Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Hasty Heart

I very briefly mentioned the movie The Hasty Heart on what I think was its TCM premiere last June. It's coming up again, overnight tonight at 3:30 AM ET, and is well worth watching.

The scene is a British military hospital in Southeast Asia around the end of World War II. Ronald Reagan plays the "Yank", an American who's wound up in the hospital and is recuperating until he can go back home to the US, along with a bunch of British soldiers who are in the same predicament, except that they're waiting to back to Britain. Into all this walks Scottish corporal "Lachie" MacLachlan (Richard Todd), a dour man who wants nothing more than to be left alone so he can recover, and is perfectly willing to leave everybody else alone so they can recover.

The only problem with this is that MacLachlan is terminally ill. This being the 1940s, the medical staff wouldn't dream of telling him, instead letting him die in "peace". However, the staff know, and in the person of sympathetic nurse Margaret Parker (played by Patricia Neal), tell the other soldiers to try to make friends with Lachie to keep up his spirits, but not tell him that he's going to die and will never get to go home. This wouldn't be too difficult if it weren't for the fact that Lachie makes himself so difficult to be around, and doesn't really want any friends. Matters are made worse when he discovers that he's dying, and that all these people have been keeping that fact a secret from him.

Ronald Reagan got top billing here, being one of Warner Bros.' contract players. It's slightly unfair to give him top billing, but equally unfair to pan his acting abilities outright. When he was given the chance to play the eternal optimist in the face of adversity, which is basically what his character here is doing, he's really quite good. That having been said, this is really Richard Todd's movie, and he's excellent as the man who learns how to make friends. Patricia Neal is more than adequate as the nurse.

The Hasty Heart has made it to DVD, but as far as I can tell only as part of box sets. So if you have the other movies that are part of the box sets, or are put off by the price of such sets, you'll have to record this movie on one of its TCM showings.

No comments: