Captain Newman, M.D. oscillates between scenes of great dramatic impact and somewhat strained and contrived comedy of the heartwarming variety.
Leo Rosten’s novel is the source of the hot-and-cold scenario. Hero of the story is Capt. Newman (Gregory Peck), chief of the neuro-psychiatric ward of a wartime (1944) army hospital who places his medical obligations above military duty. Newman’s treatment of three cases is illustrated. One involves a decorated corporal (Bobby Darin) who believes himself a coward for having deserted a buddy in a burning aircraft. Another concerns a colonel (Eddie Albert) who has gone berserk with a sense of guilt at having sent so many men to their deaths in aerial combat. The third (Robert Duvall) feels shame over having hidden alone in a cellar for over a year in Nazi-occupied territory.
In between all of this, Newman gets his kicks in a romance with his nurse (Angie Dickinson) and by observing the antics of his number one orderly (Tony Curtis), a glib, resourceful operator from Jersey City with a streak of Bergen County larceny.
Peck’s portrayal of the title figure is characteristically restrained and intelligent. Curtis has some good moments, but essentially he is the pivotal figure in the film’s secondary comic shenanigans. Dickinson is sweet, sometimes too darned sweet, as the nurse.
1963: Nominations: Best Supp. Actor (Bobby Darin), Adapted Screenplay, Sound