For Reel

Bedside (1934)
February 6, 2016, 1:24 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Robert Florey
3.5 Stars
BedsideWarren William’s series of cads are among the great pleasures of early-1930s Hollywood. A wolfish opportunist, William excelled at playing characters who were both corrupt and undoubtedly irresistible. In a period when his home studio, Warner Brothers, was known for gritty, almost nihilistic pictures about people sinking to extreme lows just to scrape by in a cutthroat world, William was the stalwart example of a leading man. Bedside takes an enormous risk by casting him as a corrupt would-be doctor who gambles away the money he meant to use for finishing medical school and instead buys a diploma from a disgraced, morphine-addicted physician (David Landau). If William’s cons are amusing in a film like The Mind Reader where the stakes are low, Bedside literally involves him taking lives into his sleazy, money-grubbing hands. Yet somehow it works, both for the the way it fearlessly revels in the muck, and in Robert Florey’s rapidly-paced and visually dynamic filmmaking. The title itself serves as a double entendre, suggesting both his profession and his penchant for affairs, and in a few scenes Florey perches the doctor on the same bed as his female patients as if stalking his prey. Nowhere is the link between sexuality and his career better demonstrated than in the opening scene, which begins with a close-up shot of a woman’s legs before pulling back to reveal that she is receiving a check-up. While William’s characters always paid the price for their misdeeds, Bedside is particularly well-imagined in this aspect in that his nonchalance and carelessness results in him facing potentially dire consequences, backing him into a corner and forcing a change-of-heart. If the situation is contrived and more than a little ridiculous, the confession sequence has a certain honesty to it that William excels at portraying.

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