Watching 1939: Meet Dr. Christian (1939)

In 2011, I announced I was trying to see every film released in 1939. This new series chronicles films released in 1939 as I watch them. As we start out this blog feature, this section may become more concrete as I search for a common thread that runs throughout each film of the year. Right now, that’s difficult. 

1939 film: 
Meet Dr. Christian (1939)

Release date: 
Nov. 17, 1939

Jean Hersholt, Dorothy Lovett, Robert Baldwin, Enid Bennett, Paul Harvey, Marcia Mae Jones, Jackie Moran, Patsy Parsons, Maude Eburne, Frank Coghlan Jr., Sarah Edwards, John Kelly, Eddie Acuff

RKO Radio Pictures

Bernard Vorhaus

Dr. Christian (Hersholt) is a small-town doctor with a clinic in River’s End. When John Hewitt (Harvey) is appointed mayor, Dr. Christian lobbies for him to build a hospital in their town. Instead, Hewitt tries to push Dr. Christian out, feeling he’s too old-fashioned and they need a more modern town physician.

1939 Notes:
• Meet Dr. Christian (1939) was the first film of the Dr. Christian film series, which had a total of six films from 1939 to 1941. The film series was based off the “Dr. Christian” CBS radio series, also starring Jean Hersholt, which aired from 1937 to 1954.
• Jean Hersholt was only in two films released in 1939
• Actress Dorothy Lovett entered films in 1939 and was in a total of six films released that year. Her role in “Dr. Christian” was her only credited film role that year.
• Jackie Moran was in five films released in 1939.
• Character actor Paul Harvey was in nine films released in 1939.
• Frank Coghlan Jr. was in 15 films released in 1939.
• Maude Eburne was in nine films released in 1939.

Other trivia: 
• Filmed at Toluca Lake, CA
• The film was not copyrighted and is now in public domain.
• Patsy Parsons is billed as Patsy Lee Parsons

My review: Searching for the “1939 feature”:
Today, Jean Hersholt is known for being the namesake of the Jean Hersholt humanitarian award.

But from 1937 to 1954, Hersholt was known as the kindly midwestern doctor Dr. Christian. Starting in 1937, Hersholt started playing the small-town physician on the radio on “The Vaseline Program: Dr. Christian of River’s Bend.”

And in 1939, Hersholt transitioned the kindly doctor to the screen. “Meet Dr. Christian” (1939) was the first of six films.

In the film, Dr. Christian is often paid by his patients in non-traditional methods, like with barrels of tomatoes. Dr. Christian advocates for a new hospital, but the leaders in the town don’t want to pay for a new hospital and feel Dr. Christian is old fashioned.

It takes a tragedy for the leaders to change their mind.

“Meet Dr. Christian” (1939) is a heartwarming 63 minute film. Unfortunately, it’s in public domain so it doesn’t have a great picture.

The film features not only the friendly doctor, but it also includes a precocious little girl played by Patty Lee Parsons who reminds me of Edith Fellows. Jackie Moran and Marcia Mae Jones are our lively teenagers.

Parsons plays sort of a little monster – including infecting a soda jerk with mumps because he’s trying to steal her brother’s girlfriend. She does so by having one kid with mumps like her lollypop, eating the lollypop and then kissing the soda jerk. What is with this kid?

Truthfully, I realized midway through that this may not be the best time to watch this film, as Dr. Christian is having to quarantine people for mumps and measles – so trigger warning.

However, overall it’s a pleasant and homespun film, and I’m eager to watch the rest of the series.

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