SISTER KENNY (1946) B/W 116m dir: Dudley Nichols
w/Rosalind Russell, Alexander Knox, Dean Jagger, Philip Merivale, Beulah Bondi, Charles Dingle, John Litel, Doreen McCann, Fay Helm, Charles Kemper, Dorothy Peterson
Story of the famous nurse and her fight against infantile paralysis. Frequently stirring drama, excellently acted.
Below is a summary and critique of SISTER KENNY that FilmFrog found among the user comments for the film at Amazon.com. The piece is very perceptive in its remarks about the film and nicely situates it within its genre and as a strong example of Russell's best work:
"Date: 7 December 2001
"Summary: 'And They Shall Walk'
"'Sister Kenny' (RKO Radio, 1946), directed by Dudley Nichols, stars Rosalind Russell in a respectful biography of Elizabeth Kenny (1886-1952), an Australian nurse who fought her entire life to bring her own methods of treating polio victims to international acceptance. For her performance as Sister Kenny (The title 'Sister,' which is often associated with that of a nun, is an Australian term for 'Nurse.'), Rosalind Russell, was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Actress, and a worthy award, but lost to Olivia De Havilland in 'To Each His Own' (Paramount, 1946).
"The story, which runs almost two hours, opens with Elizabeth Kenny graduated to nurse, traveling to the Aussie where she encounters the ravages of infantile paralysis. She becomes so involved with her efforts to ease the pain of the children who have become polio sufferers that she finds little time for romance with Kevin Connors (Dean Jagger). Sister Kenny develops a system of therapy based upon the maintenance of a bright mental outlook, to continue her effort to move apparently paralyzed muscles, applying continuous hot packs to the affected muscles and abandoning the use of all splints. While one of the most respected doctors in the medical profession, Dr. Brack (Philip Merivale), criticizes and ridicules Kenny's supposedly unorthodox methods, it is Doctor Aeneas McDonnell (Alexander Knox), a Scottish physician, who believes in her ideas, but gets into trouble with the medical superiors.
"In the supporting cast are Beulah Bondi as Mary Kenny; Charles Dingle as Michael Kenny; Doreen McCann as Dorrie, the little girl suffering from polio (muscle spasms) who becomes Kenny's first curable patient; among others. But it is Rosalind Russell, who has left a legacy in her career as "Auntie Mame" on both stage and screen, giving a standout performance covering a 40-year period in the life of Sister Kenny. One of the highlights in the story includes the now middle-aged Kenny's heated encounter with the inflexible Dr. Brack in the operating room in front of stadium of observing medical students, fighting for her rights to continue her own methods of treating children with polio. In spite of everything, nothing stops Sister Kenny, who gets to set up her own medical institute in Minnesota.
"While not as famous as some of the 1930s bio-pics, including 'The Story of Louis Pasteur' (1936) with Paul Muni, 'Sister Kenny' is worth viewing not only as a history lesson but also as a look at the true story of one woman's struggle in proving her theory over what she believes to be wrong treatment by the medical profession, and in standing up against them. In as much that it's quite obvious that the screenwriters rearranged portions of Kenny's life to give it a satisfying story, it avoids the usual cliches found in some other biographical dramas, with the final results being quite satisfactory. Another plus to the story is the authentic use of sets and costumes worn in the period in which the story takes place.
'Sister Kenny' is sadly an overlooked gem that is worthy of rediscovery. It's available on video cassette and is currently presented on either American Movie Classics or Turner Classic Movies."