Sunday, October 16, 2016

Tonight's Movie: Men in White (1934) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Clark Gable and Myrna Loy star in MEN IN WHITE (1934), a very good medical melodrama available from the Warner Archive.

MEN IN WHITE was originally released by the Archive a few years ago, but as I periodically remind readers, the Archive's "made on demand" backlist continues to remain easily accessible alongside newer releases.

MEN IN WHITE was scripted by Waldemar Young, based on a Pulitzer Prize winning play by Sidney Kingsley.

Gable stars as Dr. George Ferguson, a dedicated doctor working in a hospital, where he's mentored by Dr. Hochberg (Jean Hersholt).

George is engaged to socialite Laura Hudson (Loy), who becomes frustrated with George's unpredictable, all-consuming doctor's schedule. Unfortunately, the fact that George's esteemed mentor doesn't seem to believe anything in life is as important as the practice of medicine doesn't help George and Laura find a meeting of the minds. Laura is hopeful that George will leave the hospital and go into practice so that they can begin married life with a somewhat calmer schedule and less stress on their marriage.

After an argument with Laura, George finds brief solace with Barbara (Elizabeth Allan), a lovely nurse who has admired him from afar. The unsuspecting George is stunned when Barbara is later rushed into surgery after a botched abortion. Laura is also shocked by the news, and she and George find their relationship at a crossroads.

MEN IN WHITE was originally released in April 1934, shortly before enforcement of the Production Code went into effect that July, when presenting certain topics on film became more difficult. The film was thus able to tackle some very mature subject matter, although it does so with the utmost discretion and class; I suspect some of the plot would sail over the heads of young viewers.

It's an engrossing film with a good performance by Gable. He's a strong man who doesn't hesitate to butt heads with another doctor to save the life of a child (Dorothy Gray), but he's also emotional and easily touched. His dismay when Laura refuses to go out with him is palpable, and he's quite moving in his interactions with both the sick little girl and the very ill Barbara.

Loy is also good as Laura, who's more than a bit entitled yet also understandably frustrated to be second in George's life after his work. Allan is ethereal as the ill-fated Barbara.

The film gets a mite preachy near the end, with Hersholt extolling the importance of medicine to Laura, but on the whole it's a well-done and interesting film. The strong supporting cast includes Samuel S. Hinds, Otto Kruger, Wallace Ford, Russell Hardie, and Henry B. Walthall.

MEN IN WHITE was directed by Richard Boleslawski and filmed by George Folsey. The movie is mostly set in a beautiful Art Deco hospital, with art direction by Cedric Gibbons. The film runs 74 minutes.

MEN IN WHITE is a very good print. There are no extras.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop.

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