Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Caftan Woman's Choice - One for November on TCM

The hemming and hawing has been done offstage and the honourable mentions clamouring for attention are being ignored as the self-imposed challenge to recommend one film from TCMs monthly line-up continues. The November choice is the film version of John Patrick's play The Hasty Heart directed by Vincent Sherman in 1949.

The Hasty Heart is set at a convalescent hospital in the jungles of Burma at the end of WW2. The few remaining men are awaiting the unraveling of red tape or the healing of injuries before they are to be sent home. Young Scot Corporal Lachlan, known as "Lachey" won't be going home. The doctors prognosis is "no hope" and they ask nurse or, as the Brits say, "Sister" Margaret Parker played by Patricia Neal and the men in her ward to keep the tragic news from the young man and make his last days happy. Most of the men are uncomfortable being placed in this spot, but agree. The most vocal opponent is Sister Margaret's sweetheart "Yank" played by Ronald Reagan. He is quite eloquent when describing his feelings about the Scots in general and his hidebound grandfather in particular. Lachey does nothing to dispel Yank's doubts. The young corporal is an embittered loner who trusts no one. It is at Sister Margaret's urging that the pretense is kept up. Very slowly and very painfully Lachey opens up to the people around him. He even falls in love with Sister Margaret which complicates things for everyone. Eventually, the feelings of friendship among the group deepen and, ironically, at a time when lies might make things easier they become harder to tell because genuine feelings require honesty. Honesty is also a military order when the Colonel must tell Lachey of his fate and send him home. A heart can break very quickly, but can it heal as easily, especially when precious time is almost gone? The Hasty Heart is an emotional movie, and a worthy one.

Author John Patrick (1905-1995) was born in Kentucky. He began working for radio in the 1920s writing over 1000 comedy scripts and Streamlined Shakespeare for NBC. His early work in Hollywood was a mix of crime dramas such as Fifteen Maiden Lane and 36 Hours to Kill in 1936, 1938s Mr. Moto Takes a Chance and comedies like the prison send-up Up the River, also from 1938.

In 1942 John Patrick began volunteer service for the American Field Service providing medical support for the British Army serving in Egypt and the India/Burma campaigns. His experiences formed the idea for his play The Hasty Heart which had over 200 performances in the 1945 season.

Back in Hollywood he would contribute screenplays and/or stories for, among others, such familiar titles as 1946s The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, 1947s Framed, 1948s Enchantment, 1954s Three Coins in a Fountain, 1955s Love is a Many-Splendored Thing, 1956s High Society and the adaption of his Pulitzer Prize Winning Teahouse of the August Moon, 1957s Les Girls, 1958s Some Came Running, 1960s The World of Suzie Wong and 1962s Gigot.

Richard Basehart (He Walked by Night, Moby Dick) was the original lead in the Broadway production and his replacement was young British actor Richard Todd (1919-2009) who would be cast in the movie version. Todd's burgeoning theatrical career had been interrupted by duties as a paratrooper in WW2. In that way that the movies have of intersecting with real life in 1962s The Longest Day Todd portrayed his commander Major Howard in a scene with his own character. In a career which included stage and over 100 combined movie and television roles, Richard Todd favourites of mine include 1950s Stage Fright for Hitchcock, 1952s The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men for Disney, 1955s A Man Called Peter and The Dam Busters. For his War Service Todd was made an Officer in the Order of the British Empire in 1993.

Ranald MacDougall's adapted screenplay was nominated by the Writer's Guild of America for Best Written American Drama. The other nominees were winner All the King's Men, Battleground, Champion, Intruder in the Dust, The Heiress and The Window.

Richard Todd was nominated for Best Actor for his portrayal of Lachey. The other nominees were winner Broderick Crawford - All the King's Men, Kirk Douglas - Champion, Gregory Peck - Twelve O'Clock High and John Wayne - Sands of Iwo Jima.

Set your recorders because TCM is showing The Hasty Heart on Friday November 18th at 12:15 am.

12 comments:

  1. Did you know that Bill Kamberger (bkamberger), long-term contributor to the IMDb Classic Film Board, is directing a production of "The Hasty Heart" this month? If anyone's in the Baltimore area, it will be presented on weekends from Nov. 11 through 20, at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Ruxton, MD. I've seen several of Bill's plays and they're always great.

    I'm unfamiliar with the movie though. Sounds like it's one I should watch!

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  2. Caftan Woman, thanks for your wonderful review of THE HASTY HEART! It happened to be one of my dear late mom's favorites, in part because Richard Todd was apparently a relative on the Cherry side of Mom's family tree! (Yes, Cherry was the surname of Mom's side of the family, and yes, Mom and her sister, my late Auntie Joy, were constantly teased about it as young girls! :-)) I'll keep an eye on my TCM "Now Playing" guide! Much obliged for the tip, C.W.!

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  3. I saw this many years ago, C.W. Once upon a time I had a crush on Richard Todd. He was the epitome of English good looks and intensity....sigh!

    Loved your post.

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  4. Lee, that's fascinating. I can well believe that Bill's productions are great. The commitment to bring a play to life is special.

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  5. Dorian, that's fabulous - one, that it was a favourite of your mom's, and two, that you have Todd genes thanks to the Cherry family.

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  6. Yes, Yvette, I think it was the Disney Robin Hood movie that started my crush on Todd. Once you've seen "The Hasty Heart" it never leaves you.

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  7. Never heard of this film - I gotta check it out!

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  8. You know, DL, it always amazes me when I come across a movie I haven't heart of before. It shouldn't. After all, I know I don't know everything - but, I keep getting amazed.

    I would love to hear what you think of "The Hasty Heart".

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  9. Caftan Woman ,I first remember Richard in the Disney film The Sword and The Rose, I had a (Can you believe) a 78 rpm record of the story featuring Richard

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  10. Paul, do you still have the record, and can you still play it? I can't part with my "ancient" gems.

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  11. No The 78 is long gone, I did have it until may be the middle 70's.I still have thousands of Lp's.

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  12. LPs take up a lot of space, but I'll never part with mine.

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