Girl in White, The: John Sturges Earnest Biopic of Female Surgeon Barringer, Starring June Allyson

John Sturges directed The Girl in White, a biopic based on the memoirs of the pioneering female surgeon Emily Dunning Barringer, starring June Allyson.

Grade: C (** out of *****)

When her pregnant mother is in labor and need a doctor, young Emily Dunning is new to the neighborhood and knows no one.  Dr. Yeomans is recommended and she turns out to be a woman. Emily is so impressed by Marie Yeomans that she decides to enroll in Cornell med school.

Fellow student Ben Barringer fall for her, but he plans to continue his education at Harvard, and upsets Emily by asking her to abandon her studies and accompany him. Emily instead moves to New York, where she and Dr. Yeomans share an apartment. Hospitals deny her internship until an initially reluctant Dr. Seth Pawling accepts her, though he confines her to ambulance duty.

Meanwhile Ben has become an intern at the same hospital.  Turning point occurs when a patient is resuscitated back to life by Emily, who exhausts herself for hours in the process. Finally, her determination and skills are acknowledged.

In the happy ending, Emily sees the need to have a personal life and a professional one, and she promises Ben that their careers will not be obstacles anymore.

The material is too earnest for an energetic director like Sturges, and the movie never rises above the routine tale of a woman’s fight to be accepted into a male-dominated profession.  Failing to find a wider audience, despite the presence of June Allyson, the movie was declared a box-office failure.

June Allyson as Emily Dunning
Arthur Kennedy as Ben Barringer
Mildred Dunnock as Marie Yeomans
Gary Merrill as Seth Pawling
Jesse White as Alec
Marilyn Erskine as Nurse Jane Doe
Emory Parnell as Yardman