The White Angel (1936 film)

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The White Angel
movie poster
Directed by William Dieterle
Written by Mordaunt Shairp
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Michael Jacoby
Lytton Strachey
Starring Kay Francis
Music by Heinz Roemheld
Cinematography Tony Gaudio
Edited by Warren Low
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • June 25, 1936 (1936-06-25)(New York)
Running time
92 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$506,000 [1]
Box office$1,416,000 [1]

The White Angel is a 1936 American historical drama film directed by William Dieterle and starring Kay Francis. [2] [3] The film depicts Florence Nightingale's pioneering work in nursing during the Crimean War.



In Victorian England, Florence Nightingale (Kay Francis) decides to become a nurse, puzzling her upper-class family (as nursing was considered a disreputable profession at the time). She travels to Germany to the only nursing school. The training is arduous, but she endures and graduates. When she returns home, however, no one is willing to employ her.

When the Crimean War breaks out, she finally gets her chance. With the help of influential friends and damning newspaper reports on the wretched conditions in the Crimea by Fuller (Ian Hunter), a reporter for The Times , she is permitted to recruit some nurses and lead them to Scutari in Turkey to tend the wounded.

There, however, she is bitterly opposed by Dr. Hunt (Donald Crisp), who is in charge of the hospital. She remains undaunted, and soon wins the love of her patients. Each night, she passes through miles of the wards, carrying a lamp, so she can satisfy herself that her patients have all they need. Her tireless efforts greatly reduce the mortality rate. Her fame is spread by the newspapers, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow writes a poem in her honor.

When the opportunity arises, she goes to the front to attend the wounded more quickly. She leaves Sister Colomba (Eily Malyon) in charge at Scutari. Once more, Nightingale faces official opposition to her efforts, instigated by Dr. Hunt. However, she gains the support of Lord Raglan (Halliwell Hobbes), the British commander in chief, and is soon hard at work. When she comes down with cholera, she is attended by Tommy (Billy Mauch), a drummer boy she herself nursed back from the brink of death.

While she is only partially recovered, she is surprised when Sister Colomba shows up. The nun informs her that Dr. Hunt replaced her with Ella Stephens, a flighty socialite Nightingale had already rejected as a nurse. Under Stephens' lax and uncaring leadership, conditions had greatly worsened. Nightingale returns to Scutari and sets things straight.

After the war ends, she returns home to England. By this time, even Dr. Hunt has reconsidered his opinion of her work, but his superior, Undersecretary of War Bullock (Montagu Love), remains steadfast in his opposition. Bullock tries to turn Queen Victoria against Nightingale, but the monarch instead shows her approval by presenting Nightingale with a brooch.



According to Warner Bros records the film earned $886,000 in the US and Canada and $530,000 elsewhere. [1]

Writing for The Spectator in 1936, Graham Greene gave the film a poor review, praising Francis' acting, but concluding that "she is defeated by the scenario-writers". Greene points in particular to the graveyard scene which he describes as a "dreadful sequence". [4]

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  1. 1 2 3 The White Angel at Kay Francis Films Archived 2014-04-05 at the Wayback Machine accessed 16 March 2014
  2. "The White Angel (1936)". Archived from the original on 2009-01-14.
  3. The AFI Catalog of Feature Films:The White Angel(Wayback)
  4. Greene, Graham (27 November 1936). "The New Gulliver/Bullets or Ballots/The White Angel". The Spectator . (reprinted in: Taylor, John Russell, ed. (1980). The Pleasure Dome. Oxford University Press. p.  121. ISBN   0192812866.)