“I’m afraid that psychiatry and politics don’t mix very well.”
A man (Warner Baxter) is thrown out of a car and found lying beside the road left for dead. He is taken to the hospital where he slowly recovers. When he wakes up he has amnesia and can’t remember anything from his past. While recovering he is confronted by a man, Emilio Caspari (John Litel), who seems to know him and believes he is faking it. The man calls him Phil.
After he recovers, he takes the name Robert Ordway after the name of the hospital wing he was convalescing in. His doctor, Dr. John Carey (Ray Collins) is a psychiatrist who is trying to help him regain his memory. Nothing Dr. Carey does helps. Eventually Ordway decides that he will have to cure himself. He goes to school to become a psychiatrist. After getting his degree he goes to work with Dr. Carey. While seeing regular patients Ordway also works with the prison system helping those incarcerated to become contributing citizens. Ordway becomes romantically involved with one of the prison social workers, Grace Fielding (Margaret Lindsay). Eventually he becomes head of the prison parole board.
Ordway is recognized by two men from his past, Joe Dylan (Harold Huber) and Nick Ferris (Don Costello). He is also being followed by a third man, Emilio. During a parole board meeting Ordway is confronted by Pearl Adams (Dorothy Tree). She tells him that his real name is Phil Morgan and that he was involved in a bank robbery that netted $200,000. At hearing the news he was once a criminal himself Ordway decides that he must resign from the parole board and finally confront who he used to be. The only way he can bring back his memory is to reenact the circumstances that caused the amnesia in the first place.
“Crime Doctor” was released in 1943 and was directed by Michael Gordon. It is an American crime film based on the radio series of the same name. It is the first of ten “Crime Doctor” films, all starring Warner Baxter as the crime fighting doctor.
The first film is more of an origins story and origins stories have a tendency to drag. There also isn’t much of a mystery here. The crime has already been committed and Ordway is mostly trying to establish a new life. It’s pretty obvious that Ordway is really Morgan. It’s just a matter of his past finally catching up with him and being revealed. Even as a psychiatrist he’s not solving crimes yet but rehabilitating criminals. As it is, the film is not all that interesting but is necessary to establish the characters. The little, tiny bit of Phil Morgan's character that is revealed when his memory comes back is far more interesting than the placid nondescript Doctor Ordway that he becomes.
Ray Collins, who plays Dr. Carey in the film, at one time played Doctor Ordway in the radio series of "Crime Doctor". Collins is also known for playing Lt. Tragg on the Perry Mason television series.
Warner Baxter was the first American to win the Academy Award for Best Actor. He played the Cisco Kid in “In Old Arizona” 1928. This was during the 2nd Academy Awards in 1930. German actor Emil Jannings won the Best Actor award in 1929.