Sunday, December 25, 2011

Men in White (1934)




The plot to Men in White is an over seventy-year old precursor to the entire structural plot of Grey’s Anatomy. Clark Gable is the 1930s McDreamy only he is an intern and his Meredith Grey happens to be a nurse and his Addison Montgomery is his not so very understanding social registered fiancée Laura Hudson played by a pre-perfect wife Myrna Loy.
            Dr. George Ferguson (Gable) is a promising intern. He is very passionate about medicine and helping people. His great believe and defender is an old doctor named Hochberg. The doctor is an old family friend of George’s fiancée Laura (Loy) and when Laura and her father talk down about George being busy all the time and possibly opening a practice to have time Hochberg angrily defends George’s passion and drive. George saves the life of a young girl after an older doctor gave her too much insulin. The young nurse helping him, Barbara, is in awe of what he did and they find they are both very passionate about helping people.
            Laura is upset with George for having to stay the night at the hospital again and for not being able to go out that night with her. Even when he calls her telling her he is free she is angry and shoots him down. That night Barbara goes down to the doctor’s quarters where their rooms are so she can get the notes for a test George said he had. They are lonely and they kiss. George runs out the door to check on his patients but Barbara stays behind and waits for him.
            On the day of the rehearsals for their wedding, a man from the hospital is sent to find George to let him know that he is needed at the hospital for an emergency. When they get there Hochberg lets George know that the patient is Barbara and that something is terribly wrong with her. George knows what is wrong and he is upset that she never came to him. Hochberg asks Laura if she is ready for a (figurative) slap in the face. He takes her to the operating room to see what George does and to learn how Barbara’s situation is related to George. In the OR Barbara tells George that she loves him.
            George feels incredibly guilty. He tells Hochberg that he plans to marry the nurse since she has no family and nowhere to go. He is willing to throw everything to open up a practice or even give up medicine all together. Laura will not talk to him nor will she even face him when she is in his presence. She is upset that he never had time for her but had time for Barbara. Hochberg takes Laura back to the hospital where Barbara wants to talk to her. The nurse explains what happened that night. Laura forgives George but they both know that his work is what matters most to him.
            Although I used to watch Grey’s Anatomy (used to… the show got a little bit too much for me) I am not a big fan of hospital dramas either on TV or the big screen. But of course Men in White being a Clark Gable and Myrna Loy film I had to see it. I have to say that this was not a bad medical drama. What makes it not boring or over dramatic is the cast, not one of them was miscast or overacted. This is where I can see how women adored Clark Gable because I did. His character was so nice and sympathetic and Gable just nailed it he played the character perfectly. This was before Gable became the macho man of Gone with the Wind and It Happened One Night. The more I see of his films earlier films and his films with Myrna Loy the more I see him as a great dramatic actor and just a great actor in general. I am not a fan of his macho man roles but when he played a character like George with a lot of heart and emotion I enjoy him. Myrna Loy was still at the stage in her career where she was playing spoiled rich women who just want what they want. Her character could have been outrageously annoying and completely unsympathetic if she had not been in the role. In the end Laura sees that she was wrong but instead of dwelling on it she accepts what has happened and knows she has to move on even though she loves George which in turn makes her sympathetic. As I say a every time I write about a Myrna Loy film she never overacted and that is what makes her unsympathetic characters more bearable to sit through, if there was another actress in the role she would have been too over dramatic and seemed too spoiled. I love Gable and Loy's chemistry. They were close friends outside the studio and in all their films they made their friendship/outside chemistry comes through.
            Jean Hersholt was great at Dr. Hochberg. I liked the character, he wanted George to further his medical knowledge and work with him and he also knew that Laura was getting in the way so he helped both of them realize that although they did love each other they could never work.
            When Men in White was first released there were some parts that had to be taken out. Even though Barbara’s abortion is only suggested and the romance between nurse and doctor is hinted at The Legion of Decency deemed it unfit to be shown to the public and those parts were frequently cut out. Geez The Legion of Decency would have a heart attack if they ever watched Grey’s Anatomy! My favorite “risqué” part of the film is when the man from the hospital knock on George’s door and Laura says to him “Wipe your lips off it looks you’ve been eating jam”… obviously they were doing some kissing before the guy interrupted.
            The Art Deco sets created by Cedric Gibbons were perfect. Art Deco is a very symmetrical style of architecture and decoration that can often seem too cold and uniform but the style was perfect for a hospital. The whole hospital was made to look very sterile and uniform and cold. The white staircase and the operating room are perfect example of the Art Deco style.
            Adrian designed Myrna Loy’s gowns. She looked fantastic and for once it seemed that Adrian did not go over the top with his designs (I find he did that a lot with some of the films he costumed).
             Men in White is a very good melodrama. Everything about the film works perfectly.