For this month’s next review for Genre Grandeur – Medical Dramas here’s a review of Men in White (1934) by Patty of CaftanWoman.com
Thanks again to Patty of CaftanWoman.com for choosing this month’s genre.
Next month’s genre has been chosen by Todd of The Forgotten Filmz Podcast and we will be reviewing our favorite 80’s teen films
Please get me your submissions by the 25th of Sep by sending them to firstname.lastname@example.org
Try to think out of the box! Great choice Todd!
Let’s see what Patty thought of this movie:
Playwright Sidney Kingsley’s first great success was the medical drama Men in White which won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1934. The show was produced by The Group Theater and directed by Lee Strasberg featuring a cast of such notables as Luther Adler, Elia Kazan, Sanford Meisner, Clifford Odets, Ruth Nelson, Art Smith, Alan Baxter, and J. Edward Bromberg. The show ran for 351 Broadway performances and was purchased by MGM for a production released in 1934.
Men in White is set in a New York teaching hospital which relies heavily on donor funds which are forthcoming due to the reputation of their Chief of Staff, Dr. Hochberg. Above all else, Dr. Hochberg is dedicated to the advancement of medicine for the good of humanity. He takes a particular interest in talented young Dr. Ferguson. Ferguson is set to study abroad for a year before taking up residence at the hospital under Hochberg’s tutelage. Dr. Ferguson is also engaged to be married to the daughter of one of the hospital’s benefactors. The debutante seems to have a clear idea of herself and her place in her beloved’s life, but she is easily annoyed by Ferguson’s dedication to his calling. Their relationship and the young doctor’s career will be further complicated by disagreements and Ferguson’s attraction to a sensitive nurse.
MGM assigned the directing of their film of Men in White to Richard Boleslawski. The Polish-born exponent of the Stanislavsky “Method” created the American Laboratory Theatre which morphed into The Group Theatre. As Strasberg’s teacher, his approach to Kingsley’s material would have mirrored that of the Broadway production.
I find Richard Boleslawski’s film work (Les Miserables, Three Godfathers) to be touchingly real in terms of bringing out the depths of emotions of the characters. The set design by Cedric Gibbons encompasses a large, open, sterile, art-deco to enclose our characters.
Jean Hersholt is the high-minded Dr. Hochberg. Make no mistake about his ideals. He realizes the extent of cynicism in the world and the need to curry favor to see progress in medicine, but he does not shirk from the work required. Clark Gable is outstanding as Dr. Ferguson, whose poor background impels his ambition, and whose heart could make him a great doctor. Myrna Loy brings the light touch of someone who has never known trouble, but the growing maturity of a woman in true love. Elizabeth Allan is heartbreaking as the sensitive Barbara, the lonely nurse who impacts all.
A fine ensemble makes up the cast of interns, administrators, doctors, and patients. Otto Kruger, Wallace Ford, C. Henry Gordon, Dorothy Peterson, and Frank Puglia swirl around the centre story bringing sarcasm, angst, and a grounding in the reality of the job of a hospital to the ideals presented in the screenplay.
The film’s run-time is one hour and fourteen minutes. The copy I recently viewed seemed choppy. I assumed this was due to adult content, particularly regarding Ferguson and the nurse Barbara, to have been excised as the Production Code came into full force. Nonetheless, Boleslawski’s attention to character detail and beautiful use of close-ups enhances our connection to the characters and story of Men in White.