The Man Who Found Himself (1937) Poster

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A pleasant little "B"
chris-4831 August 1998
The Man Who Found Himself is the kind of film that is light and enjoyable, but very easy to forget. John Beal, best remembered for his role as The Little Minister (1934), is likeable as a young surgeon disillusioned with his profession after a scandal earns him a suspension. Despite his character's inherent cockiness, Beal manages to maintain our sympathy throughout. This marked the film debut of Joan Fontaine, who is charming, if a little uncertain, as the pretty nurse who helps Beal's doctor "find himself". The rest of the cast is fine, particularly Billy Gilbert as a loquacious hobo and Jimmy Conlin as a "nosey" reporter. It is also interesting to note that the film is a reunion, of sorts, for Dwight Frye and Edward Van Sloan, who had co-starred several years earlier in Dracula (1931) and Frankenstein (1931). [Unfortunately, they don't get a chance to interact and their roles are woefully undernourished.] Despite the basic formulaic nature of the story, the script manages to be surprisingly fresh at times, particularly in the very "grown up" speech Jim's fiance (Jane Walsh) delivers when he asks her to run away with him. ["I'm sorry, Jim, I can't do it. I promised to marry Dr. James Stanton of Park Avenue. I'm not interested in country doctors."] And some of the special effect miniatures, like a train derailment and a hospital plane landing near the wreckage, while primitive by modern standards, are fun nonetheless. A nice little film and a diverting 67 minutes.
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For a low-budget and rather formulaic film, it's pretty watchable
MartinHafer24 October 2007
A young and rather unwise doctor gets into trouble through no fault of his own. However, considering his past impulsiveness, everyone believes the worst and so the doctor disappears--taking to the road as a hobo. While this is a bit tough to believe since the difference between society doctor and hobo is so extreme, the film is a rather entertaining yarn about his gradual rise to respectability. In many ways, it's reminiscent of LORD JIM, though in Jim's case, he HAD done the dirty deed he was accused of and in this case the doctor really is innocent and oddly chose to become a drop-out.

Anyone looking for sophisticated and believable entertainment should probably look elsewhere, as the plot of this drama is a bit contrived and predictable. Yet, despite this, I found the film to be very watchable and fun--probably because it had rather modest pretensions and was a low-budget (or "B") film. Given its pedigree and cast of unknowns, it was a decent film that is a bit better than just a time-passer. The only big name in the movie is Joan Fontaine--and this was made before she was an established star. You can tell this, by the way, because she speaks with her normal British accent--something you really don't hear in later films. In the films she made just a few years later, she either spoke in perfectly annunciated upper-class English or in an American accent.
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intro to a very young Joan Fontaine
blanche-215 October 2012
Wow, as I write this, this film is 75 years old, and Joan Fontaine, one of the stars, is still with us! Here she is just at the beginning of her career as a nurse who falls for John Beal.

"The Man Who Found Himself" stars Beal as Dr. James Stanton, Jr., the son of a prominent doctor. He is also an amateur pilot. One night a married woman, a friend of his, begs him to fly her to Pittsburgh. The weather is bad and he hesitates, but relents. The plane crashes and she is killed. People assume the worst, that he and the woman were having an affair. His fiancée (Jane Walsh) breaks up with him because he wants to help poor people. Discouraged with the way his life is going, Stanton does what any man with a doctor's license would do: he hitchhikes to California and becomes a hobo.

Once there, he becomes an airplane mechanic and meets a pretty nurse (Fontaine) who, when an accident occurs, realizes that he's a doctor. She encourages him to turn his life around.

I actually watched this because of John Beal, whom I met over twenty years ago. The mid to late '30s were the high points of his film career. He was young and handsome with a lot of stage experience. He never made it to stardom but continued to work until four years before he died (1997).

This is a short film, fairly predictable, but worth seeing for the cast, which includes Philip Huston and George Irving as well.
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pre-war story of rising up after the fall
ksf-212 September 2017
This one starts out as a comedic, swashbuckling look at medical doctors. John Beal and Phillip Huston give each other the business, even when one is going under the knife. Beal is Dr. Stanton Junior, who flies around in his own airplane, and was running around with his friend's wife. Things happen pretty abruptly, in this RKO shortie, when things take a turn for the worse, and he decides to move and start over again. Billy Gilbert is in here as a tramp. He made a career out of sneezing and stuttering. Worked with the greats. In this story, Stanton tries to run away from his background and the scandal, but it all catches up with him. Again and again he tries to just work at his plain old day job, but he keeps getting put in situations that make the hero rise to the occasion. A young Joan Fontaine is Nurse Doris, who eggs him on, and forces the issue. Directed by Lew Landers.... story by Alice Curtis. It's predictable, but pretty good. This version does not seem to be related to the two prior versions from 1915 and 1925.
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Life requires experience in order to find yourself.
mark.waltz27 September 2018
Warning: Spoilers
When first introduced here, it is very apparent that young doctor/pilot John Beal has had all the advantages in life and taken advantage of them, becoming an entitled, spoiled rich kid whose medical career will involve patting the hands of needy socialites. But when a quick, bad decision leads to the death of one of those females (in a plane crash piloted by Beal during a horrible thunderstorm), Beal is suspended and simply walks out on his hospital, his career and his father (George Irving). He is suddenly hitchhiking across the country, hoping to get from New York to Los Angeles, with no real plans. Arrested and sentenced to a state road project upon his arrival in sunny California, he is soon spotted by old friend Philip Huston who helps him get a job as a mechanic at the local airport.

A rather forward nurse (Joan Fontaine in one of her earliest leading parts) becomes curious about him and even though he spurns her, she won't leave him alone. Pesky reporter Jimmy Conlin discovers the facts on Beal as he goes from mechanic to pilot (taking over in a medical emergency on a single piloted plane from the frazzled Fontaine), and as his past becomes about to be exposed, Beal once again tries to run out. A medical emergency that ironically has both Fontaine and Beal's father on it forces Beal to snap out of his lost world of self pity and self hatred, also involving the socialite fiancee (Jane Walsh) who dumped him after the initial scandal broke.

So much happens here in this enjoyable but convoluted medical drama that it takes on far too many themes for a rather short B movie. There are moments of light comedy involving Fontaine, although her character at the beginning is unbelievably intrusive, deserving every snub that Beal gives her until she finally makes him laugh. The scenes with Beal and the hobos (Billy Gilbert among them) are absolutely ridiculous, and the fact that Huston would discover Beal working on the road just so out of the blue is beyond absurd. When the film settles down to get away from these unbelievable plot twists, it seems quite like another film. Beal tries hard to show this character's transition, but the lack of screen magnetism makes him an awkward hero, even if there is a sense of triumph in watching his character grow up and become a real man.
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Well-made despite shaky plot
Panamint30 June 2015
An outstanding but little known actor, John Beal, uplifts his role as Jim Stanton aka Jones to high quality in this b movie. He confidently delivers a sure-footed and solid performance. Joan Fontaine is stunning at a young age as the nurse/love-interest who very much has a mind of her own and crusades on behalf of wrongly accused Jim.

It is interesting to see early flying doctor concepts, but what almost amounts to a "flying hospital" seems extremely impractical, whether in 1937 or now. In fact the whole overall movie is mostly far-fetched and not believable. However, in this case the good direction and acting overcome the negatives and make "The Man Who Found Himself" worth your viewing time for entertainment only, not expecting any sort of classic.
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Lame drama of doctor who needs some backbone...
Doylenf8 November 2005
RKO was trying to boost its starlet JOAN FONTAINE when they cast her as a flying nurse who is strong-willed enough to make a doctor (JOHN BEAL) come to terms with running away from responsibilities in this little programmer. TCM aired it as a stepping-stone in the career of Joan Fontaine.

Fontaine is earnest and does an acceptable job, nothing more, and John Beal is okay as her love interest. But it's obvious that PHILIP HUSTON (who has the appearance and cocky manners of a young James Garner) is the actor who should have shared top billing with Fontaine. Whatever happened to this handsome actor? Why didn't RKO promote him, along with Fontaine? He showed skill as a light comedian.

These are the kind of thoughts that went through my head as I watched this rather tepid drama which never quite lives up to the stark promise of its title. The story itself is rather tiresome, only occasionally coming to life because of Fontaine's spirited heroine.

She photographs prettily as the nurse and wears her serious expressions skillfully, suggesting that there was more to be tapped at a future date. Beal never did go on to a distinguished career and his performance here shows why. Strictly lackluster.

But whatever happened to Philip Huston? Evidence here is that he should have had a worthwhile film career.

Trivia note: Watch for Dwight Frye (of "Dracula") as the out of control patient aboard the airplane.
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The Best Movie Ever Made Starring John Beal and Joan Fontaine
wes-connors12 August 2008
Young New York City surgeon, and amateur pilot, John Beal (as James Stanton) rubs the older doctors at "General Hospital" the wrong way. Most of all, they consider his interest in flying an inappropriate hobby. After Mr. Beal gives the wife of another doctor a lift in his plane, it crashes; and, the young woman dies. The accident becomes a national scandal, with the unwed Beal becoming romantically linked with his married passenger. After being put on probation, Beal gives up his privileged life, hitchhikes to California, and becomes a hobo. He is recognized by pilot friend Philip Huston (as Dick Miller), who helps Beal get back up on his feet. Then, Mr. Huston, and pretty blonde nurse Joan Fontaine (as Doris King) help Beal turn his life around.

Ms. Fontaine receives a special introduction in this, her first co-starring role. She is not only very obviously like her famous sister, but also very engaging. Fontaine's performances would grow more individual and adept, with increasingly better material. Although never growing into stars of Fontaine's stature, Beal and Huston are also quite good. It's nice to see the expressive Beal, who presided over the witchcraft trial of Quentin Collins on "Dark Shadows", as a leading man. And, Huston essays a very convincing "drunk" scene.

***** The Man Who Found Himself (1937) Lew Landers ~ John Beal, Joan Fontaine, Philip Huston
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Lost In America
cutterccbaxter8 November 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I like the idea of this story even though it is handled in a clumsy manner typical of many a "B" movie of the day. For example, the reporter "Nosey" seems to be set up as someone who could cause big trouble for the hero, but his role is rather inconsequential in the end. The only drama the script writers were able to dream up seemed to be via plane crashes and train wrecks. I saw this movie described in my local TV listings as being about a doctor who gets into trouble and who then becomes a "hitchhiker with a beard." I wanted more hitchhiking and more beard in the story. In the end I think I would have preferred for Jim to have stayed lost.
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Awkward Version of Promising Material
dougdoepke20 September 2017
The Depression Era drama is harmed by badly contrived screenplay and lackluster direction. The basic idea is a good one, consistent with its time. Dr. Stanton Jr. is captive of his upscale class and the family tradition of being doctors. In short, he's had little chance to define himself, being dutiful to his social class instead. So, when tragedy strikes, he's unfairly penalized, causing him to reject both his class and profession. Understandably, he strikes out on his own, looking now to find himself. On his way from New York to LA he experiences a different kind of life, one on the downside. But once employed, he develops his fondness for piloting aircraft. Now he seems to have found himself. But can he stay away from medicine, which is more a calling than a job.

Too bad that the film lacks the grit to go with the times. It's filmed in straightforward fashion, without needed emotion that would dramatize Stanton's dilemma. At the same time, Beal may well lack the depth needed to be convincing, though I've not seen enough of the actor to be conclusive. Then too, events are directed by Lew Landers who was well known for coming in reliably under-budget but in pedestrian fashion. That may have made him a natural for TV, but not for material showing promise. What the film does have is a sparkling Joan Fontaine at her most attractive and just starting out in her illustrious career. That's probably the main reason to catch this otherwise forgettable programmer.
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I enjoyed this, except for the stiff acting of Joan Fontaine
vincentlynch-moonoi2 July 2015
Warning: Spoilers
I rather liked this film, although it did have a few problems.

The biggest problem was Joan Fontaine, who is so young here that if I didn't know she was in the film, I wouldn't have recognized her! Here, in her second starring role, I found her to be rather stiff and awkward, and not as asset to the film.

On the other hand, I thought John Beal was superb! I've never been very aware of him before, and I know that he never became an A list actor, but seeing him here, I'm not sure why.

The only other actor here whose acting is of note is George Irving. One of those character actors that you recognize but probably don't know his name. Quite a good performance as the father.

The story here is just unique enough to score a few extra points from me. A young, rather brilliant doctor is repeatedly chided by his respected doctor-father, particularly for his interest in flying. Rather than continue in the charade of working in a field he has come to despise, he walks away from medicine and goes to work for a small airline out west. Joan Fontaine, a nurse, falls in love with him even before finding out who he actually is. She attempts to bring son and father back together, and oddly enough that happens during a train wreck, which is nicely staged.

There are places all the action doesn't seem quite logical, but overall the story works. The only significant problem is Joan Fontaine...she "gets by". In my view it is not until 1940-41 that she comes into her own as an actress with "Rebecca" and "Suspicion".

Give this one a try. It's no masterpiece, but it's quite entertaining.
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