Doctor Bull (John Ford / U.S., 1933):

"Sulfur and molasses," the quotidian John Ford. The wry joke is that Doctor Bull is a cow doctor, Will Rogers gives him the gruff weariness of a sage who knows he has only the ingratitude of gossips and reactionaries to look forward to. A couple of lateral pans of snow-carpeted streets (with a slight uptilt to take in the chapel's bell tower) give the essence of the New England burg in winter, "quite dull, isn't it," the train barely stops by. Sunday is a typical day for the good medico: teasing the busybodies in the graveyard ("What's the matter? Someone get out?"), delivering the seventh baby of a jolly immigrant clan, and stoking scandalous rumors by courting the dairy-business widow (Vera Allen). He enjoys Shakespeare and Carroll, and surely recognizes the Ibsenian nature of the outbreak of contaminated water that puts him before a tribunal of fools. "I've seen a hundred people die. None of them seemed too upset by it." The rival physician with fancy car and test tubes (Ralph Morgan), the wayward ingenué (Rochelle Hudson) and the congested hypochondriac (Andy Devine), these are the dwellers of Ford's caustic reconsideration of Arrowsmith—the territory most in need of castor oil is not overseas but the Connecticut community struck by typhoid and hypocrisy. (Paralysis is another persistent theme, Howard Lally's atrophied legs here become John Wayne's in The Wings of Eagles, revived toes and all.) Easter and weddings and perhaps even escape come at the close, Kurosawa takes up the dilemma for half of Drunken Angel. (The other half belongs to Wyler's Dead End.) With Louise Dresser, Marian Nixon, and Berton Churchill. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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