The Columbia Pictures Short Subject unit never had any delusions about producing any 'Art' Films. They wanted to give the film exhibitors just a little more for their money, when booking a Columbia Picture into their theatres. This would go double for The 3 Stooges films.
MEN IN BLACK (1934) came about as close as any of their Comedy Shorts in that it received an Oscar nomination for Best Short Subject, Comedy. Though it did not win, it well could have. It was good enough and even those who do not number themselves among Stooge-files, still seem to be won over by the clarion cry of ".......calling Dr. Howard, Dr. Fine, Dr. Howard!" This was the second entry in the long series of Comedy Shorts made by the Stooges for Producer Jules White, head of Columbia's Short Subjects Department. Only WOMAN HATERS, described in its credits as a 'Musical Novelty' preceded it at Harry Cohen's Poverty Row sweatshop.
The film starts off in the office of Dr. Graves, the Head of the Hospital. He is receiving new interns and in addressing the group, he relates that three of them are passed along from Medical Conditionally as they had remained there so long. But, the good Doctor states that he will not reveal their identities as long as they pledge their all "......for Duty and Humanity!" The Stooges run up front pledging "...for Duty and Humanity!", and run out of office, breaking window glass in door. The game was on.
The Stooges took off and did not stop for the remainder of the 2 Reels. Every type of gag was in evidence. From broad Sennett-like sight gags, to puns, to dialect humor, to 'theatre of the absurd' and a surrealistic running gag involving a Public Address System, which seemingly takes on a life of its own and having the true culprit, a radio tube get shot to a "........he got me!" (It all plays out quite well, honest!) The sets used were very authentic looking and were no doubt borrowed from Columbia features being made around the same time. There are plenty of Wheel Chairs, Surgical Cotts, Stethascopes, Surcical Scalpels, etc., in evidence to maintain the illusion of a Hospital.
A true strength of MEN IN BLACK is the high number of usually nameless players, whom we all recognize by face. Along with them, the film boasts of a great number of veteran comedy actors, who always turn in fine performances, often stealing the scene. The people with names like Billy Gilbert, Hank Mann and Bud Jamison shine in even small parts.
And lastly we have the Maestro, the Conductor-Director Raymond McCarey, kid brother to Leo McCarey who showed off his abilities in getting this little film 'in the can'. He skillfully kept it all moving, acting as a Traffic Cop at times, what with all the actors, extras and behind the scenes crew moving and outside of each other's way. And that doesn't count the Giant 3 Man Tandem Bicycle, The Sway Backed Horse and Miniature Race Cars, not to mention the 'Giant, Green Canaries!'