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LENGTH: 16 min
CATEGORY: Educational & Instructional, Sound, Black & White
DIRECTOR: Harry W. Smith
PRODUCER/PUBLISHER: RKO Pathe
Historian David Cantor looks at five films about nursing produced between the 1940s and 1970s. In the mid-20th century, American nursing leaders produced and deployed the motion picture as a modern tool of education, training, and recruitment. Hundreds of films were made, including informational, newsreel, and training movies for a variety of audiences. Produced as part of RKO’s This Is America series (1942–1951), Girls in White would have been shown to a mixed audience of cinemagoers, using dramatic reenactment to tell its story. The film opens with an account of the post-World War II shortage of nursing staff and slides into the story of the training of ‘Betty Burns,’ one of 43,000 ‘girls’ who enter nursing school that year….Read The Essay
About the Director: Harry W. Smith was a cinematographer and director with many documentary shorts and other films to his credit, including I am a Paratrooper (1950), Louisiana Territory (1953), Emergency Doctor (1956), and Her Honor the Nurse (1956). Many of these titles were produced for the RKO Radio Pictures This is America series of shorts, which ran in movie theaters in the 1940s and 1950s.
Warning: These films contain explicit images of disease and intrusive medical treatment. Viewer discretion advised.
Stills from Girls in White
Other Films Featured in the Essay “Screening the Nurse: Film, Fear, and Narrative from the 1940s to the 1970s”
In the Collections of the National Library of Medicine
NLM Historical Audiovisuals Collection
T.B. Nurse Wallace, 1952: A dramatization of the arrival and settling-in of a newly-minted nurse at a tuberculosis sanitarium.
Career, ca.1958: The story of three Native American women attending the U.S. Public Health Service Indian School of Practical Nursing in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The Nurse Combats Disease, 1962: With the aid of drawings, this film describes the nurse’s role in the prevention of disease, with emphasis on factors that lead to disease transmission and how to interrupt that chain.
NLM Prints & Photographs Collection
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Tradition and Destiny of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps, ca. 1949 is a detailed, illustrated, 52 page booklet about all aspects of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps.
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