Cast & Crew
At Blair General Hospital in New York City, Dr. Tommy Coalt, an accomplished surgeon with a brusque bedside manner, is temporarily reassigned to a doctor's office in the small town of Bayhurst by head surgeon Dr. Leonard Gillespie. Tommy is asked to take over Dr. Sanford Burson's private practice for six weeks while Burson is out of town. En route to Bayhurst, Tommy gets lost and stops to ask a young woman for directions. He notices that the woman is behaving in a strange manner, but when he asks her about her problem, she runs away. Tommy's first house call in Bayhurst is to Wyndham Grace, the town's wealthiest and most prominent citizen, who wants Tommy to put his signature on a document that will authorize the commitment of his daughter Cynthia to an insane asylum. Tommy immediately recognizes Cynthia as the woman he met by the road, and flatly rejects Wyndham's assertion that she is a schizophrenic. Dr. Evans Biddle, the only other doctor in Bayhurst, has signed the asylum admission papers, but Tommy is certain that Cynthia is not seriously ill. After leaving the Graces, Tommy visits the Selkirks, a young couple in the process of adopting a baby boy. Tommy tells Mrs. Selkirk that her husband Teddy must stop avoiding the physical examination required by law before they can finalize the adoption of their baby. While at the Selkirks', Tommy receives an urgent telephone call from Walters, the Grace family chauffeur, who has found Cynthia behaving oddly at a department store. Tommy races to the store, and arrives in time to witness Cynthia shoplifting merchandise. When Tommy asks Cynthia what she has just done, her thoughts become clouded, and she is slow to realize what has happened. Tommy tells Cynthia that she suffers from kleptomania, but insists that he must perform more studies to determine the cause of her behavior. Later, after accidentally starting a fire at her birthday party, Cynthia flees from her father's house, and takes refuge in Tommy's office. The following day, Wyndham telephones Dr. Gillespie to tell him about his daughter's disappearance. Later, when Teddy presents Tommy with a medical examination report, Tommy realizes that the report is a fake and demands that Teddy submit to a real examination. Dr. Gillespie then makes an unannounced visit to Bayhurst and tells Tommy that he may be facing a number of criminal charges, including kidnapping and malpractice. After convincing Dr. Gillespie that Cynthia does not require institutionalization, Tommy tries to diagnose her problem using "narcosynthesis," a procedure involving truth serum. During the procedure, Cynthia tells Tommy that she did not see a doctor after a fall from a horse months earlier. Tommy takes Cynthia to Brookline Hospital, where he soon discovers a blood clot in her brain. Meanwhile, in Bayhurst, Dr. Lee, a Chinese-American doctor from New York, takes over for Tommy during his absence and learns that Teddy has been hiding a heart condition from doctors. However, an impromptu physical examination shows that Teddy's concerns are unfounded and that he is healthy enough to adopt. Weeks pass, and Tommy returns to Bayhurst with Cynthia, who has fully recovered from her brain surgery. When Dr. Burson returns, he asks Tommy to stay in Bayhurst and hires him to help him in his practice.
Edwin B. Willis
Dark Delusion -
James Kildare had first reached the screen in 1937 in Paramount's Internes Can't Take Money, with Joel McCrea starring as the idealistic intern trying to help ex-con Barbara Stanwyck find her child. This adaptation of Max Brand's short story had none of the features of MGM's later films. Always in search of another series concept to showcase young talent and fill the bottom halves of double bills, MGM bought the rights to Brand's other stories and introduced the characters who would become mainstays of the series. Over the course of 15 films, Lionel Barrymore, as Dr. Gillespie, would lord it over the younger doctors at Blair General Hospital. The staff there included Dr. Kildare's love interest, Nurse Mary Lamont (Laraine Day) and comic orderly Joe Wayman (Nat Pendleton), to be joined in later films by switchboard operator Sally (Marie Blake), enterprising intern Lee Wong How (Keye Luke) and stern Head Nurse Molly Byrd (Alma Kruger).
Ayres starred in nine Dr. Kildare films. Then the announcement that he had registered as a conscientious objector during World War II caused a backlash that ended his MGM contract (Ayres would win back fans after the war with the revelation of his heroic service as a medical assistant in combat). Not ready to drop what had become a popular and profitable series, MGM switched the focus to Barrymore's character, bringing in a group of young interns to compete for a position as his assistant. Van Johnson, just starting out at the studio, filled that position for five films from 1942 to 1945. By the time the studio returned to the series for Dark Delusion, Johnson had become too big a star, so they created the role of Dr. Tommy Coalt for another young actor, James Craig.
Coalt is a young surgeon who does good work but has serious problems with his bedside manner. To give him a crash course in patient relations, Gillespie orders him to fill in for a vacationing doctor in the small town of Bayhurst. His first assignment is to sign commitment papers for the local heiress, Cynthia Grace (Bremer), but he refuses until he can check for organic causes for her instability. That decision triggers conflict with her doctor (Henry Stephenson) and father (Lester Matthews), requiring Barrymore's intervention when Craig risks his medical license to help the young woman.
Bremer had been discovered dancing in a New York nightclub by MGM producer Arthur Freed. Some sources, including fellow dancer Ann Miller, claim they were having an affair. Whatever their involvement, studio head Louis B. Mayer was impressed with her screen test and, with Freed, planned a slate of films to make the young dancer a star. After a promising feature debut as Judy Garland's older sister in Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), she was given a starring role opposite Fred Astaire in the whimsical musical fantasy Yolanda and the Thief (1945). Though now more appreciated by film buffs, the film was a rare box-office flop for Freed and Astaire, and Bremer bore most of the blame. After two star-studded musicals where she couldn't do any real harm (1945's Ziegfeld Follies and 1946's Till the Clouds Roll By), she was assigned to her first dramatic role in Dark Delusion.
If Dark Delusion represented the studio's throwing Bremer into deep dramatic waters to see if she would sink or swim, she pretty much floats. There are moments of stiffness, particularly in her more subdued romantic scenes with Craig, but also some impressive emotional displays, helped greatly by her unconventional look. Although she was quite beautiful in her Technicolor musicals, from certain angles in this black-and-white programmer she seems to be a strange amalgamation of Bette Davis and Agnes Moorehead. When the film lost money, a pretty big accomplishment for a second feature, MGM ended the Dr. Gillespie series and burned off Bremer's contract with three loan-outs to low-budget studio Eagle-Lion. Off-screen, at least, she managed to come out on top, marrying a Mexican millionaire and retiring from the screen in 1948.
Producer: Willis Goldbeck, Carey Wilson
Director: Willis Goldbeck
Screenplay: Jack Andrews, Harry Ruskin
Based on characters created by Max Brand
Cinematography: Charles Rosher
Score: David Snell
Cast: Lionel Barrymore (Dr. Leonard Gillespie), James Craig (Dr. Tommy Coalt), Lucille Bremer (Cynthia Grace), Jayne Meadows (Mrs. Selkirk), Warner Anderson (Tommy Selkirk), Henry Stephenson (Dr. Evans Biddle), Alma Kruger (Molly Byrd), Keye Luke (Dr. Lee Wong How), Lester Matthews (Wyndham Grace), Marie Blake (Sally)
By Frank Miller
Dark Delusion -
Working titles for this film were Cynthia's Secret and The Personal Touch. Hollywood Reporter production charts list Edward Arnold in the cast, but he did not appear in the final film. Dark Delusion was the last in M-G-M's "Dr. Gillespie" series. For more information on the series, consult the Series Index and see the entry above for Calling Dr. Gillespie and Young Dr. Kildare in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40; F3.5251.