Hollywood filmmaker Victor Sherman came to Britain to produce and direct Ranald MacDougall’s skilful screen adaptation of John Patrick’s West End and Broadway stage hit The Hasty Heart.
Ronald Reagan was top-billed in his only British-made picture, but the key role went to 30-year-old Richard Todd who plays a dour and prickly young Scottish soldier corporal MacLachlan who alienates his fellow patients in a British military hospital in Burma.
Yank (Reagan), an American recovering from malaria, is the most persistent in his attempts to reach MacLachlan but he, too, fail to reach him. Nurse, Sister Parker (Patricia Neal), and the men in the ward are then told by Lt Colonel Dunn (Anthony Nicholls), the officer in charge of the hospital, that MacLachlan is dying but that he does not know and asks them to try and make his last days happy. They willingly agree but MacLachlan, brought up as a foundling and inherently suspicious of others, remains aloof. The men, while angry at his attitude, nonetheless present him with a full Highland regalia on his 21st birthday. He is touched by their kindness and becomes a changed man. But when Dunn finally tells him he is dying, MacLachlan reverts to his former coldness, bitterly lashing out at Yank and the others for what he believes was their pity, not their friendship. But the normally amiable Yank finally explodes in anger and finally gets through to MacLachlan.
The Hasty Heart made Todd a star of the British cinema and earned him a well-deserved Academy Award nomination. Reagan, in spite of disliking having to work in the cold (the hospital in Burma was created by art director Terence Verity on soundstages at Elstree Studios) and at a far-slower-than-Hollywood pace of filming dictated by the then-powerful film industry unions, gave one of his best performances. Neal, who had also suffered culture (and environmental) shock, coming from Hollywood to shoot the film in Elstree in 1948, gave a first-rate account of herself, and there were uniformly impressive contributions from Nicholls and Howard Crawford, Ralph Michael, John Sherman and Orlando Martins as Todd’s other fellow patients.
UK / 1949
Producer and Director: Vincent Sherman
Writer: Ranald MacDougall, from the play by John Patrick
Cast: Ronald Reagan, Richard Todd, Patricia Neal, Howard Crawford, Anthony Nicholls, Ralph Michael, John Sherman, Alfie Bass