Doctors Don’t Tell (1941): Jacques Tourneur’s Medical Crime Drama

Jacques Tourneur directed Doctors Don’t Tell, a medical crime written by Theodore Reeves and Isabel Dawn.

The film stars John Beal, Florence Rice, Edward Norris, Ward Bond, Douglas Fowley and Grady Sutton.

Doctors Don’t Tell
Doctors Don't Tell poster.jpg

Theatrical release poster

Med student Ralph Sawyer operates on Diana Wayne, a victim of car accident, saving her life.

Later, Sawyer opens medical practice with buddies Frank Blake and Peter Piper. Even though Sawyer woos Diana, she falls for Blake.

Blake purchases much-needed medical supplies on the black market from scarred gangster Joe Grant and his bodyguard, Barney Millen.

When Millen is shot during shake-down attempt, Blake cares for him. Millen is arrested and Blake defends him at trial, claiming he fixed an acid burn and not a gunshot wound.

Sawyer, who works for the medical examiner’s office, discovers that most of his clients are thugs sent to the doctor’s office by Joe Grant. He then realizes that Blake lied in court.

Grant murders the shake-down victim, who tells the cops before he dies that a “man with a scar on his face” shot him. Grant forces Blake to remove Grant’s facial scar or get exposed as a gangland doctor.

Blake agrees to do so, but takes photos of the operation that documents what he’s done. Diana walks in as the surgery is ending, and realizes her beau is in league with a criminal element.

Blake sends his photos to Sawyer, who is forced by a judge to admit that Blake was the source of the images. Blake, realizing his future is finished, testifies in court against Grant.

Grant is found guilty, and Millen shoots Blake when he leaves the courtroom. Millen himself is then killed by the cops.

In the end, Sawyer, Piper, and Diana mourn Blake.

The film’s opening credits state it was taken from a Liberty magazine story, but the screenplay by Theodore Reeves and Isabel Dawn was original; only the magazine article’s title was used for the film.

Doctors Don’t Tell was distributed by Republic Pictures and was released on August 27, 1941.

Various running times are given to the film, ranging from 53, 65 and 67 minutes.

On discussing the film, Tourneur declared “I detest this film; it’s my worst.”

Chris Fujiwara in his book Nightfall: The Cinema of Jacques Tourneur, declared the film as “routine and banal,” the “anti-theseis of the richly textured, subtle work that Tourneur had already shown he could do on a small budget.”

John Beal as Dr. Ralph Sawyer
Florence Rice as Diana Wayne
Edward Norris as Dr. Frank Blake
Ward Bond as Barney Millen
Douglas Fowley as Joe Grant
Grady Sutton as Dr. Piper
Bill Shirley as Tom Wayne
Joseph Crehan as Judge Hoskins
Paul Porcasi as Montez
Russell Hicks as Supt. Duff
Howard Hickman as Dr. Watkins


Directed by Jacques Tourneur
Screenplay by Theodore Reeves, Isabel Dawn; story by Theodore Reeves
Produced by Albert J. Cohen
Cinematography Ernest Miller
Edited by Edward Mann
Music by Cy Feuer

Production and distribution company: Republic Pictures Corp.

Release date: August 27, 1941