We all know a hypochondriac or we are one ourselves. I can be a bit of a hypochondriac I cannot lie about that but I am working on not being too bad. But imagine being someone who always thinks they are sick or if you know someone who always thinks they are sick? For both that would suck. The silent film Oh, Doctor! is the story of a hypochondriac who would never leave the house to being a daring adventurous person when he meets a girl he wants to impress.
Rufus Billhop (Reginald Denny) was born with the projection that he was a sick boy and would not live long. He proved the doctors wrong and lived to boyhood with a thermometer in his mouth. And yet again, Rufus lives longer than expected and outlives his parents. Rufus goes to live with his aunt out in California. His aunt wants to feed him red meat and he almost has a melt down because he believes that red meat can kill him. He insists that he have a doctor. The aunt knows a doctor who lives next door and them over. The doctor turns out to be a big bulking woman who Rufus is not too comfortable having check him out. The doctor literally manhandles poor Rufus and he calls out as loud as he can for another doctor. Luckily for him a male doctor, Seaver, was walking by the house and comes in. He takes over for the woman and becomes Rufus’s doctor.
Doctor Seaver hears about how Rufus has always believed he is sick and dying and asks his patient why he has not gone to a sanatorium. Rufus tells Dr. Seaver that he does not have the money but he will have the money in three years when he comes into $750,000. Dr. Seaver tells Rufus he knows a few people that could help him get that money sooner. He goes to see three men who can advance Rufus $100,000. Before they advance Rufus the money the four men have him checked out by other doctors. One doctor tells the four men that all Rufus is suffering from in hypochondria. They give Rufus the $100,000 along with his signing over his entire estate since he will not be dying any time soon.
With the money he has been loaned, Rufus hires a specific nurse who is known as Death Watch Mary. She has the reputation that whoever she watches over will be dead within two weeks. Dr. Seaver and the three men freak out and immediately get Rufus a younger livelier nurse. The young nurse is Dolores Hicks (Mary Astor). She takes her job seriously and seems to look at Rufus as a little crazy. When Rufus first sees Dolores his heart starts racing and thinks his temperature is spiking out of control. Dolores gives him some dirty looks and he just laughs and says they will get along just fine.
From that Rufus begins to do things he never would have thought to do until he met Dolores. He eats red meat, goes outside and buys himself some new clothes and even a new car. He hires a driver to drive him around a speedway. The driver is notorious for being a speed demon on the track and has killed two people within a month! Dr. Seaver and the three others have a panic attack and nearly die watching Rufus and the driver go around the track. Rufus takes over driving and immediate crashes.
To make a long summary short, Rufus tells Dolores that he is doing all his crazy things because he is trying to impress her. She likes him for finally being brave. Dolores decides that now that Rufus is not sick anymore that he does not need a doctor he needs a lawyer. The lawyer draws up papers that the four men must sign so they do not take Rufus’s money. While doing an insane stunt Rufus makes the men so nervous that Dolores finally gets them to sign the papers. She gets Rufus to stop his stunt by telling him she will not marry him if he does not stop. He comes down from what he was doing and plants a kiss on Dolores which he never would have had the courage to do before.
Oh, Doctor! is a cute silent film. I loved seeing Reginald Denny being this silly, anxious, eccentric hypochondriac. I am so used to seeing him as Frank Crawly from Rebecca and this proper handsome British man in his later films that seeing him as Rufus Billhop was so enjoyable. Mary Astor was great as this straight faced nurse. Her seriousness and tough attitude is life goals. Oh, Doctor! is a silent film I definitely suggest seeing. It is available to view in full on YouTube.