Doctor in the House
|Doctor in the House|
British original cinema poster
|Directed by||Ralph Thomas|
|Produced by||Betty E. Box|
|Based on||Doctor in the House
by Richard Gordon
|Music by||Bruce Montgomery|
|Edited by||Gerald Thomas|
|Budget||£120,000 or £97,000|
Doctor in the House is a 1954 British comedy film directed by Ralph Thomas and produced by Betty Box. The screenplay, by Nicholas Phipps, Richard Gordon and Ronald Wilkinson, is based on the novel by Gordon, and follows a group of students through medical school.
It made Dirk Bogarde one of the biggest British stars of the 1950s. Other well-known British actors featured in the film were Kenneth More, Donald Sinden and Donald Houston. James Robertson Justice appeared as the irascible chief surgeon Sir Lancelot Spratt, a role he would repeat in many of the sequels.
The story follows the fortunes of Simon Sparrow (Dirk Bogarde), starting as a new medical student at the fictional St Swithin's Hospital in London. His five years of student life, involving drinking, dating women, and falling foul of the rigid hospital authorities, provide many humorous incidents.
When he has to leave his first choice of lodgings to get away from his landlady's amorous daughter (Shirley Eaton), he ends up with three amiable but less-than-shining fellow students as flatmates:
- Richard Grimsdyke (Kenneth More). A relative had left him a small but adequate annuity while he remains in medical school, so he sees to it that he flunks each year.
- Tony Benskin (Donald Sinden), an inveterate woman chaser.
- Taffy Evans (Donald Houston), a rugby fanatic.
Towering over them all is the short-tempered, demanding chief surgeon, Sir Lancelot Spratt (played by James Robertson Justice in a manner quite unlike Gordon's original literary character), who strikes terror into everyone.
Simon's friends cajole him into a series of disastrous dates, first with a placidly uninterested "Rigor Mortis" (Joan Sims), then with Isobel (Kay Kendall), a woman with very expensive tastes, and finally with Joy (Muriel Pavlow), a nurse at St Swithin's. After a rocky start, he finds he likes Joy a great deal. Meanwhile, Richard is given an ultimatum by his fiancée Stella (Suzanne Cloutier) – graduate or she will leave him. He buckles down.
The climax of the film is a rugby match with a rival medical school during Simon's fifth and final year. After St Swithin's wins, the other side tries to steal the school mascot, a stuffed gorilla, resulting in a riot and car chase through the streets of London. Simon and his friends are almost expelled for their part in this by the humourless Dean of St Swithin's (Geoffrey Keen). When Simon helps Joy sneak into the nurses' residence after curfew, he accidentally falls through a skylight. This second incident gets him expelled, even though he is a short time away from completing his finals. Sir Lancelot, however, has fond memories of his own student days, particularly of the Dean's own youthful indiscretion (persuading a nurse to reenact Lady Godiva's ride). His discreet blackmail gets Simon reinstated. In the end, Richard fails (as does Tony), but Stella decides to enroll at St Swithin's herself so there will be at least one doctor in the family. Simon and Taffy graduate.
- Dirk Bogarde as Simon Sparrow
- Muriel Pavlow as Joy Gibson
- Kenneth More as Richard Grimsdyke
- Donald Sinden as Tony Benskin
- Kay Kendall as Isobel
- James Robertson Justice as Lancelot Spratt
- Donald Houston as Taffy Evans
- Suzanne Cloutier as Stella
- George Coulouris as Briggs
- Jean Taylor Smith as Sister Virtue
- Nicholas Phipps as Magistrate
- Geoffrey Keen as Dean
- Martin Boddey as Lecturer at pedal machine
- Joan Sims as "Rigor Mortis"
- Gudrun Ure as May
- Harry Locke as Jessup
- Cyril Chamberlain as Policeman
- Ernest Clark as Mr Parrish
- Maureen Pryor as Mrs. Cooper
- George Benson as Lecturer on drains
- Shirley Eaton as Milly Groaker
- Eliot Makeham as Elderly Examiner
- Joan Hickson as Mrs. Groaker
- Brian Oulton as Medical equipment salesman
- Shirley Burniston as Barbara
- Mark Dignam as Examiner at microscope
- Felix Felton as Examiner
- Lisa Gastoni as Jane
- Geoffrey Sumner as Forensic Lecturer
- Amy Veness as Grandma Cooper
- Mona Washbourne as Midwifery sister
- Felix Felton and Wyndham Goldie (uncredited) as Examiners
- Richard Gordon (uncredited) as Anaesthetist
- Noel Purcell (uncredited) as "Padre", landlord at the doctors' pub
- Bruce Seton (uncredited) as Police driver
- Richard Wattis (uncredited) as Medical book salesman
Producer Betty Box picked up a copy of the book at Crewe during a long rail journey and saw its possibility as a film. The film rights had been optioned to ABPC but they decided not to make the movie, and Box bought the rights. She and Ralph Thomas had a job convincing the Rank Organisation to make the movie because of the lack of a central story. But Box said "I think I know how to do it. I take my four students through three or four years of medical training and make that the story."
Rank executives were worried that people would go to a film about doctors, and that Bogarde, who up to then had played spivs and World War Two heroes, had sex appeal and could play light comedy. They got a low budget, and were only allowed to use available Rank contract artists.
St Swithin's Hospital is represented by the front of University College London, and is thought to be based upon Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, the medical school attached to St Bartholomew's Hospital, where Richard Gordon was a student.
Kenneth More had just made Genevieve (1953) when he signed to appear in the cast, but Genevieve had not been released yet. Accordingly, his fee was only £3,500. Robert Morley was approached to play the surgeon but his agent insisted on a fee of £15,000 so they cast James Robertson Justice instead at a fee of £1,500.
The film was a massive success at the box office. Betty Box estimated it recouped its budget in the first six weeks of release.
- Won, 1955 BAFTA Film Award for Best British Actor, Kenneth More
- Nominated, 1955 BAFTA Film Award, Best British Film
- Nominated, 1955 BAFTA Film Award, Best British Screenplay, Nicholas Phipps
- Nominated, 1955 BAFTA Film Award, Best Film from any Source
Doctor in the House was the most popular film at the British box office in 1954. Its success resulted in six sequels, three starring Bogarde, one with Michael Craig and Leslie Phillips, and the other two with Phillips, as well as a successful television series from London Weekend Television.
- Geoffrey Macnab, J. Arthur Rank and the British Film Industry, London, Routledge (1993) p224
- Brian McFarlane, An Autobiography of British Cinema Metheun 1997 p 87
- Kenneth More, More or Less, Hodder & Staughton, 1978 p 160
- "JOHN WAYNE HEADS BOX-OFFICE POLL.". The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954) (Hobart, Tas.: National Library of Australia). 31 December 1954. p. 6. Retrieved 24 April 2012.