Movie Mirrors Index

The Girl in White

(1952 b 92')

En: 5 Ed: 6

Based on her autobiography, about 1900 a smart and ambitious girl becomes the first woman doctor to be an intern in a New York hospital and overcomes prejudice.

         When her pregnant mother collapses, young Emily Dunning (June Allyson) runs for the nearest doctor and is surprised to find it is Marie Yeomans (Mildred Dunnock). Emily assists Dr. Yeomans in delivering the baby and learns of the difficulties she has even though she has written successful books.

         Emily tells Dr. Yeomans that she wants to be a doctor despite the challenges it presents. Emily goes to Cornell University and becomes friends with Ben Barringer (Arthur Kennedy). Other students make fun of Emily, but she studies hard with Ben and excels on the exam. While celebrating their graduation, Ben dances with Emily and asks her to marry him. She says she is going to medical school and will not give it up to be a housewife.

         Emily moves in with Dr. Yeomans who becomes her mentor. Emily graduates near the top of her class in getting her M.D. However, she is rejected by every hospital in New York because she is a woman. Emily goes to see Dr. Seth Pawling (Gary Merrill) and calls him a bigot for discriminating against her based on sex. Dr. Yeomans goes to see the Commissioner of Hospitals and tells him that Emily ranked third among more than two hundred candidates.

         Dr. Pawling grudgingly welcomes Emily to Gouverneur Hospital because of his superiors and advises her to wear practical clothes. Emily is assigned a room but must share a bath with other doctors. Emily works as an intern and goes on ambulance duty with driver Alec (Jesse White) who instructs her how to save time in mounting the back of the horse-driven ambulance.

         Emily finds that Ben is also working in that hospital, and he tells her of a petition to get her dismissed. The supervising Dr. Graham (Gar Moore) is especially hard on her, and she is assigned extra ambulance duty at night.

         Dr. Graham declares a poisoned patient dead and leaves; but Emily does not give up. She hears a faint heart-beat and with nurses uses artificial respiration to get  him breathing. Then they revive him by helping him walk back and forth and by giving him coffee. A nurse calls the press, and a photograph is taken just as Dr. Pawling comes in. He does not like the publicity. Later he commends Emily for saving a life, and then he reprimands Dr. Graham.

         Ben is doing research on cancer with radium, and he asks if Emily is falling in love with Dr. Pawling. She dances with both at a party for Dr. Pawling. Cases of typhus appear, and soon an extra room is needed to isolate cases. Ben has applied for a fellowship and learns he is accepted in Paris. While on a break he implies he would like Emily to come as his wife, but someone comes into the room.

         Dr. Yeomans arrives because they need extra doctors, and later she is found dead because of her faulty heart. Ben is leaving for Paris; he promises to write and kisses Emily goodbye.

         This inspiring true story shows the sexism that had relegated female physicians to being only midwives until liberated women like Emily Dunning Barringer and her mentor Dr. Mary Putnam Jacobi broke through the barrier.

Copyright © 2012 by Sanderson Beck

Movie Mirrors Index

BECK index