Cast & Crew
At a Red Cross hospital in Burma in 1945, five patients remain after the rest are sent home at the end of the war. These five--"Yank", an American; "Blossom," a Basuto African who speaks no English; "Digger," an Australian; "Tommy," an Englishman; and "Kiwi" from New Zealand--are told by Colonel Dunn that they will be joined by "Lachie" McLachlen, a Scot. Before he arrives, the soldiers are informed that he only has one kidney and will soon die of uremic poisoning. The colonel asks the others to befriend Lachie and keep him contented. The men agree, but when Lachie arrives, he gruffly rebuffs the men's efforts to be friendly. Yank is of Scottish descent, although he hated his Scottish grandfather, and Sister Margaret Parker, the hospital's Canadian nurse, taught in Scotland, but their connections to Scotland do not endear them to Lachie. When Margaret learns that Lachie has invested his money in a farm that he intends to work when he returns to Scotland, she unsuccessfully tries to convince him to use some of that money to buy a regimental kilt, something he was too thrifty to buy in the past. That night, as the men are about to go to sleep, Lachie starts to play his bagpipes. Blossom, who speaks no English, then sings an African song. At mail call, Lachie explains his lack of mail by saying that paper and stamps are too expensive to use for something as prosaic as letters. He continues to be suspicious of all who attempt to make friends with him, and when Margaret offers to do things for him, he warns her that he has no plans to marry. Privately, Margaret tells the others that Lachie was an illegitimate child and has had a hard life. On Lachie's twenty- fourth birthday, Margaret plans a party. She has bought him a regimental kilt, and the men all contribute other items of the uniform. Lachie's hard heart is moved by the gifts, but he is worried that he will not be able to return their kindness. That night Lachie tells Margaret that he is sorry that he miscalculated the human race and decides to share his farm with the other men. She responds by advising him to share himself with them instead. The next day, Lachie dresses up in his new kilt and the men try very hard, but without success, to discover whether Scottish men wear anything underneath them. Later, Lachie confesses to Yank that he is in love with Margaret and intends to propose. When he does, Margaret accepts to make him happy. Later, the doctor tells Lachie that he can go home immediately if he wants. Lachie demands to know why he is so lucky and finally learns that he is going to die. He then believes that Margaret and the other men have been nice to him only because he is dying and decides to return to Scotland to live out the rest of his life alone. He returns the uniform and kilt and orders the men to keep away from him. Just before he leaves, Blossom offers him a present, and Lachie coldly rejects it. Furious, Yank explains that Blossom does not speak English and therefore could not have known that Lachie was dying. In the face of this evidence of real caring, Lachie breaks down. He admits that he does not want to die alone and begs to be allowed to stay. Taking back the uniform, he once again dresses up, and Tommy finally discovers what Scottish men wear under their kilts.
The Hasty Heart
Playwright John Patrick, whose hit 1945 play was the basis for the movie, was also thrilled with the result, telling The New York Times, "Richard Todd is wonderful. I am writing to tell him so." Patrick's story about a Scottish soldier's last days in a British military field hospital in WWII Burma was based on several real-life Scot soldiers he had met during the war. The character of Lachie is a gruff, proud Scot who doesn't know that he has only days to live because of a kidney ailment. His fellow patients are an American (Ronald Reagan), an Australian, a New Zealander, an Englishman, and a Basuto African who speaks no English. The nurse (Patricia Neal) is a Canadian. The hospital's commanding officer asks the patients to befriend Lachie and make him feel comfortable before he is told of his terminal illness. The soldiers agree, but find that Lachie rebuffs them, naturally suspicious of anyone trying to get too close...
Vincent Sherman's passion for the play was the single most driving reason the film got made at all. He learned that Warners owned the rights to the play and asked Jack Warner if he could direct it. Warner said no and told him instead he wanted Sherman to direct a mystery ultimately entitled Backfire (1950). This held no interest for Sherman, but he said he'd do it if he could then do The Hasty Heart; Warner agreed. The day after production ended on Backfire, Warner called Sherman into his office and told him he'd be shooting The Hasty Heart in England, as Warner wanted to take advantage of a recent British law requiring foreign companies to reinvest their banked British money in England. Warner gave Sherman a budget of $1.2 million and basically sent him off to handle everything else, including casting -- with the exception of the two main stars. Reagan was set as the American, and Eleanor Parker was originally meant to play the nurse. But her pregnancy caused her to withdraw, and she was replaced by Patricia Neal, who had just worked with Reagan in John Loves Mary (1949).
The film was a point of considerable pride for the British cast and crew, as it was the first to be shot at the newly-rebuilt Elstree studio. (During the war, Elstree had been converted into a camouflaged military headquarters.) Still, filming at Elstree was difficult. The winter of 1948-49 was England's coldest in twenty years, making things tough on the cast who were performing in shorts since the film's location was sultry Burma. Sherman later wrote that the actors wore heavy bathrobes during rehearsals and in between takes. Perspiration was sprayed on immediately before the cameras rolled. "Often, when we had a long take," Sherman recalled, "I could see the goosebumps slowly rise on their arms."
To create a tropical look in the British winter, hundreds of tropical plants, shrubs and trees were brought in for the sets and had to be carefully watered. According to studio production notes, "a man had to go around polishing each and every leaf after each day's shooting."
Patricia Neal later wrote that she and Reagan were quite good friends dating back to their previous film together, and that they spent much time together when not needed on the set. (The studio liked this as it "made good copy.") With rationing laws still in effect in England, Reagan had steaks flown in regularly from the New York restaurant "21," and he would invite Neal to join him to "share his precious treasure." Decades later, President Ronald Reagan invited her to a 1981 dinner at the White House, for a dinner of smoked filet of trout. "I couldn't help wishing it had been steak," Neal wrote.
Sherman found Reagan to be a pleasant enough fellow, but the director does recount in his memoir that Reagan had some trouble taking critical direction after one major dialogue scene. "I felt it was a memorized speech and lacked the inner truth necessary," wrote Sherman. Reagan had felt it was perfect, and was miffed that Sherman had him redo it. From then on, Sherman sensed a change in Reagan's feelings toward him. Years later, in his own memoir, Reagan wrote at length about The Hasty Heart, mentioning all those involved -- except for Vincent Sherman.
Sherman related that he had the primary set constructed with Lachie's bed in the foreground, away from the others, so as to allow Sherman to hold all the characters in the same shot yet still stress their distance -- a way of visually representing the emotional distance and conflict between Lachie and the others. "The more I kept them apart, yet in the same frame," Sherman wrote, "the greater the tension, and more effective the film became."
For one memorable scene in which Reagan must recite all the books of the Bible, Sherman said he "staged it precisely so that an audience would know that it was not a cheat, the camera never leaving him, and he did it perfectly on the first take."
The Hasty Heart was a big hit in London, and Sherman received acclaim as director and producer. But for the American release, Warner removed Sherman's producing credit, wanting to give the impression that Warner himself had done the producing legwork. Sherman professed not to mind too much, but still, this was all quite ironic considering that Sherman had to talk Warner into even making the film to begin with.
Variety declared, "Every once in a while a motion picture gets down into the very guts of human emotions. Such a picture is The Hasty Heart." The trade paper also called the film "one of [Reagan's] best jobs to date," an opinion still shared by many.
According to studio production notes, the Nigerian actor Orlando Martins, who plays the Basuto African character named "Blossom," who in the film speaks no English, was in fact the most talkative person on the set. Richard Todd actually did serve in the military over the entire course of WWII, first as a captain in the British Commandos and later with a parachute battalion, bailing out over France on D-Day.
Producer: Robert Clark (uncredited)
Director: Vincent Sherman
Screenplay: Ranald MacDougall (screenplay); John Patrick (play)
Cinematography: Wilkie Cooper
Art Direction: Terence Verity
Music: Jack Beaver
Film Editing: E.B. Jarvis
Cast: Ronald Reagan (Yank), Patricia Neal (Sister Margaret Parker), Richard Todd (Cpl. Lachlan 'Lachie' MacLachlan), Anthony Nicholls (Lieutenant Colonel Dunn), Howard Crawford (Tommy), Ralph Michael (Kiwi), John Sherman (Digger), Alfred Bass (Orderly), Orlando Martins (Blossom).
BW-102m. Closed Captioning.
by Jeremy Arnold
Patricia Neal, As I Am
Stephen Michael Shearer, Patricia Neal: An Unquiet Life
Vincent Sherman, Studio Affairs
The Hasty Heart
Somebody give him asthma.- Yank
According to an article in New York Daily News about the Broadway production of John Patrick's play, the character of "Lachie" was based on a real soldier whom Patrick knew in Burma (now Myanmar). The same article stated that the film's title came from an old Scottish proverb: "They say that sorrow is born in the hasty heart," but according to a December 4, 1949 New York Times article, Patrick admitted that he had invented this "adage." In February 1945, a Los Angeles Examiner news item reported that M-G-M was buying the play, and that Robert Montgomery was being considered for the role of "Lachie." According to a February 29, 1945 press release, John Dall was to play "Lachie" and Dennis Morgan was to play "Yank." This film marked Richard Todd's first starring performance and earned him an Academy Award nomination. The picture was named one of 1949's ten best films by The Tidings, the official Catholic publication of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
The Hasty Heart was adapted for television three times following the film's release. It was broadcast on Broadway Television Theatre on November 2, 1953, starring John Dall and Hurd Hatfield, and on CBS-TV's Dupont Show of the Month on December 22, 1958, with Don Murray and Jackie Cooper. On September 12, 1983, the Showtime cable network aired a television version of the 1982 Los Angeles stage production of The Hasty Heart, starring Gregory Harrison and Cheryl Ladd.
Released in United States 1995
Released in United States Winter January 14, 1950
Shown at the Museum of Modern Art (Screen Plays: From Broadway to Hollywood, 1920-1966) in New York City on October 8 and October 13, 1995.
Released in United States 1995 (Shown at the Museum of Modern Art (Screen Plays: From Broadway to Hollywood, 1920-1966) in New York City on October 8 and October 13, 1995.)
Released in United States Winter January 14, 1950