In a time when it was rare for women to hold any job more advanced than a secretary, Mary Stevens (Kay Francis) manages to buck the odds and become a doctor. She and her boyfriend Don Andrews (Lyle Talbot) both become doctors at the same time and even start their own offices together. Even though many people are reluctant to be treated by a female doctor, Mary builds a good reputation for herself as a pediatrician. Don, on the other hand, becomes only interested in climbing the social ladder. He starts dating Lois (Thelma Todd), daughter of the prominent political figure Walter Rising. With Lois in his life, Don becomes more and more neglectful of his practice and even begins to steal money from his practice. After Lois and Don are married, he’s given a pretty nice political job, but he manages to blow that when he shows up to perform an operation completely drunk. Don and Mary go their separate ways and they don’t see each other again until two years later when they run into each other on vacation. Mary has become quite a renowned pediatrician, but Don is hiding from the law. They begin having an affair again and decide they want to get married, but Lois’s father won’t let them get a divorce for at least another six months. Once Don’s father-in-law has cleared Don’s name, the two of them return to New York to wait for the six months to pass. But after returning home, Mary finds out she’s pregnant. Thrilled, she’s dying to tell Don, but then he announces that Lois is pregnant so the divorce is off.
Mary heads off to Paris with her loyal friend and nurse Glenda (Glenda Farrell) to have her baby. She had a healthy baby boy and is quite happy as a mother until she hears from Don that Lois wasn’t really pregnant after all so he’s able to marry her now. She gets on the next boat back to New York, but on the trip back, she has to take care of two young girls with Polio. Unfortunately, Mary’s baby also catches Polio. She’s able to save the two girls, but her baby dies. Mary is absolutely devastated by the fact that she couldn’t save her own baby and vows to never practice medicine again. She’s on the verge of suicide when she finds out about a child who has swallowed a pin and is choking on it. Not willing to let the child die, she dives right in and saves the child using her own hairpin. With her confidence restored and Don still wanting to marry her, Mary is eager to start her life over again.
I thought Mary Stevens, M.D. was a pretty interesting movie. It offered up a rich role for Kay Francis and gave Glenda Farrell the chance to play an awesome sidekick. And it’s definitely interesting to see a movie about a woman doctor, because they were most decidedly a real rarity in the 1930s. The ending gets pretty melodramatic and far-fetched, but it’s otherwise enjoyable.