character has just learned her condition, starts to say something – never does, and then the film cuts to Dr. Monica telling her sternly “don’t even think that! Ever!”. Plus, Warren William is practically neutered in this film. If you’re familiar with his work, you know Warren William usually was the fast-talking cad in a multitude of Warner precodes who was second fiddle to none. Unfortunately, here he is barely fourth fiddle.

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If I seem like I’m being hard on this film it’s mainly the screenplay to which I object. Both Muir and Francis are natural, strong, and vulnerable in their roles depending upon what is needed in any given scene. Teasdale doesn’t get to do much, but she adds a level head to a situation that desperately needs one. As with all of Kay’s WB films this one boasts a lovely score and has a few wonderful seemingly untouched scenes, such as the one where Dr. Braden and her husband are enjoying a sunset together at the end of their vacation – she understands the significance of the occasion (a last time together, as she wants to step aside so John can be a father to his child), he does not (He doesn’t even know he’s a father).

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Recommended for hard core fans of Francis, but do be prepared to feel like you’ve been rushed through an incomplete story, because you have been.

Must have just snuck in under the Hays Code deadline

6/10
Author: marcslope from New York, NY
22 August 2012
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Pretty racy stuff for 1934, where Dr. Kay Francis, who’s barren, discovers that her husband, Warren William, fathered a child with her best friend, an aviatrix. That’s one interesting thing about this programmer–for 1934, the female characters are fantastically accomplished, physician, pilot, architect. And the movie’s downright blunt about motivations, with William clearly besotted with Jean Muir but also in love with his wife, and the doc showing no moral conflict with both treating the unwed mother and making her feel good about herself. The other interesting thing is how sexist the morality is: The aviatrix has to kill herself to win moral redemption in this universe, while William, who never finds out he’s the child’s father, gets to live happily ever after with his wife, who takes the baby as her own. He’s totally forgiven, and she’s sacrificed. Sheesh.

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A very unsatisfying Pre-Code melodrama.

3/10
Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida
18 March 2016

Dr. Monica (Kay Francis) is a successful Obstetrician and is really, really wrapped up in her job–so much so that when her husband, John (Warren William), goes off to Europe on business for several months, Monica stays home. It’s obvious that there are problems in this relationship but Monica doesn’t know how deep they are, as John has been having an affair with Mary (Jean Muir)! When Mary ends up pregnant, Monica treats her friend wonderfully…not realizing that Mary is a back-stabbing tramp. But, when Monica finally learns the truth, Mary is in labor and Monica is forced to deliver the baby. However, although Monica is hurt and angry, she’s also saint-like and eventually plans to let John go so that he can wed Mary. However, Mary and her friends realize that John really does love Monica and her plan cannot be allowed to occur. So what will they do instead? Yep, leave the baby with Monica, kill yourself so you won’t be the one to break up the marriage AND have Monica NEVER tell John the baby is biologically his!

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This was one of the last Pre-Code films released by Hollywood. It debuted in June, 1934 and the new, tougher code went into effect the following month. As a result, the film was soon pulled from circulation and not re-shown for some time due to its plot. Adultery was NOT to be allowed in films unless it was severely punished and Monica and John’s ‘modern’ sense of morality was definitely NOT allowed Post-Code. For me, however, it’s not the morality of the film that’s a major issue but the utter ridiculous way that Monica behaves. She is just too understanding, too nice and too unreal. I would have loved to have seen her enraged or downright hostile…instead she’s too good and sweet to be real. And, the ending, while satisfying in a Hollywood way, is also completely ridiculous. A real disappointment.

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Production code does its dirty work to this one…

5/10
Author: cluciano63 from Albuquerque, NM
28 September 2012
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It is predictable in that the fallen woman, i.e. the mistress of the married man (Dr. Monica’s husband) has to pay the ultimate price for having sex, basically. A woman was not allowed to live once she had premarital sex, unless she opted for a nunnery; that was the only variation on the theme.

Kay Francis as Dr. Monica is her usual stalwart self; suffering expressions, well-dressed, etc…Warren William has the lousy luck to play the wimp of a cheating husband. I usually enjoy him so much, but not here.

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But the sacrificial speech made by Monica is too much…she is willing to hand her husband over to his mistress in exchange for two weeks of love with him first.

But don’t worry, the code won’t allow that anyway. Husband and wife must remain together, whether they want to or not, And of course, the biggest rule in these movies is that the husband must be lied to, all the time. He must never know what he has wrought…he must get to have everything, a wife, a baby who he is really his, even if he doesn’t know it, and peace of mind.

Watching this film 80 years after it was made feels like watching some sort of science fiction…it is such an unbelievable plot.

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